After a hearty discussion that centered on the cost to fix one street as opposed to repaving several, the St. Clair Board of Aldermen on Monday voted to move forward with the Kitchell Avenue project.
But, in a rare occurrence, the decision was not a unanimous one.
With a 3-1 vote, the aldermen paved the way for Mayor Ron Blum to accept a professional services proposal from Cochran Engineering Inc. for $86,614 for roadway improvements on Kitchell Avenue and Commercial Avenue.
Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate opposed the project after saying he had talked to about 100 individuals in the community.
“Everyone I talked to thought it was a great idea,” he said. “But for $200,000 there are other streets in dire need and in need of repair.
“Not one single person wanted us to proceed with this.”
However, fellow Aldermen Zach Fuchs, Barb McGlenn and Glenn Richards felt differently.
During its second February meeting, the board voted to table the ordinance so more information and opinions could be gathered. The postponement was Tate’s suggestion.
The ordinance inks a deal between the city and Cochran for services relating to the project, which would rework and resurface Kitchell from Commercial to Main Street, provide a new sidewalk along that road and add a center turning lane from southbound Commercial to Kitchell.
The project came to the forefront because of uncertainty regarding the availability of funding for an original two-phase Commercial Avenue project, which widens that road to three lanes its entire length from North Main Street to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad overpass past Oak Street.
The financial uncertainty caused St. Clair’s administration to recommend a one-year delay on Phase I of that project, which would have focused on Commercial from North Main Street to Kitchell in 2017. In September 2012, the aldermen gave their blessing to that project.
Phase II runs from Kitchell to Oak Street.
Because of the delay, the focus turned to Kitchell Avenue and the intersection with Commercial Avenue.
“We looked at applying for funding for this (Commercial Avenue) project in 2016-17,” Blum said during the Feb. 18 board meeting. “In light of some issues, we’ve asked to push this project back a year.
“In lieu of that, we’d like to do this project on Kitchell. It would be a good start.”
On Monday, Blum re-emphasized his reasoning, saying the effort behind the Kitchell plan is to add a needed middle turning lane on Commercial to reduce traffic congestion in that busy area of the city and add a sidewalk to increase safety.
“MoDOT doesn’t have the funds to contribute to the original project at this time,” he said. “So we had to rethink our plans. The administration would like to see this project move forward. ...”
“We’re working on building up funds to help alleviate the problems we have on our streets,” the mayor said. “We’re working on investing in our streets and infrastructure in our community. This is another piece of that.
“We can’t have everything today. But we have to plan and have a goal.”
Before the vote to accept the Cochran pact, much of the discussion centered on the city’s nearly $200,000 price tag for the project. Funding will be an 80-20 split as the city will apply for East-West Gateway monies.
Cochran’s overall estimate for the project is $549,593. The city’s share of that is $109,919. With Cochran’s costs thrown in, St. Clair’s bill would be $193,732.
The ordinance covers Cochran’s fees for surveying, engineering and bidding as well as for construction administration and inspection and testing.
Commercial will be widened to three lanes from Dogwood Street near city hall to Bader Lane with the center turning lane added. Kitchell Avenue would be reworked and repaved with a new sidewalk and water and sewer lines.
In February, Tate asked whether a left turn lane could be added from Kitchell to Commercial to alleviate traffic backups that sometimes occur there.
On Monday, Don Dougherty, who owns Dana’s Shaved Ice, located on the northeast corner of the Commercial and Kitchell intersection, with his wife, Dana, said they would be willing to work with the city to see if adding that extra lane could become a reality.
“I think it would be beneficial safety wise,” Don Dougherty said on Monday night. “It would be a good thing to have this intersection taken care of.”
Tate’s main concern was spending $200,000 on one road project when so many other St. Clair streets need help.
“We’re hurting for funds as it is now,” he said last month. “There are lots of roads in dire need now. This money could help.”
On Monday, Fuchs said he also “talked to people,” and said they all indicated they would like the money to be spent “in front of their driveways.”
But, he said he was concerned that the federal money that would provide 80 percent of the Kitchell funding may not be available in the future. He also said he was concerned that if the city spends less money now just to put a Band-Aid on Kitchell, additional repairs — and money — probably would have to be spent again in another couple of years.
McGlenn and Richards had similar viewpoints.
“I have talked to people and it is a lot of money,” Richards said. “But, we’ll probably get 25 years out of the street if we do it right instead of two or three.
“And, if it also can help the traffic flow there, it’s a benefit.”
“I’ve talked to a few people, and the turning lane (on Commercial) is what they’re excited about,” McGlenn said. “I’d rather fix it right the first time.”