City council meeting

DOUG HOLLE with Schemmer, an architectural firm in Omaha, discusses Benjamin Avenue improvements Monday afternoon with the Norfolk City Council.

Long anticipated street projects were given the green light Monday by Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning and the Norfolk City Council during a special noon meeting.

The projects, which engineers have estimated will cost nearly $20 million, include reconstructing and improving Benjamin Avenue from First Street to 13th Street; and the First Street bridge and instream improvements for the North Fork River, including a roundabout at First Street and Braasch Avenue.

The approval for both projects includes the overall project, specifications, engineer's estimate and advertising for bids.

The Benjamin Avenue project was approved 6-0. The First Street bridge, instream improvements and roundabout was approved 5-2 and included an affirmative vote by Moenning.

Council members Kory Hildebrand and Shane Clausen were not at the meeting.

Voting in favor of the First Street bridge, instream improvements and roundabout were Rob Merrill, Andrew McCarthy, Gary L. Jackson and Frank Arens. Voting against it were Corey Granquist and Thad Murren.

According to city code, the mayor may break ties and cast deciding votes to be a majority on an issue. With an eight-member council, it takes five votes for a majority, so Moenning was called upon to become the fifth vote.

Moenning said they are big projects and represent significant investments by the city. They also have been discussed for years, including the First Street bridge, which is nearing the end of its recommended life.

“They will enhance public safety, spur new economic opportunities for us and elevate quality of life, which means ultimately helping us to retain and attract people here,” Moenning said.

The Benjamin Avenue construction project is estimated to cost $9 million to $10 million. It also includes an optional estimated $1 million in trees and other landscaping that may not be completed, depending on bids.

The timeline included construction this year on Benjamin Avenue includes the half westt of Riverside Boulevard in 2022 and the half east of Riverside Boulevard in 2023.

It includes expanding a box culvert and drainage, fifth turn lanes and improved intersections and resurfacing or reconstruction.

The First Street bridge and instream improvements for the North Fork River, including a roundabout at First Street and Braasch Avenue, will be completed in three phases, with the majority of the work to be done in 2022.

It includes replacing the bridge, placing sidewalks under both sides of the bridge on First Street and significant improvements to drainage, and creating a graduate step system for the North Fork River, which will create white water and slow the flow down.

Advertising for both projects will begin this month, with bids opened in February and the council expected to award bids on both projects on Monday, March 7.

For more on the Norfolk City Council’s special noon meeting, pick up a copy of Tuesday’s Daily News.

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