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|West Monroe eyes millions of dollars in improvements|
Work is scheduled to begin this summer on several infrastructure projects in the city of West Monroe, which will be financed by the sale of some $3 million in bonds.
Meanwhile, Mayor Dave Norris hopes projects that will be funded by the federal economic stimulus package will begin by this summer, too.
Last week, the West Monroe Board of Aldermen agreed to request that the state Bond Commission approve the sale of $3 million in certificates of indebtedness, or bonds. If approved by the state Bond Commission, the city will use the $3 million to overlay several streets that are not in the state's Urban Systems Program. Money obtained by local governing bodies from the federal stimulus package must be used on streets that are part of the state's Urban Systems Program.
Streets included in the Urban Systems Program typically are heavily traveled streets that connect busy streets with one another, Norris said.
"We have another group of streets that are not Urban Systems streets that haven't been overlaid in a number of years," Norris said. "They need some partial overlays and we think it will be somewhere between $2 million to $3 million."
"Overlays usually last 10 years or more, so it's not unusual to use money from bond sales to finance an asset that's going to be used over that length of time," Norris explained. "Interest rates are good right now on municipal issues, so we thought it was a good time to look at some additional non-Urban Systems overlays."
The city has several streets in mind to undergo work with the $3 million generated by a bond sale, but Norris is not ready to release which streets will undergo the work.
"I know a pretty good list, but I haven't got them all figured out because we will have to factor in the cost of asphalt, which is very high right now but coming down," Norris said. "So, we don't know how many we will be able to do, but almost all of that money will go into overlays while some will go into some sewer collection work. I don't want to say we'll do a certain street now and then all of a sudden the asphalt price escalates and we end up having to cut the list back."
Norris expects the state Bond Commission will consider the city's request at its next regular meeting.
"The money will be available sometime in May, and we're going to finish our survey and look at the streets and prioritize them, according to what we think we can do with that amount of money," Norris said. "The state will bid out the stimulus money, but this is something we will do ourselves."
Also this summer, the city expects to begin work to add sidewalks along a number of streets in West Monroe. The city has an enhancement grant from the state Department of Transportation and Development to build sidewalks along North 7th Street and replace some existing sidewalks in downtown along Trenton and Commerce streets.
The city also is finishing up plans to rehab a main sewer line along North 5th Street near a city fire station.
"We've got several other grant applications in on stimulus money that would have to do with sewer rehab and a couple of drainage projects," Norris said. "So, hopefully we will have a lot of infrastructure work going on this summer."
Regarding money from the stimulus package, Norris said West Monroe will push to get those projects started by the end of summer.
West Monroe will receive $3.2 million from the federal stimulus package for improvements along Trenton Street, Travis Street, Crosley Street, Wellerman Drive, North 7th Street, and Downing Pines Road.
"We want to try to get in the front of the line instead of the back of the line," Norris continued. "The state has to review everything with the stimulus money, but we'll get our part done very quickly. We want to be sure we have all of ours done so when that deadline rolls around and there's a few million dollars left, we want to have projects ready and be in the front of the line for that."
The city's next priority project on the Urban Systems Program's list entails improvements along Montgomery Street. It is currently second behind Finks Hideaway Road on the Ouachita Council of Government's Transportation Improvement Program list.
"The reason we didn't use this Urban Systems money on that is because it involves relocating both water and sewer lines," Norris explained. "That street is more than the stimulus money (the city of West Monroe will receive). It's also a concrete street and you cannot overlay a concrete street, so you have to tear it all out and move the water and sewer lines so they are not under the street."
"It's a big project, around $7 million," Norris added.
The state also will redo the intersection at Downing Pines Road and U.S. Hwy 80 to add turning lanes in all directions, Norris said. The city is paying for the right-of-way expenses. The state will install turn lanes from all four directions.
"That's a really nice project," Norris said. "It's a bad intersection, and the state's doing a real good job of redesigning that. It's been needed for a long time, and it will really be a nice intersection."
During certain hours of the day, traffic along Downing Pines Road backs up as people try to turn onto Hwy. 80.
Norris hopes that project will begin this summer, too.