At face value, the Winona City Council's annual Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) tour is a fun-spirited field trip. Council members and city staff pile in a bus together, joke, and visit the sites of proposed projects. "We're in God's country, now," council member George Borzyskowski cracked as the bus full of officials pulled into his ward, the East End.
It is also, however, a visit to the sites city staff feel are most in need of attention and funding. From aging sewer pumps to overcrowded fire station garages, city staff had a chance to show council members the projects in person and say why they are important. It is great for you come out here "so you can feel every expansion joint" as the bus drives over the taxiway, Winona Airport Fixed Base Operator George Bolon told the council. "See, I was nice, I didn't say 'cracks,'" he added, smiling.
"The actual presence on the site" that the tour provides the entire council is very helpful, council member Allyn Thurley said.
"This is a nightmare for police and fire," Borzyskowski said as the bus turned off of Sarnia Street and turned to face Sugar Loaf on Mankato Avenue. Extending Louisa Street to add another East End connection to Highway 61 has long been on the city's wish list. In recent years, referenda for local sales tax funding for the project have failed. In past interviews, the city manager has indicated that city bonding and a request for county vehicle tax funding are on the table for this project. During the tour, city officials expressed hope that it would be funded through the Minnesota legislature's next bonding bill.
When asked if he thought the project was likely to be included in next year's bonding bill, Council Member Paul Double said he hoped so. "I think it is a safety issue, and if we get a jump on it and get it on the schedule [for funding], maybe we can fix it before someone gets hurt or dies because emergency services" are stuck on Mankato Avenue.
"There is not another collection like this in the nation," said Park and Recreation Community Services Director Chad Ubl, gesturing to fantastically-painted backdrops at the Masonic Temple theatre. Some of the historic scenery has suffered water damage from a leaky roof. Someday, the water-damaged backdrops could be restored, but first, the city needs to repair the roof and flashing to ensure the building is watertight. Before those repairs may be made, a structural survey is needed to ensure the building can handle the weight of a new roof, Ubl explained. The CIP includes plans for spending $680,000 on a new roof, new windows, tuck-pointing, and masonry repairs. City staff members hope state aid will cover over a third of those expenditures.
Riverview Drive and city port
"Does this have four-wheel drive?" city leaders asked as the transit bus carrying them navigated in between massive stockpiles of lime and dredge sand at the city's commercial harbor.
A $1 million project to resurface and widen the roadway from Huff Street to Prairie Island Road is planned for 2016. Over 70,000 trucks duse this road every year, Community Development Director Lucy McMartin told the council. "You can see it needs resurfacing." Plans call for $800,000 of state funds for the resurfacing.
Another half-million dollars is pledged by the city to rehabilitate the site of former silos at the old dock. The rest of the funding for that project, eighty percent, is expected to come from the state. Once the area has been filled, graded, and paved, the city intends to continue leasing it to Cenex Harvest States (CHS) as a truck staging area.
The 2014-2018 CIP includes more than $7 million for equipment and vehicle replacement, over $5 million for various sewer and water projects, another $5 million for street repairs, a $3 million expansion and renovation to the Central Fire Station, and close to $2 million for park and recreation improvements.