CITY’S MAIN STREET PROJECT A GO
The city of Freeman’s Main Street project will proceed as planned.
Almost two years after Freeman Mayor Michael Walter urged city officials to take a serious look at rebuilding the primary downtown roadway, the Freeman City Council voted 5-0 to approve the project as planned by awarding a bid in the amount of $4,746,714.19 to Reede Construction of Aberdeen. Council president Blaine Saarie was absent.
The action came as the city council met in regular session Wednesday, April 6.
The bid is for a complete rebuild of the roadway, curb and gutter, sidewalks and utilities from Fifth Street to the North County Road, as well as one block of Railway to the southwest and adjacent blocks to the west and east on both Third and Fourth streets.
The bid does not include engineering fees which bring the total cost of the project to more than $5M.
The bid is contingent on final approval from the South Dakota Department of Transportation (largely a formality); the project is expected to start sometime this spring, although progress is at the mercy of a shortage in the supply chain.
That’s part of what added a sense of urgency to the council’s action on Wednesday.
“We do have a contractor on board ready to proceed with construction,” said Paul Korn of Sayre Associates, the project’s engineer.
The council’s action on Wednesday did not come without discussion.
That’s because the city was faced with the question of whether to approve the bid with a second contingency — that being a $2.8 million sales tax bond taking effect.
The bond resolution that was approved by the council at a special meeting last week is published in the April 7 edition of The Courier and will go into effect 20 days after publication — unless, that is, it is petitioned and taken to a public vote.
Had the city included the bond issue as a contingency, and if that bond issue was, in fact, petitioned, it would go to a vote likely in September and the project as presented would be dead.
“If somebody refers it and it goes to a vote, the whole thing blows up,” said Brian McGinnis of District 3 Planning and Development, who wrote the Department of Transportation Community Access Grant that resulted in $600,000 awarded the city for the project.
That risk ultimately led to the council’s unanimous decision not to include the bond issue as a contingency and simply award the bid.
“If we award the bid tonight, we are doing the project — period,” said councilor Lonnie Tjaden. “We just have to figure out how to pay for it (if the bond issue fails); it’s not a very easy decision to make.”
“It’s a scary situation to put yourself into,” said councilor Terry Jacobsen, who asked McGinnis how much the city would be on the hook for if they awarded the bid without the bond issue contingency.
“If you award it, you’re on the hook for the entire bid,” McGinnis responded.
City officials have said they don’t believe the bond issue will be petitioned, largely because no additional fees are being assessed to city residents via taxes or surcharges.
“This is the fairest way,” Tjaden said of the resolution that will use sales tax revenue to cover the principal and interest on the 20-year bond issue. “It’s coming out of sales tax; we can afford it out of sales tax. That means anybody from Marion, Menno or whatever that’s going to Dollar General, Shopping Center or Bob’s or wherever, who is spending dollars in the city of Freeman, South Dakota, is helping to pay for Main Street. It’s the fairest way.”
In addition to the $2.8 million in bonds the city is counting on, the $600,000 DOT grant will help pay for the project, as will city cash on hand.
As scheduled, the project will be completed in two phases: Fifth Street to Railway and the side streets by early August, and Railway to the North County Road — which includes the bulk of utility work — by November.