City#039;s downtown project on hold

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The City of Luverne's efforts to revitalize its downtown area has hit a snag.

According to Mayor Joe Rex Sport the city received no bids from general contractors for its downtown revitalization project, which was expected to begin this fall. A resurfacing project, said Sport, that would encompass a number of streets adjacent to or near downtown Luverne, received only one bid.

City Engineer Morris Tate said the one bid received exceeded funds budgeted by the city. The city estimated the cost to be $100,000, which would include the resurfacing of Sixth Street, Fifth Street, and Glenwood Road, among others, but the project was bid $36,000 over that amount.

Tate said the cost of asphalt is the main reason for the added expense. High oil prices affect not just what people pay at the gas pump, but petroleum-based products like asphalt as well, he said.

"I had one contractor tell me that in 25 days the cost of asphalt jumped 25 percent," said Tate.

Tate said the mayor is looking for additional funding from the state to offset the costs, but said some roads that were scheduled to be paved may have to be eliminated in order for the city to come in on budget.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited downtown revitalization project is in limbo. Tate said the city is re-advertising for bids and is scheduled to open those bids on Oct. 5. He's also been contacting various contractors in the area to build interest in the project.

Tate said his understanding, from consultations with other cities that have had downtown revitalization work, is that contractors tend to be apprehensive about taking on such large projects that require detailed work in a number of different areas.

Also, he said, Hurricanes Katrina has sent many contractors south.

"Prices seem to run higher in an emergency," he said.

Should no bids be received on the project Oct. 5, Tate said the city would have to ask for an extension of funding. Funding for the project is provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, and grants through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Estimated cost of the project is $450,000 to $530,000.

Sport said the high cost of gasoline has the ability to affect the way the city does business.

"You just don't know what will anything cost now days," he said.