Winona’s alleyways could soon be on a yearly maintenance routine under the proposed 2023 Capital Improvements Program (CIP). City officials have requested alleyway maintenance in previous years, but the programs were ultimately cut from the city budget. City staff is asking for approximately $520,000 for alley maintenance in 2023.

Under the current proposal, city staff would assess the city’s alleyways to determine how much work needs to be done. “What we would do is we would just look at our list of alleys that need to be worked on the most and start repairing them from there,” City Engineer Ryan Meiners said.

Currently, city staff do not have a priority list of alleys needing maintenance, according to Meiners. “We’ve got complaints of certain alleys,” he said. “They would probably be on that list. We would also have to take a look at alleys throughout the city and see just what would be the worst ones and make our list from there. Then we would work from the worst alleys down from that list.”

City Council member Pam Eyden has also been receiving complaints about some of the alleyways over the years. “In the center of the city where I live, the alleys are often in deplorable shape,” she said. “I get complaints about them from late winter into the middle of the summer, and that just means [city workers] have to go out there with a truck full of hot asphalt and patch it up again. I think we can do better than that, and I hope we’re able to find money to start that project next year.”

Eyden also said that in previous years, the city planned to work on alleys from west to east. “I really did not like that idea because the center of the city, the Third Ward, has more alleys than all of the others, and our alleys are in worse shape,” she said. “I think the Third Ward deserves to have its alleys repaired first. If [city staff] look at the kind of calls they’ve been getting from people, they’ll discover that too. Let’s fix the worst first.” 

According to the proposed CIP, $100,000 out of the $520,000 alley reconstruction budget would be coming from the storm sewer fund, $315,00 would be charged to the adjacent property owners, and the remaining $105,000 would be paid by the general taxpayer.

Meiners also said that with the proposal, the city would be able to work on approximately 10 alleyways a year. As the proposal would be similar to the bituminous mill and overlay maintenance, City Council member Steve Young said that the city should strive to also have a similar goal in terms of how many alleys are done.

“We should try to do a certain [number] of blocks of alleyways,” Young said. “We’ve had some goals for mill and overlay that we do in our streets program, and maybe it’s time we look at the same thing on alleyways.”

As with any item in the draft CIP, the alley repair proposal is not guaranteed to be part of the 2023 budget. “Everything in the CIP, we’d like to be able to do, but we won’t be able to accomplish everything; that would be impossible,” Young said. “I don’t think there’s anything in that CIP that is wasted money, and certainly not alleyways, but this is going to have to filter through what does Winona need to be doing? What’s really, really required? All of this is important, none of this is a wishlist.”

“I don’t think it would be a guarantee,” Meiners said. “Basically, we get requests from property owners that say, ‘Hey, we want to get our alley done,’ and ultimately we have to have it in the budget to be able to do that work for them, so this is just kind of our way to hopefully try and get it in the budget. It may or may not stick, but this is our way to at least try and get alleys to be reconstructed.”

“We do a wonderful job with our streets, I think,” Eyden said. “I think we should do the same kind of wonderful job with the alleys connecting the streets. I don’t like driving down an alley that looks so trashy. It encourages people to treat the alley like it doesn’t matter — in other words, leaving stuff around — and I’d like to see us step up.”

The City Council will decide on a final budget and CIP later this fall.