• Moving up South Main project timetable to next year could hasten area development
BROOKINGS – A major city project could get a head start next year – a jump start, actually – if a suggestion presented to city council Tuesday comes to fruition.
A beginning phase of the South Main/20th Street Project – a series of improvements that would result in widened streets and the installation of other infrastructure needed for development – could take place as early next year, City Manager Jeff Weldon told the council.
At the beginning of the council’s budget work session this week, Weldon proposed the city move up its timeline for installing sanitary sewers along Main – the planning date for the work originally was 2016 – and that would permit builders and developers to advance their own plans for starting residential housing projects in the area.
It could jump-start development in that critical area, he said.
Weldon said he and city staff had been wrestling with the topic of south Brookings development when they came up with a novel approach to the problem.
It is generally agreed that new residential development in Brookings will “head south,” growing most rapidly along 20th Street near its intersection with Main Avenue.
In late July, considering the city’s five-year capital improvement plan, the council tentatively green-lighted several street and sewer projects for the South Main/20th Street area. Members instructed city staffers to develop plans for a tax increment financing district (TIF) that would help pay for the improvements.
The council reasoned that completing roads and water and sewer lines might hasten commercial and residential development in Moriarty Heights, Prairie Hills, Christie Springs, Valley View and Esther Heights.
Each of those subdivisions would benefit from infrastructure projects scheduled for completion in the next five years, Weldon said.
The three city projects that could have a major impact on growth in Brookings included:
• A Main Avenue South sanitary sewer line, budgeted at $500,000.
• A Main Avenue and 20th Street South to 32nd Street South street project, $1.5 million.
• A street project finishing West 20th Street from Cumberland to Main Avenue, $2 million.
As Weldon, Community Development Director Mike Struck and city engineers began discussing the tax district that would ultimately pay for the work, the planners realized that sanitary sewers could be installed almost immediately, even before a TIF district is established, and well ahead of the timetable for the road improvements.
“We could do the sewer first, permitting development to occur, and once development starts, that would generate sufficient (tax) increment to pay for the streets,” Weldon said.
“We’d be using the sewer installation to prime the pump for the other work in the area,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to tear up Main, and other streets are already serving those areas.”
A major caveat, however, is exactly how much room there is in the roadside right-of-way to accommodate the sewer lines. That’s currently being studied, but Weldon and the engineering staff believe there’s plenty of room in the ditches.
A start next year could result in private-sector response, Weldon said – meaning that some of the developers might speed up their own construction plans.
The road work, which could come later, involves making 20th from Main east to Cumberland a three-lane, divided urban street and converting Main from 20th to 32nd into a three-lane divided roadway with the capability of going to five lanes.
Weldon specifically thanked Councilor Mike McClemans, who has lobbied for the city to fast-track the 20th and Main work because of the length of time major development projects require.
“Once it starts, it’s basically 10 years,” McClemans said. “Without sewer, you can’t build anything, and the water’s already up on 20th. I’d hate to see us wait too long (on the sewer and road improvements) and back everything else up.”
Both McClemans and Weldon pointed to the new school that will soon be located in the area, as well as a new fire station, as reasons for getting the city work under way sooner rather than later.
If the sewer can be installed next year, development becomes a pay-as-you-go process in the area; that is, as businesses and homes hook up to the sewer, they pay their share of the assessment, and those funds can be used to fund future improvements.
The $500,000 for the sewer project represents about half the cost of the project; assessable parties would pay the balance.
Weldon said the city’s $500,000 share would come out of the 75 percent portion of second-penny tax revenues. The city manager said it is also possible the city could get a low-cost loan from the state revolving loan fund.
With the council’s tacit approval for a timetable change, Weldon and city staff are continuing to look into the South Main sewer installation in 2013.
Contact Ken Curley at firstname.lastname@example.org.