Area governmental entities this week agreed to move forward with applying for a federal grant to build a new Augusta Bottom Road, but were asked to fund the local match.
Property owners along the road, Washington city officials, Augusta town representatives and Warren County commissioners met Tuesday evening at Washington City Hall to discuss how to proceed with the grant application.
Last month, Steve Etcher, Boonslick Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) executive director, suggested Warren County apply for the grant through the Economic Development Administration (EDA).
The EDA has allocated $51 million for disaster projects from the 2011 fiscal year in a 10-state area that includes Missouri.
Warren County qualifies to apply because it had three disaster declarations last year, Etcher said.
The grant funds are competitive and there is no application deadline, but Etcher said he believes the grant funds will disappear quickly.
“The sooner, the better,” he said of when to submit the application. “Ideally, I’d like to see us submit this in six months.”
If the application is submitted by September, he said he would likely know if the project was awarded grant funds by October or November.
The grant, if approved, would cover 80 percent of the cost of the project, with the remaining 20 percent being funded by local entities.
Etcher asked officials from Washington, Augusta, Warren, St. Charles and Franklin counties, Three Creeks Village, the Dutzow Bottoms Levee District to consider how much they would be willing to spend over the next three to five years toward the local match.
A number of years ago, Washington’s engineering staff drew up several alternate plans for constructing a new road on the north side of the levee, but the plans were dropped because of a lack of funding.
The estimated cost at that time was $1.3 million, but that did not include land rights, right of way or engineering and design costs.
Suggested Local Match
It was suggested at a meeting held April 10 by the stakeholders that $2 million might be a reasonable amount to seek for a new road, meaning the local match would total about $400,000.
Some of the local match could be in-kind services, such as removing the old road from the levee, Etcher said.
If the area governmental entities cannot agree to fund the local match, it could be a “deal breaker,” Etcher said.
“All of you have to be players in this,” he said.
Etcher said if it looks as though progress is being made on commitments toward the local match, he will start looking for an engineer to come up with a cost estimate for constructing a new road north of the levee before the application is submitted.
“I’m not a fan of roads on levees,” Etcher said. “In a perfect world, you’d get the road off of the levee and restore the original levee to its original height.”
When the stakeholders met April 10, a majority of the property owners attended and said they were open to considering the opportunities available for improving the road or building a new one.
Two of the property owners, the Leys and Schwoeppes, were not present at the April 10 meeting, but did attend Tuesday’s meeting.
The Schwoeppes said they were in favor of taking the road off of the levee, while the Leys said they needed more information before making a commitment.
All of the property owners said they wanted more information about how much of their land would be needed to build a new bottom road.
Etcher told local governmental entities that in addition to a new road, funding also needs to be considered for proper drainage around the road.
“The drainage is almost as important as the road,” he said.
During the meeting, Dan Boyce, Washington city engineer, presented cost estimates for widening the road with shot rock on the north side only along the Augusta Parkway section that borders the ponds on the Kessler property, closest to St. Charles County.
To add 10 feet of shot rock on the north side, which has more shallow ponds than on the south side, it would cost an estimated $133,000 to deliver and place the rock plus contingency fees.
To widen the road by 20 feet on the north side, that cost rises to $206,000.
In comparison, a study by H.R. Green Co., which conducted a safety audit of the road earlier this year, stated that guardrails bordering the ponds would cost an estimated $75,000.
Objections have been raised in the past that adding guardrails would make the road too narrow.
Floodplain development and Corps of Engineers permits would be needed for the shot rock, Boyce said.
He added that widening the road with shot rock would likely need future maintenance.
“You probably just can’t forget about it,” he said.
While Boyce noted widening the road would keep vehicles farther away from the ponds, Bob Hofer, chairman of the Augusta town board, said, “The hazard is still out there. It’s not safe to have a car drive next to it (water).”
The stakeholders at the meeting took no action on Boyce’s proposal, but Etcher said if the grant funds are not awarded, that could be a plan “to fall back on.”
At the end of the meeting, Hofer asked if anyone would be interested in sharing the cost of grading the road over the next few days or weeks.
In the past, Washington assisted Augusta with grading the Augusta Parkway area, but has since decided to stop due to possible liability issues.
Jim Briggs, Washington city administrator, said he would bring Hofer’s proposal back to the city council for consideration.