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Abby to borrow $2.1 million for road work

As Abbotsford gears up for another busy construction season, the city council is planning to borrow up to $2.1 million to finance a trio of road projects.

At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, the council authorized the city’s financial advisor, Sean Lentz, to seek bids for general obligation bonds amounting to $2,080,000.

About half of that amount, $1 million, will be used to pay for the extension of Opportunity Drive to the west, over the railroad tracks and onto empty land the city plans to turn into an industrial park.

Because that project is located within a TIF district, the debt will be paid back with property taxes on new developments, including the Northside Apartments and O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.

Another $535,000 will be used to pay for improvements to West Spruce Street, which will be ripped up this summer in order to replace storm sewers in that area. The city has also been awarded a $442,150 grant from the state’s Local Road Improvement Program to help pay for that project.

The third chunk of money, $525,000, will be used on the city’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) project, which will also focus on West Spruce Street in order to improve pedestrian safety in that area. The Wisconsin DOT is providing matching funds for that work.

Bids for the SRTS and Spruce Street projects will be opened on June 10, with the council expected to choose a general contractor at its June 17 meeting.

Haas Sons has already been awarded a $755,506 contract for the Opportunity Drive project, and the company plans to start June 8 by boring under the railroad tracks for water and sewer extensions. Open cut work along STH 13 is slated to start the following week of June 15.

Even with $2.1 million being added to the city’s debt obligations, the city will have about half of its roughly $7 million in borrowing capacity remaining.

The new debt will increase the amount of property taxes used to cover principal and interest payments, from just over $200,000 this year to between $250,000 and $275,000 from 2021 to 2029.

For the Opportunity Drive extension, existing TIF revenues are more than suffi cient to cover the annual debt payments on the new $1 million debt, and on the $2.3 million loan taken out in 2018 to pay for work in the Schilling subdivision.

City administrator Dan Grady said once the two new apartment buildings are built in the Schilling subdivision and a new medical clinic is added to the tax roll, the city is looking at taking in over $900,000 per year in TIF revenue.

That money can be used to pay for additional projects in the future, or to prepay the debts being taken out, he said.

“If the money is there, the first loan can be paid back early,” he said. “It has a higher interest rate, so we would want to pay that one back first.”

The city is also looking at refinancing two of its outstanding debts, one from 1997 and another from 2010, later this year to take advantage of lower interest rates. Lentz, the city’s financial advisor, said refinancing these two debts could save the city over $300,000 in payments over the remaining life of the loans.

“Interest rates are very attractive right now, despite COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “Our plan is to continue working on that to lock in lower rates.”

The council plans on accepting a bid for a 20-year bond at its July 6 meeting so money is available to pay contractors.

Other business

_ After hearing a presentation from Todd Halverson of MSA Professional Services, the council approved the purchase of a new GIS mapping system that will allow data on all of city’s water infrastructure, including 350 manholes and over 1,000 valves, to be stored on a “cloud” system that can be accessed by multiple computers.

The total cost of the GIS upgrade will be $9,500, which includes $5,500 for MSA’s cloud computing system and $4,000 for a GPS unit and a computer tablet. Utility director Josh Soyk said he has more than enough money in the water budget to cover the expense.

_ The council appointed Ivone Vazquez to the planning commission, filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Sherry Baker last month. Vazquez will serve until 2022.

_ The council appointed Ald. Frankie Soto as an alternate to the Central Fire and EMS board, in case Ald. Jim Weix is unable to attend a meeting.

_ During public comment, Pine Street resident Paul Writz thanked city officials and local police officers for answering questions about the Northside Apartments at last month’s public hearing.

“We feel that if such an informational meeting had been done before the apartments and the Schilling Meadows project was approved, it would have saved a lot of angst,” he said.

In the future, Writz said he hopes that a public hearing is held a week or two before any rezoning or development proposal is voted on by the planning commission so citizens and aldermen can have a “two-way discussion” ahead of time.

Third Avenue resident Jim Colby also addressed the Northside Apartments issue, noting that several city officials have assured him and others that no further apartment buildings will be built east of Fourth Avenue.

Ald. Mason Rachu said that is the current council’s position, but “it’s not something we could ever set in stone” because future council members could always make a different decision. Grady confirmed that future councils cannot be legally bound by the current council. _ The council approved a fire hall lease with the Central Fire and EMS District, with added language making it clear that the city will “pay the difference for comparable coverage” offered by the district itself. The revised lease allows the city to maintain the insurance policy on the public safety building, while enabling the district to save money if it can find a cheaper policy.

_ The council approved a roughly $2 per hour raise for cemetery worker Allen Langteau, bringing his rate up to $12.25, the same as others who work at the cemetery. Ald. Weix said this will add about $1,000 to the cemetery’s budget.

In a related matter, Weix said the cemetery board is asking people to place no more than two memorial items at each gravesite so they do not get in the way of trimming the grass.

_ The council approved the purchase of $3,178 in water pump parts from Crane Engineering, which will be installed by city employees at one of the water plants.

_ The council renewed the city’s liquor and cigarette licenses for 2020-2021, with a change of name for one license holder, The Corral to Fat Boys Bar and Grill.

_ The council approved alcohol operator’s licenses for Chad Kilty and Kyle Puphal, who had both been previously denied licenses because of past convictions on their records.

_ The council approved a $12,000 contract with Cedar Corp Engineering to design and engineer a repaving project on Hemlock Street, from Hiline Avenue east for about 1,400 feet. The work itself is estimated to cost about $100,000, which the city is hoping to have available this year after other projects are completed.

_ The council reviewed an annual DNR report on the city’s sewer utility, which awarded the utility with A letter grades in all categories, with a “gradepoint average” of 4.0 for the year 2019.

_ After a lengthy discussion with homeowner Jim Colby, the council voted 5-2 to install a stormwater drain near his driveway on Third Avenue North.

Colby presented the council with pictures of standing water in his driveway following the city’s installation of curb and gutter last summer.

“I did not have this problem before the street work,” he said.

DPW Craig Stuttgen, however, said Colby’s driveway and garage were always lower than the elevation of the road, and he had a culvert under his driveway that is no longer there. During the project, a ditch was dug behind his curb, he said.

Colby asked the city to install a storm drain near his driveway, just like the 10 other drains installed during the project at other properties in his neighborhood.

In response, Stuttgen provided 2016 satellite photos to the council, showing what appeared to be standing water in Colby’s driveway before last year’s project, along with more recent photos showing no water after a steady rainfall.

To resolve the situation, Ald. Dale Rachu made a motion to install a storm water drain within the city’s 15-foot right-ofway on Colby’s property. If Colby decides the drain needs to go beyond that 15 feet, the extra cost will be at his expense.

Colby verbally agreed to hold the city “harmless” for the installation work done on his property, and to no longer seek any other work by the city.

Alds. Mason Rachu and Frankie Soto voted against the motion, saying they were worried about setting a precedent for residents seeking similar projects.

The cost of the project would be minimal, with $40 for a riser and 50-cents per foot for the pipe, according to Stuttgen.