With 120th done, what’s next?
By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
SHUEYVILLE– “It’s nearly complete,” said Dave Schechinger of Veenstra & Kimm, Inc. about the 120th Street reconstruction project through Shueyville. Schechinger’s comments came during the Tuesday, Oct. 9, city council meeting, a joint meeting held with the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.
Supervisors Pat Harney, Rod Sullivan, Sally Stutsman, Janelle Rettig and Terrance Neuzil met with the council to learn first hand what issues are prevalent in the community.
Schechinger said the project was “right at $2 million” on its budget. The reconstruction of the heavily traveled and crumbling road through Shueyville was estimated at $2.2 million with Metro Pavers receiving the contract with their $1.8 million bid, the lowest received. While the project suffered from some early weather delays, shifting phases of the endeavor allowed work to get back on-track. On the 105th day, substantial completion was achieved. Schechinger expected work to be wrapped up around Oct. 19.
Sullivan asked what the public’s reaction has been.
”Everybody’s thrilled,” Schechinger replied.
Mayor Bryan Bredman said he’s heard nothing but positive remarks, despite a few snags along the way, and commuters dealing with one-lane traffic, heavy equipment, dismantled driveways and other construction-related hassles.
With 120th Street completed, the council was asked what was next.
“Take a deep breath,” answered council member Mickey Coonfare.
Bredman suggested some landscaping would be needed along the road, to make it look nice and as part of an effort to get drivers to reduce speed coming into Shueyville.
“It’s hard to slow it down,” he said, especially since the smoother and wider road makes drivers think they can go faster. Increased presence of Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies seems to have had an effect on drivers, particularly in the wake of some special traffic enforcement efforts. “Kudos to the deputies,” Bredman said.
Supervisor Sullivan asked Bredman if he’s comfortable with the current contract between the city and county for law enforcement. Bredman said he was for now, but it may need to be looked at in the future, depending on the growth of the city. Sullivan reminded the council the county has been trying to gradually raise the fee for the contracted patrol hours and that Shueyville will see a slight increase in cost for the same number of hours. However, he added, “We’re still not even up to the officer’s salary, the cost of the car and the equipment.”
Talk turned to the Fringe Area Agreement between the city and the county, and Bredman indicated he was comfortable with it. Bredman said the city’s land use plan has not been updated in awhile, and the council may look at it sooner than later. Supervisor Rettig encouraged the council to share any concerns about developments in the Fringe Area, so the board of supervisors were aware of projects that would fit into their vision for the future. “I would love to have your feedback,” Rettig said, particularly off Curtis Bridge Road and in the Sandy Beach area.
“We’re not interested in that direction,” Bredman said, noting that any annexation would require the city to take on the responsibility for infrastructure to developments separated by farms and farmland. “There’s plenty of land in Shueyville. We’re our own animal up here, we’re different from other towns.”
Bredman told the supervisors the city is currently looking at an animal control ordinance, storm water run-off and older roads also in need of repair or rebuilding. Bredman pointed to James Avenue. “It’s a money pit,” he declared. Like 120th Street, part of the road is the responsibility of Shueyville while the county is responsible for the rest of it. Sullivan said the joint venture with Shueyville could serve as a model for future projects around the county. The City of Swisher is voicing concerns about the portion of 120th Street that runs through that community, he said, and that, “we may have a battle like we did with you guys,” about how to finance improvements.
Sullivan then reported to the council some things the board is considering, including a new Secondary Roads shop building that will be constructed on the west side of Shueyville to replace an old and decrepit shed. Greg Parker, secondary roads director said it would be a six-month project, weather permitting.
Asked about future road projects, Rettig decried the failure of an increased gas tax at the state level. ”Our hands get kind of tied,” when it comes to funding, she said. In addition to bonding for 120th Street, the county also bonded for some other projects. “Then, all of a sudden, we’re $4 million over-bid for Mehaffey Bridge. We had to re-shuffle everything,” said Rettig. “If it’s not on our five-year plan, it’s probably not going to happen.”
Bredman asked about Club Road and Curtis Bridge Road, which sees heavy traffic daily.
“That hasn’t been on our radar yet,” Sullivan admitted. “This is how it gets on our radar.”
Bredman pointed out Curtis Bridge Road sees 4,000 cars daily, most of them county residents. “We’re obligated to maintain it,” he said. In the long term, Bredman said, both entities need to find a way to keep it from becoming a money pit like 120th Street.
“We have a five-year plan and a long term plan,” Rettig said, “and we come up $5 million short every year.” The county is responsible for 900 miles of road in need of help, she noted.
Bredman said he feels discriminated against since the road is in Shueyville and not exclusively out in the county. “Shueyville is unique,” Sullivan conceded.
Stutsman reiterated the supervisors’ desire to not pay for a road that may well be annexed into the city, a key hangup early in the 120th Street discussions, prior to an agreement for the county to bond for the project and the city to pay back the bonds over several years.
“We’re paying for it,” Coonfare reminded Rettig during some verbal sparring over who paid for 120th Street.
“We’re learning as we work with the various cities,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan directed Parker to look at Curtis Bridge Road and create a rough engineer’s estimate of what it would take to rebuild the road. Sullivan also reminded the council the county’s five-year road plan will be updated in March.
The Mayor took the opportunity to put two more roads on the supervisors’ radar, bringing up Sandy Beach Road and Hickory Hollow. Sullivan called those roads a nightmare.
“An awful lot of people live there, it’s a mix of really nice and some not-so-nice houses, it’s curvy with a limited right-of-way that’s unlikely to ever be straight and flat.”
Sullivan conceded Sandy Beach would be great for wide shoulders, but the landowners along the road likely wouldn’t be very willing to give up their land for such a project. “It’s really tough,” he said.
Bredman said Hickory Hollow is a second way out for folks living south of Shueyville. “That’s a good one to put on our list too,” said Sullivan.
“We’ve really been focusing on roads,” Rettig said. “We’ve inched taxes up, and not have gotten as much push-back as we anticipated. There’s a lot of people in Johnson County, and we just can’t keep up with the roads.” She stressed neither she nor the other supervisors could make any promises regarding road projects.” Bredman understood.
“It’s not falling on deaf ears,” Bredman said, then added, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”