Alstott defends stance

Fort Dodge City Councilman Kim Alstott defended his support for the crosstown connector project during a Tuesday night public question-and-answer session.

He said failing to complete the project would cause the city to forfeit state grant money. He added that the city government would be breaking an agreement with Fareway Stores Inc. that led to the construction of the new supermarket at First Avenue South and 12th Street if the connector is not completed.

”I’m going to stand on I want the crosstown connector,” Alstott said. ”I don’t want to lose the grant money. I want to keep my promises. So that’s what my stand is, like it or not.”

During a session that lasted a little over an hour, Alstott also said he believes the reconstruction of Sixth Avenue Northwest between Second and Third streets northwest is a waste of money.

He also revealed that two companies, which he did not name, are considering the possibility of turning the vacant Warden Plaza in the 900 block of First Avenue South into apartments.

Infrastructure issues dominated the session, which lasted a little more than an hour in the Fort Dodge Public Library. About 35 people attended.

Crosstown connector

The crosstown connector project would turn First Avenue South into a two-way street all the way through Fort Dodge. A key and controversial element of the project would join First and Second avenues south between Fifth and Sixth streets. A roundabout intersection would be built there. After that link was completed, part of Second Avenue South east of Fifth Street would be removed to create space for future development.

The latest cost estimate for the entire project, provided by city officials last year, is $17,962,000.

That figure includes all the work downtown, improvements on First Avenue South at its intersections with 25th and 29th streets, and a major storm sewer upgrade on the city’s east side.

The cost of joining First and Second avenues south is estimated at $2,310,300.

The cost of rebuilding First Avenue South between Sixth and 11th streets, a task city officials have said will have to be done even if the crosstown connector is not created, is estimated at $3,399,800.

As a result of a compromise Alstott played a key role in crafting, the entire project is scheduled to be done by the end of 2017.

When Alstott took office in January 2012, he was in favor of postponing the crosstown connector. He said Tuesday he wanted to understand the positions of both crosstown connector advocates and opponents.

Alstott said he learned that the project received some unique grants from the state government.

”They gave us grants that they never gave anybody else,” he said.

The city received about $2.2 million in state and local grants for the crosstown connector.

Alstott said if the money is returned to the state, the Department of Transportation will give it to another city and it will be 10 to 15 years before Fort Dodge could get another grant.

The councilman said he also learned of the project’s importance in Fareway’s decision to construct a new store at 12th Street and First Avenue South.

He said he learned that firsthand from executives of the supermarket chain during a May 3, 2012, meeting in Fort Dodge. Alstott, Mayor Matt Bemrich, Councilmen Dean Hill and Don Wilson, City Manager David Fierke, Fred Greiner, the president and chief operating officer of Fareway, and other Fareway leaders were present.

Alstott said he asked the Fareway officials if they wanted the crosstown connector. He added that he phrased the question three different ways to make sure he got a clear answer. He said each time the answer was the same: yes.

”Fareway decided to move up there because the city of Fort Dodge promised them that they would put in the crosstown connector,” Alstott said.

He added that at least one of the other council members who attended that meeting didn’t hear things the way he did. He declined to say if it was Hill or Wilson, but he said one of them called him after the meeting and said Fareway didn’t want the crosstown connector. Alstott said he immediately called an attorney from Fareway who was at the meeting, who confirmed that the store was built at that location because the crosstown connector was to be created.

Alstott recalled that Bemrich warned him that council opponents of the project wouldn’t want to hear what the Fareway executives said.

”Matt was right,” he said. ”They didn’t want to listen.”

Alstott said Hill, Wilson and Councilman Mark Taylor conceived a plan to relocate the downtown street realignment from between Fifth and Sixth streets to an area between 10th and 12th streets. He said he was willing to discuss the plan, and went along with their proposal to hold a special council meeting on May 15, 2012, to do that.

The councilman said before the meeting, he met with City Engineer Chad Schaeffer to talk about that new option. He said Schaeffer informed him that if the street connection was made between 10th and 12th streets, the city would lose 85 percent of the grant money and would have the added expense of demolishing five or six buildings. The added costs were estimated at $5.3 million, he said.

During that special council meeting, it became clear to Alstott that other members of the council wanted to move forward with the street connection at the new location.

”They’re not wanting to look at this, they’re wanting to put it there,” Alstott said. ”That’s why I voted no. I feel I saved the city $5 million that night.”

Sixth Avenue Northwest

Hovey Construction Inc., of Fort Dodge, has a $304,158.50 contract to rebuild Sixth Avenue Northwest between Second and Third streets northwest. But Alstott said when the engineering fees are included, the total cost of rebuilding that block is about $380,000.

He voted against awarding the construction contract.

”I still don’t like that project,” he said Tuesday. ”I still think it’s a waste of money.”