Road woes detailed in northwest FD

Residents of northwestern Fort Dodge who have repeatedly cursed their neighborhood’s battered roads learned Tuesday evening just how bad those streets really are.

An annual review of pavement conditions shows that 50 percent of the streets on the northwest side are in poor or very poor condition, according to City Engineer Chad Schaeffer.

Citywide, he said, about 30 percent of the streets are rated as poor or very poor.

Any resident of the neighborhood who believes the area suffers from poor drainage had their suspicions confirmed by a map of storm sewers Schaeffer displayed Tuesday. The map showed a storm sewer main under Third Avenue Northwest and almost nothing else.

The engineer provided the data on the area’s infrastructure during a public meeting on the ongoing development of a northwest neighborhood revitalization plan. About 25 people attended the session at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites, 1518 Third Ave. N.W.

”Our goal is just to come up with realistic and agreed upon action steps that we can take to improve this area,” said Stephanie Houk Sheetz, the senior city planner.

She said the final plan may take up to 20 years to implement.

”Once we get the plan done, it doesn’t mean everything gets immediately addressed,” she said.

Tuesday’s session was the second public meeting on the plan, which is being crafted by city staffers with input from neighborhood residents. The focus was on current conditions in the area.

Many of the infrastructure woes now present result from the area being developed before any standards were in place, according to Sheetz. The oldest portion of the neighborhood, closest to the Des Moines River, was laid out in 1877, she said. Subsequent portions were developed in 1915 and 1957.

Schaeffer said it is impossible to fix problems quickly that were created that long ago.

He said at the typical cost of $150,000 per block, it would cost $12.5 million to reconstruct all the neighborhood’s streets that are in poor or very poor condition.

Third Avenue Northwest, he said, doesn’t need to be totally replaced.

Residents voiced their frustrations with the substandard infrastructure. Common complaints heard during the meeting included comments about the roads falling apart, the neighborhood being the last to get any improvements and the fact that residents have to pay the $3 monthly storm sewer fee even though they have few storm sewers.

Some suggestions were offered by the residents at the meeting also. Interest was expressed in extending a sidewalk down Third Avenue Northwest to the Hawkeye Avenue Bridge. Sidewalks are considered unnecessary on the side streets, however.

Those in attendance seemed to agree that the neighborhood’s streets do not need to be widened.

One resident called for more thorough cleaning of the storm drains that do exist to prevent them from clogging up.

Housing conditions in the neighborhood were also discussed Tuesday.

Vickie Reeck, the city’s community development manager, said 42 percent of the houses there were built between 1900 and 1922.

The houses that are occupied by the people that own them are in pretty good shape, she said.

Complaints about the condition of houses can be reported to the office of the mayor and city manager at 573-7144. Reeck said the city relies on citizens to report such problems because it doesn’t have enough inspectors to actively go out looking for them.

Another public meeting on the planning process will be held in April or May. Sheetz said land use in the neighborhood will be the focus of that one.