GLADSTONE - The Gladstone City Commission voted to continue with proposed road projects on Delta Avenue and 9th Street as planned during a special meeting Sunday night. Special assessments for the projects will also continue as scheduled.
The Delta Avenue project will transform the street from 14th Street to 11th Street from a 55-foot-wide roadway with concrete sidewalks to a 40-foot-wide roadway. Seven-foot-wide boulevards and sidewalks will be located on either side of the road. To accommodate the change and meet grant funding requirements, parking along the renovated street will be changed from angle to parallel spaces.
"I think Gladstone has been on a steady decline, especially the downtown area," said resident Kip Ahola. "We've got to get people downtown, and you've got to have aesthetically-pleasing entryways, and I think this fits the needs without going overboard."
The boulevards on either side of the road eliminate the need for snow removal along the renovated portion of the street. Snow will be left in the boulevards - a change that will save the city roughly $15,000 a year in snow removal costs.
Some residents expressed concerns about the safety of the narrowed roadway and parallel parking. Of special concern was the safety of children who may not be seen behind parked cars or who may not be seen by drivers illegally passing stopped school buses.
"Wouldn't it be better to question it now and fix it before it becomes a problem rather than wait until somebody loses a child? It's not worth losing a kid over. It really isn't," said resident Carol Hirn.
The commission assured residents the design for the road had been evaluated by the Michigan Department of Transportation, that the narrowed roadway should result in slower traffic, and the boulevard would provide a buffer from traffic for pedestrians on the sidewalk.
Unlike the Delta Avenue project - which is a complete rebuild including concrete substructure - North 9th Street from North 5th Street to North Lakeshore Drive is a resurfacing project.
The total cost of the two projects is $389,030. The city has received a $187,500 federal grant for the Delta Avenue Project, $59,500 in state funding for the 9th Street project, DDA funding, and will be using money from the city's Major Street Fund.
An additional $37,715 needed for the two projects will be raised by special assessments. Thirty-four property owners on Delta Avenue will be assessed $15 per front foot of property and three property owners on North 9th Street will be assessed $7 per front foot. Both assessments will be paid by property owners over a period of seven years and will be interest free.
"The problem is that the revenue that we get for streets - whether it be through the federal level, the state level, the local level - is not adequate to keep up with the street maintenance programs," said Commissioner Hugo Mattonen. "That's the truth of it, and so the city is almost in a position where we're forced to use special assessments to make anything happen as far as street improvements."
Special assessments for road projects are not new. Between 1973 and 2010 a total of 72 special assessments have been conducted by the city for road paving projects.
Had the city decided to cancel or change the Delta Avenue and 9th Street projects, a total of $234,787 would have been lost not including administrative costs. The city would also have been penalized for not meeting the deadlines associated with the $187,500 grant by being "scored significantly lower on subsequent project submittals for two years" by MDOT.