Indianola City Hall

Indianola City Hall

The Indianola City Council has some decisions to make.

Dave Moeller with Snyder and Associates engineers outlined for the council the challenges in a plan to pave South K Street from Highway 92 to 17th Street during a study session Monday.

The project has been on the table since 2018 with the city’s capital improvement plan calling for construction to begin in 2023-24. It already has been trimmed, Moeller told the council. South K is described in the city’s comprehensive plan as a “greenway boulevard” — which meant a four-lane boulevard with a median, lights and trees in the center, a bike path on one side and sidewalk on the other, he explained.

“If you draw that out on K Street, it’s a very big footprint,” Moeller said. After a concept study, he said, trees, plantings and a bike path were retained. “The four-lane boulevard seemed kind of over the top.”

Instead, he said, it will be a 31-foot wide street. Snyder has completed a design plan to 30 percent of the project, but by 2021, the pandemic had made major projects challenging.

“Now it’s time to get K Street back going again,” he said.

Moeller spent almost an hour walking the council — including new members Christina Beach, Ron Dalby and Steve Richardson, along with Mayor Stephanie Erickson — through the decisions they will have to make before construction can begin, including how to package the various parts of the project, concerns about speeding, and design challenges surrounding deep ditches and a creek around the road.

The biggest question will be whether to assess residents for the work.

City governments can assess residents for the cost of a public improvement, Moeller explained, but can’t assess for more than the benefits of the project. On K Street, the improvements are clear, he said.

“The elimination of fugitive dust (from a gravel road) is huge,” he said. “There are a number of benefits like curb appeal, it improves the developability of the property.”

If the council decides to assess residents, the council will have to decide what parts of the project residents should help pay for, such as paving, water mains, sewers, storm drains and street lights, Moeller said, and the value of the properties that will be assessed.

Speed along the newly paved street also is a concern, said Moeller.

“It’s a long straight roadway where you can see forever and it’s awfully tempting to open it up a little bit,” said Moeller, adding that a speed study in the area showed that the average speed was about 45 miles per hour, which he called “not unreasonable” for a gravel road.

“The outliers were crazy — 70 miles an hour," he said. "There were some outliers that were operating at a not safe speed."

Moeller said the council can set the speed limit on the street, which he recommended to be 35 miles per hour although he said it will be designed for vehicles to operate on faster. “People are people,” he said. “We’re making sure a 50-miles per hour vehicle can get stopped safely.”

The council will have to decide whether to include items like roundabouts, an island in the middle of the roadway, on-street parking and other ideas to try to slow traffic, he said.

Th final challenge is the increasing cost.

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The proposed phases in the K Street paving project and the increase in costs since estimates were done in 2018.

“When we did our cost opinions it was pre-pandemic, pre-supply chain problems and all that stuff,” he said. “We’re looking at between 20 and 22-percent increase, that’s the reality of it. Before we think about an implementation plan, we know we have a budget problem.”

In 2018, estimates said it would cost $4.4 million to complete three of the five phases of the project — paving from Highway 92 to West 17th Street and replacing a culvert on the street. That cost has climbed to $5.4 million. Two other projects — relocating J Street and the traffic signal there and undergrounding electrical lines increased from $3.2 million to $3.9 million.

The council will have to decide if it wants to increase the budget or break the project down further so it fits within the budget.

The council will discuss the decisions in upcoming meetings.

“I’m not expecting an answer right now,” said Moeller. “There’s a lot to look at.”

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A map showing the various phases of the proposed K Street paving project.

During the regular meeting preceding the work session, the council approved a site plan for a new 5,004 square foot building at 1010 North Jefferson Way in Indianola.

The new building is slated to house retail sales and restaurants, according to a memo from Charlie Dissell, community and economic development director to the council.

Dissell said he did not know for sure what businesses might be located in the building.

The council also approved a contract with Terracon Consultants for $4,600 to conduct environmental and geotechnical assessments of the Warren County secondary roads property in Indianola.

The county is building a new secondary roads headquarters south of Indianola, leaving 6.9 acres of land next to the 1.5-acres that houses Indianola’s public works department, according to a memo to the council from Akhilesh Pal, public works director.

“The county has been talking about gifting it to the city, so it would be nice to know what’s there,” said Erickson.

The council also approved a contract for $41,000 for engineering with Snyder and Associates to replace the traffic signal at Highway 92 and Buxton.

“The traffic signal in question is one of the oldest traffic signal controllers we have,” said Pal, adding that they are struggling to find parts for it. The replacement is part of the city’s capital improvement plan for fiscal yar 2022 and 2023.

The council also approved a quote from Frontline Warning Systems for $97,842 to replace four outdoor warning sirens. Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent of the cost, with the state of Iowa paying 10 percent and the city of Indianola paying $14,676.

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