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Downtown sidewalks and street lights are a safety concern

Even as Kenmare’s west side square is undergoing a major demolition and construction project, the Kenmare City Council is weighing options to freshen up the rest of the square with new lights and sidewalks.

7/31/13 (Wed)

Making space for Phase II on west side . . . A track hoe with a bucket
and jaw chomps away at the south side of Kenmare Drug's former building.
Crews started work last Tuesday to knock down the 107-year-old vacant
building, now that Kenmare Drug has opened in its new location immediately
north of its former address.  The bricks and boards are being cleared to
make room for Phase II of the west side square revitalization project,
which will provide four more stores to match those
nearly completed on the north half of the block.


By Caroline Downs

Even as Kenmare’s west side square is undergoing a major demolition and construction project, the Kenmare City Council is weighing options to freshen up the rest of the square with new lights and sidewalks.

“The impetus that started all this happened a couple of years ago,” said Troy Hedberg, chair of the Kenmare City Council Ways & Means Committee and manager at Town & Country Credit Union. “At that time, [former employee] Sandy Livingston would arrive earlier than the rest of us in the mornings, and she expressed a concern about the safety of opening the Credit Union with it being so dark. That started the conversation.”

He continued, “We may not think too much about it this time of year, but in December, when it gets dark at five o’clock, people notice the streetlights that don’t work.”

Hedberg said the city council talked first about replacing the bulbs and globes on the lights, but closer inspection showed the lamp posts and street lights, some 60 to 70 years old (see 1950s downtown photo above), also showed significant aging, cracks, weathering and other damage. Those problems, added to concerns about handicapped accessibility around the downtown square, led city council members to expand the project.

“We thought, if we have to tear up the sidewalk, what a perfect time to do everything,” Hedberg said. “If we have the money to do a project, why not make the square look the same all the way around?”

Plans for lights,
sidewalk, curb and gutter
The plan for the city square improvement project calls for replacing three streetlights on each block of businesses on the square for a total of 12 lights, eight lights around the perimeter of the city park and four in the park’s center. According to a sketch of the project submitted by city engineer Ryan Ackerman, all the new electrical wiring will be installed underground.

The sidewalks, curb and gutter in front of the businesses and lots on all four sides will be replaced, and asphalt patching will be done on both sides of each street. The concrete and asphalt work will continue around each corner about 25 feet to include front or side entrances to those businesses.

“I’m sure some property owners may extend the new sidewalks to the ends of their property [on the side streets],” said Mayor Roger Ness, adding that Farmers Union Insurance owner Jerry Essler on the east side square had already inquired about the possibility of doing so.

Payment options
for $700,000 project
At this time, the estimated cost for the project is just under $700,000, according to Ness. He said the city hoped to bid the project soon, with final specifications coming from Ackerman-Estvold Engineering within the next couple of weeks. “That way, we can be closer on the actual costs,” he said.

He said bids for construction projects in nearby cities have been coming in higher than expected this summer. “Before we go ahead, we want to start the bidding process to find out how high it will be,” he added. “We want to know the actual bid to decide how we can afford it and before we form an improvement district. We may have to delay this project.”

Council members have been challenged to find a way to pay for the project. Hedberg said his committee supported the idea that the city would pay for the new lights and costs associated with their installation.

He noted how a major project on the west side square was revitalizing the entire downtown retail and services area. “If others are going to invest in the downtown square,” he said, “the city can invest some, too.”

“We’ve looked at this and decided the responsibility of the city would be the streetlight portion,” Ness said. “Right now, that would cost close to $250,000.”

Hedberg explained the downtown business owners would pay to essentially replace their sidewalks and complete the other work in front of their properties. “That would be in a special assessment district,” he said.

New look will be
decorative, safer
While the need for the city square improvement project is well-established, the design or theme of the finished look has not been determined yet. “We will have some different options,” said Ness. “We’re hoping to make it decorative, but the cost issue will be the biggest factor.”

Hedberg said the Ways & Means Committee first wanted to figure out how to pay for the project. “Then we’ll turn it over to the Streets Committee for the design,” he said. “We’ve talked about stamped concrete and some sort of decorative lighting, but there’s nothing specific yet.”

“We want to make it very appealing,” Ness said. “We want to keep the atmosphere of the downtown area friendly toward businesses and be up to code with the ADA regulations.”

Hedberg emphasized the safety aspect of the project, especially for handicapped and elderly residents and visitors. “This will improve accessibility,” he said.

He also referred to the poor condition of the existing sidewalks. “Some of the sidewalks are so broken up, you can’t effectively remove the snow,” he said. “When this is all done, it will be safer downtown.”

The Kenmare City Council defined the boundaries for a proposed special assessment district at the July meeting. A public hearing to formally protest the assessment district is scheduled for Monday, August 12th, at 6:30 pm. Any property owners within the assessment district can file a written protest against the improvement project by August 9, 2013, for consideration at that meeting.

City asks to extend
45 mph zone on U.S. 52
Ness spoke Monday about the city’s efforts to have the speed limit reduced on U.S. Highway 52, beginning at the city’s boundary south of town, from 65 mph to 45 mph.

The request was made after Gooseneck Implement relocated its business to a site at the southeast corner of Kenmare, along U.S. 52. If approved, the 45 mph zone would be extended 4/10 of a mile beyond the current point.

“I’ve had reports of several would-be accidents up there,” Ness said.

Mayor Ness said the response from the ND Department of Transportation has been slow, with several requests coming for information and documentation of traffic use. He also said NDDOT staff told him the reduction in speed would hamper traffic flow.

Ness explained he countered with information about the number of employees at the Gooseneck Implement business and customers coming and going on a daily basis, along with traffic generated by the Creative Illusionz salon located in the same building.

“We figure the hazard of a potential accident is more important than slowing the flow of traffic,” said Ness.

According to Ness, the NDDOT countered with a 55 mph recommendation, but Ness was not satisfied. He compared the situation in Kenmare with that of New Underwood, where the speed limit on a four-lane highway is 55 mph alongside the city.

“Our case warrants 45 mph, especially with all the traffic going in and out of Gooseneck Implement,” Ness said. “We’re just asking to do this to the boundary of our city limits.”

To date, Ness has supplied all the information required by the NDDOT, including traffic counts, and is waiting for a definitive response. “Hopefully, the speed limit will get changed,” he said.