Highway 95 roundabout hearing set in Princeton

Princeton – The Princeton City Council voted 3-1 at its April 13 meeting to accept a feasibility report regarding the roundabout proposed for construction this season at the intersection of Highway 95 and County Road 157/21st Avenue North; it agreed to hold a public hearing on the project 7 p.m. May 25.
Andrew Brotzler from the city’s consulting engineering firm WSB presented the report and said the public hearing is when there will be a formal presentation on the project, including proposed funding options. He said the purpose of his visit that night was to gain acceptance of the feasibility report and schedule the public hearing.
The report lists a total estimated project cost of $1.63 million, and the city’s portion of that expense is around $487,000. Brotzler explained a part of the report that proposes splitting that cost evenly among city funds and assessments. He said because a percentage of the land adjacent to the roundabout is undevelopable, it reduces the assessment portion by about 10 percent to $194,748.
It is undetermined from where Princeton will draw the money to cover its part, but assessment to benefiting property owners has been discussed, protested by land owners and is listed as one of the proposed funding options in the feasibility report. The city also requested a meeting with the county to talk about using funds from the local sales tax Mille Lacs County implemented last year, as well as other possible methods.
Council Member Thom Walker began the April 13 council meeting discussion by commenting that he was reluctant to vote for accepting the feasibility report because he didn’t think an assessment was going to be feasible for the project.
Walker said he did not recall assessment as the proposed source of financing during any of the beginning discussions after Princeton received federal and state grant funding for the roundabout project. Everyone had known the city would have a share of the cost responsibility, but a source for it was never identified, according to Walker’s recollection. With Jules Zimmer absent from the meeting, Walker cast the dissenting vote against accepting the feasibility report.
Mayor Paul Whitcomb commented, “I don’t think we’re committing to anything by moving forward with (acceptance of) the feasibility study.”
He said it was a way of getting concrete prices and having detailed information as a reference point. Council Members Jeff Reynolds and Jack Edmonds cautiously agreed that acceptance of the report did not represent approval of an assessment. The report is a detailed, technical description of what the project will entail and states the roundabout is feasible and needed.
Brotzler said he’s aware there are concerns about financing options and said there would be time to explore any options in which the city is interested. Funding sources will be reviewed at the public hearing, he said, but a decision about it would be made at a subsequent council meeting after a workshop and discussion that are likely to follow the public hearing.
He said the technical design is near completion and next steps requiring the council’s approval would include a joint powers agreement between Princeton and Mille Lacs County for management of the grant money and, if the project moves forward, a construction bid award.