by CHRIS ROGERS
Winona’s alleys will be gradually reconstructed and paved under a new program approved by the City Council on Monday. Earlier this year, council member Pam Eyden repeatedly brought forward complaints from constituents in her central Winona ward that city alleys were in serious need of repair. In response to her and other council members’ concerns, the city will launch a program to pave alleyways and charge neighboring property owners for most of the expense.
Currently, most alleys in the city are not technically paved. They are sealcoated, meaning that layers of gravel and sealcoat have been built up into a surface that resembles asphalt paving but is not as strong. For years, city crews have patched the city’s alleys whenever they get a break from patching city streets.
Under the new program, the city plans to tear up, reconstruct, and pave around 10 alleys per year at an estimated cost of around $30,000-$50,000 per alley. The city would bear a quarter of the cost, while 75 percent of the cost of each alley paving would be split up amongst neighboring property owners. Winona City Engineer Brian DeFrang estimated the average property owner would be charged $2,000 over a 10-year period. Council member Michelle Alexander said she felt that was reasonable.
Each year, the city expects to target the worst alleys in a neighborhood, starting with west central Winona — Cummings to High streets — next year and working toward Eyden’s ward by around 2023. The timing of those sectors is based on the city’s sidewalk replacement project, where crumbling sidewalks are rebuilt and homeowners are charged for it. City officials wanted to stagger the sidewalk replacement program and alley pavement program so that homeowners would not be charged for both in one year.
In an interview after the meeting, Eyden acknowledged she did not realize the alley program is not slated to reach her ward for several years and said she would talk to city staff about it. “Maybe there’s some negotiation about that,” she stated. At the meeting, council member Al Thurley joked that there are probably only two alleys total in his far western Winona ward. Still, Eyden said she was pleased that the city had been able to take swift action on her concern, adding that paved alleys would be a big improvement for Winona property owners.
The council voted unanimously to approve the alley paving program.