Cost, potential ADA headaches have officials proceeding with caution

    The Crookston City Council Ways & Means Committee held a special meeting Monday at City Hall and have decided to look further into future downtown sidewalk repairs and replacement, but most felt approaching constituents for $1.5 million to replace pavers with concrete didn’t seem plausible.

    After a lengthy discussion, the council asked Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates Engineer Rich Clauson to invite a Minnesota Department of Transportation representative who specializes in ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance to Crookston to look at downtown sidewalks and determine what the exact needs are.

    City Administrator Shannon Stassen says a prior discussion with Clauson led him to believe that “just” removing the pavers would not meet ADA compliance and could put businesses out of compliance as well. At-Large Council Member Bobby Baird asked Clauson about the “max grade” for sidewalks allowed by ADA and, according to the Engineering Policy Guide, the cross slope for all ramps is to be 1 percent but a maximum of 2 percent is allowed by ADA standards with sidewalks to be designed with the “least running slope possible.”

    “They recommend (about) 1.5 percent, but if you put something in at 2 percent and frost moves it then you’re out of compliance,” Clauson explained.

    Later, Baird also asked if, hypothetically, there were “four chunks” of pavers broken and they were replaced with concrete if it would be compliant and Clauson told him it would not.

    Another issue pointed out by Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson, who is also the owner of Erickson’s Embroidery and 2nd St. Boutique, was that some pavers near downtown businesses are “pulling away” from the buildings causing gaps that need to be filled. He says his building on West Second Street has a gap about four to six inches wide that needs to be caulked regularly and added there was a spot by Montague’s Flower Shop that’s “bad.” The council and Public Works Director Pat Kelly agreed that was an issue that needed to be further investigated.

    Further into the discussion, Ward 4 Council Member Dennis Regan suggested the council look at a sweeper attachment similar to what the University of Minnesota Crookston uses on a utility vehicle that would allow the city to clear the sidewalks of snow in the winter and dirt in the spring. Mayor Wayne Melbye added that he gets group texts from the Minnesota Mayors Association and other mayors have their city employees use a sweeper to clear all downtown sidewalks.

    Later, when talk moved to letting each business decide if they wanted to replace pavers with concrete, Kelly said it would be a “poor move” and asked the council if they’d like to see sidewalks look like a “calico cat” around town.

    “We need to take our time and get a well-thought-out consistent plan that we can live with, but makes it look like we know what we’re doing,” offered Kelly.

    Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee concluded that it doesn’t seem like there’s an “easy solution” after the council voted to invite the MnDOT representative to look at the city’s downtown sidewalks some time this summer.