The wind, cold, and snow the past couple of weeks sure make the world look a long way off from construction season, but spring and summer will come and so will it. Eventually. Construction season will come bringing projects all through Devils Lake, from the downtown project to street resurfacing to concrete rehabilitation along Highway 2 through Devils Lake, and the completion of the viaduct project and the intersection at College Drive and 6th St.

The wind, cold, and snow the past couple of weeks sure make the world look a long way off from construction season, but spring and summer will come and so will it.  Eventually.  Construction season will come bringing projects all through Devils Lake, from the downtown project to street resurfacing to concrete rehabilitation along Highway 2 through Devils Lake, and the completion of the viaduct project and the intersection at College Drive and 6th Street.

The biggest project of 2019 is the downtown project, which includes new sidewalks, curbs, and gutters, with new streetlights, traffic lights, and resurfacing of streets.  The area under construction lies within a triangle formed by Railroad Street and 6th Avenue, and from 6th Avenue down 6th Street to College Drive.  The construction will take most of a summer to complete, and access to downtown and its businesses will be limited.

The city planned, in 2015, to make repairs to a few of the streets in town which meant overlays, new concrete where needed, patching some dilapidated sidewalks, and filling potholes.  The city would use federal aid money set aside by the state and available through the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDoT).  This 2015 plan was estimated at $1.7 million; eighty percent of the total would come from the federal aid set aside, and twenty percent from the city, which is paid for through assessments.  

Gov. Doug Burgum announced his Main Street Initiative two years ago, and that changed everything.  When the Initiative was announced, Devils Lake was one of three cities offered a grant to improve all streets and sidewalks downtown, and extending the current pedestrian bumps, the sidewalk extensions at intersections.

The first call for bids was let last summer.  Only a single bid was received, and the Devils Lake City Commission accepted it, but because federal dollars are involved, the North Dakota Department of Transportation rejected it.  A new call was issued and four bids were received.  The Commission awarded the contract to Ti-Zack Concrete Inc., of Le Centre, MN on January 22, and the NDDOT concurred.  The contractor has been sent the contract.

“We got four bids, and three were pretty close,” said Mike Grafsgaard, Public Works Director, “but more than the engineers’ estimate.  That tells us we were probably a little light in the estimate.  The city’s share of the project was originally budgeted at $1.4 million, but it’s going to be closer to $2 million.  However, the property assessment will remain the same at $800,000.  The city will pick up the difference through sales tax.”

The engineers’ estimate was $5.9 million, and Ti-Zack’s bid was $6.6 million.

“Now the city has requested bids for engineering services to oversee the construction—materials testing, ADA regulations, the gambit.  This was included in the original budget, and because federal dollars are being used, the city should be able to recoup some of the cost through federal grants, because the project calls for a qualified engineering service.”

The Downtown Devils Lake Alliance is an ad hoc group of downtown businesses working to promote downtown commerce.  Katie Myklebust, owner of Quilt Essential, and de facto head of the group, said she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the summer construction downtown.  “There’s no good or perfect time for construction,” she said, “and I certainly understand both sides on this issue, those who hate it and those who welcome it.  But it has to get done, and when it is done, it will be wonderful for downtown businesses and for the city.”

The Alliance is already planning what to do when construction begins.  “We’re talking about preparing weekly notices about where the construction is and at what stage and where people can park,” Myklebust said.  “We’re going to try and get out any news there is about what’s affecting the downtown and its businesses and try to host events getting people downtown during the construction.  We want to bring folks in.”

The biggest problem right now, she said, is that there’s so much uncertainty and that can lead to panic.  “Once construction begins we’ll know the plan,” she said.  “We’ll be meeting with city hall to keep up on what’s going on.  Right now there’s the fear of not knowing what’s going on, what will happen and when.  When it begins, we’ll try to keep up on the progress weekly and post it through a lot of outlets.”

And there will be a lot to keep up on.

“The DOT will finish the viaduct project and there’s the intersection at 6th Street and College Drive, which they’re hoping to get done by the end of June,” said Grafsgaard.  “The DOT will do concrete rehabilitation on Highway 2 from Elk’s Drive to the intersection at Highway 19.  They’ll also put up new signals along Highway 2.  In the city we’ve got a project on Walnut.  Resurfacing a section of 1st Street, 8th Avenue, and a section of 9th Street Northeast.  But the primary project of the summer is downtown.”

“This will be great for the city,” said Dick Johnson, Devils Lake mayor.  “Great for the city, downtown, and businesses.  This will help improve and revitalize Devils Lake downtown and draw in more new businesses.

“Yes, there will be some inconveniences—there always is—but we’re working hard to mitigate those.  The real concern of many affected businesses is remaining accessible.  That’s a real concern and one we will be working with the contractor, Ti-Zack, to make happen.  We’ve checked their references and they have a good track record.  We’ll also be meeting regularly with business groups.”

Johnson said the best thing for the city is they have control over the entire project, unlike the viaduct.  The NDDOT controlled that, he said, and “any concerns we had, well, fell on deaf ears.”

“It’s going to be a busy summer,” Johnson said.  “But when all the work’s done everybody will be really happy with how good the downtown will look.”

{Feb. 8, 2019, 8:28 p.m: 

Correction It was misstated in "City Chooses Contractor for Summer Downtown Project" (Friday, Feb. 8) that the city approved the first bid last year.  The city did not accept the bid from last year, but waited to hear from the NDDOT if they would allow award.  Since the state did not approve the award, the city did not have to make a decision on whether to award or not.  Also, the original local cost estimate was $1.6 million, not $1.4 million.  The $800,000 special assessment estimate was based on half of the $1.6 million.}