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Bemrich brokers deal over connector

Mayor won’t veto Sixth Avenue Northwest job; in exchange, council will go forth with grants

September 20, 2012
By BILL SHEA, , Messenger News

Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich said Thursday that he will not veto the reconstruction of Sixth Avenue Northwest in exchange for assurances that the majority of City Council members will vote to accept state grant money for the proposed downtown street realignment.

"I feel pretty confident there will be a majority of votes for that," Bemrich said.

The City Council will vote Monday on an agreement with the Iowa Department of Transportation under which Fort Dodge would receive $711,600 for linking First and Second avenues south near downtown as part of the crosstown connector project.

"It secures that money and tells the DOT we intend to spend it," Bemrich said.

The council will consider that agreement during its regular business meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m. Monday in the Municipal Building, 819 First Ave. S.

Bemrich announced the deal after talking with Councilman Robert "Barney" Patterson. The mayor said Patterson assured him he would vote for the downtown money.

Fact Box

The projects in question

Sixth Avenue Northwest Project

That street will be rebuilt between Second and Third streets northwest. The project will include a new storm sewer, new water main, two additional fire hydrants and a retaining wall to protect a garage at the corner of Sixth Avenue Northwest and Second Street Northwest.

Hovey Construction Inc., of Fort Dodge, has a $304,158.50 contract for the job.

The Crosstown Connector

This project calls for turning First Avenue South into a two-way street all the way across Fort Dodge.

A downtown street realignment is key to the plan.

The realignment would join First Avenue South and Second Avenue South with a new curving section of road between Fifth and Sixth streets.

After the new street link is built, First Avenue South would be converted to two-way traffic downtown. That change would make it a two-way street for its entire length.

Part of Second Avenue South east of the realignment would be removed to create space for future development.

Creating the street realignment is estimated to cost $2.7 million.

Attempts to reach Patterson by phone at his business and his home were unsuccessful Thursday.

Councilmen Kim Alstott and Dave Flattery said Thursday that they are in favor of the deal brokered by Bemrich, while Councilman Andy Fritz is a longtime supporter of the street realignment. Together with Patterson, they would make up a four vote majority on the seven member council.

"I commend Councilman Patterson and Mayor Bemrich for reaching an agreement," Flattery said. "I think this keeps the realignment compromise on track."

Flattery said the street realignment is "very important for the future growth of the community."

He has opposed the Sixth Avenue Northwest project on the grounds that it involves spending about $300,000 on one block when the city faces staggering infrastructure expenses.

"With regard to Sixth Avenue Northwest, you win some and you lose some," Flattery said. "That's all part of the democratic process."

Alstott said he supports the agreement.

"I told Matt I was 100 percent behind it," he said. "I said I would have done the same thing if that's what it takes to get it done."

Alstott said he doesn't want the council to refuse grant monies. Doing that, he said, would prevent the city from getting grants for years into the future.

"It really would affect our city in a very negative way for a very long time," he said.

Councilmen Don Wilson and Dean Hill said Bemrich didn't speak to them about the deal.

"It was done behind closed doors," Wilson said. "I don't know anything."

Hill said he was "kind of left out of this loop," and added that he wanted to learn more about the issue before commenting.

Councilman Mark Taylor represents the 1st Ward where Sixth Avenue Northwest is located and he has been the primary advocate of the reconstruction job.

"I want that project," he said Thursday.

But Taylor said he doubted that he would vote in favor of the downtown street realignment money. He is opposed to that project.

A call seeking comment from Fritz wasn't returned Thursday.

Bemrich said he would sign the necessary documents for the Sixth Avenue Northwest project, and added that he believed the reconstruction job can still be finished this fall.

The state money for the downtown street realignment consists of two grants. They are a $400,000 Urban-State Traffic Engineering Program Project Grant and a $311,600 Primary Road Project Grant.



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