Work underway for phase 1 of core area reconstruction

Jill Meier, Journal editor

Brandon property owners located in the first phase of a planned multi-year core area reconstruction project are beginning to see preparations get underway for the $6.3 million endeavor.

But because of the recent coronavirus pandemic, this project won’t be receiving the usual public open house that similar past projects have been given. Because communication is key, it’s the goal of project engineer Paul Sanow with HDR and city engineer Tami Jansma to keep the public in the know through phase 1 of the project that’s contracted to wrap up by Oct. 15.

Last week, letters were sent to owners of the affected 113 properties included in phases 1A, 1B and 1C. (See map for phase areas.)

“Because of what’s going on with the virus, we wanted to make sure that we were taking that into consideration. It’s (the open house) usually an important part of the construction information that we provide property owners and face to face is always the best way to do that,” Sanow said.

As of March 20, Jansma and Sanow had only received a handful of inquiries from property owners.

“When Tami and I do things like this, we would love to have 110 phone calls for people that are wanting information, and we can provide them more detail. Hopefully, after the letter went out and the reason why we’re not getting phone calls is because we’ve informed them enough that they don’t feel they have the need to call us to ask us for information,” Sanow said.

The engineers encourage property owners to read the letter in its entirety. 

“I was talking to a property owner yesterday and they had received the letter and I point blank asked, ‘Have you read the entire letter?’” Sanow shares. 

As it turns out, they admited to “skimming through it.”

The engineers assure that updates throughout the project will continue to be made via the city website and Facebook pages, the Brandon Valley Journal, and Textedly. Jansma encourages residents to sign up for the latter by texting Core Area to 333-22.

Sanow said equipment and supplies are being moved into the project area now, as construction is anticipated to start the first week of April. Residents may also begin to see the removal of some trees.

“Our surveyors are out right now marking the right-of-way, which is the property line on the front of the lots,” Sanow explained. “The right-of-way is where we propose our construction from right-of-way to right-of-way configurating behind that area if we need to.”

Sanow said it’s important that property owners know that not all of the trees being removed is solely for sidewalk installation or utilities. “It’s because we need to grade back into their yards,” he said. “The intent was to get the trees marked and the right-of-way staked properly so homeowners can look at the area where the majority of the construction is. We will have grading behind the right-of-way to tie into the sidewalk where we need to.”

That process, he said, was explained at a temporary construction easement open house held earlier at the library. 

Sanow said it is possible that phase 1C could be pushed out to 2021.

“Because of the size of the project, we don’t want the contractor to do removals in phase 1C without being able to resurface that. If we feel that the contractor can’t get phase 1C done by Oct. 15 of 2020, we don’t want them in there at all to start it, and there is a chance that that could happen,” he said.

Because property owners won’t always have access to their driveways, the engineers ask residents to be neighborly.

“Every one of these residential projects that we’ve done, access to somebody’s home is the most difficult to prepare people for. And so, property owners being patient and kind to their neighbor to allow them to walk across their yard to get to their home on a daily basis is necessary,” Sanow said. “We start to see those footpaths where people are walking through a yard and it is our intent to reseed those areas when we’re done with the project. With that in mind, we also take into consideration people that may have a handicap or an issue with access and mobility. And so, when we start with construction, it’ll become apparent to the property owners that they may need some help and we encourage them to reach out as well.”

Sanow advises property owners to use their best judgment for parking off the project as close as they can to their properties.

“Those barricades are closed at the end of a construction day for a reason. It’s for the safety of the adjacent property owners that we try to maintain a closed worksite as much as we can from a vehicle access standpoint, because there’s manholes and holes in the street,” he said.

Phases 1A, 1B and 1C do have the potential to overlap. Sanow said the reason behind that is to keep the contractor at the worksite.

“We don’t want them leaving the project, we want them to continue progressing into phase 1B, so there’s going to be a time where we’re regrading phase 1A and preparing for resurfacing and the contractor might come into phase 1B to start utility installation in the next consecutive phase,” he explained. “If you did everything in that fashion, where you do the utilities, grading and then surfacing and then open up the next phase for the contractor to get into, the utility contractor basically has to leave and go somewhere else until we get this surfaced.”

Mailboxes and the city utility drop boxes will temporarily be moved to a new location. Sanow said a Cluster Box Unit (CBU) of mailboxes for phase 1A will be relocated directly south of Brandon Elementary on the north side of Elm Street and Third Avenue.

Once mailboxes can be replaced at their respective properties, Sanow said the location will be determined by the United States Post Service.

“We coordinate with them, but we don’t tell them where the mailboxes are going to be relocated. They might go on the other side of the street, four or five together,” Jansma said. “The post office is talking about doing CBUs,” like the one in place at Aspen Harbor. “They’re secure but it’s also an advantage to the post office because they have one location where they can drop mail off. It’s also a benefit to the city with snow removal and property owners don’t have to be so concerned about having their mailbox at a certain height.”

CBUs, Jansma added, are currently required in all new developments in Sioux Falls, which she favors.

The city’s utility drop box will be moved to the Sunshine Foods parking lot before access to Main Avenue is shut down, which will not happen immediately.

“It’s roughly 20 blocks worth of construction and Main Avenue is very key because we’ll be in that downtown area, so we’re affecting a few businesses, the VFW, the D and D, and City Hall. We will have traffic, not necessarily detours, because we anticipate property owners know how to get to City Hall using the alley behind City Hall,” he said.

Although a large number of trees will be removed in the core area, the project does include replacing nearly every tree that is removed. 

“We are taking out a lot for the project,” Jansma said. “But a lot of property owners have also requested that they be taken down because they are ash trees. We’re trying to do that all as one project.”

Property owners who want to salvage landscaping that is outside of their property line are advised to remove it before construction starts.

“One woman in the Brandon Park Addition was really concerned about her flowers,” Sanow said. “If that’s something that you want, you need to go get it. We encourage people to put it back when we’re done, but that’s not included in the project costs.”

The engineers also assure the city has been working with the Brandon Valley School District to establish central neighborhood bus stops, along with access for emergency services (police, ambulance and fire). As for garbage services, property owners should take the initiative to contact their respective garbage hauler. 

“They, for the most part, will accommodate, and they’re also used to these projects,” Sanow said. “If we need to during construction, we can provide a temporary access location. But again, the property owners may have to carry their garbage to a different location and when we get into the apartment situations, it definitely changes some of the discussions that we have.”

There will also be occasions when the water is shut off. The goal, Sanow said, is to establish planned shutdowns.

“There’s always the chance that the contractor might accidentally hit the water main and we have to shut down for an emergency situation,” he said.

The engineers’ goal is to see that the project goes as smoothly as possible, which reminded Sanow of a prior project that generated positive interaction between Spearfish Drive residents and the contractor. 

“The contractor was really good at communicating with property owners. Multiple times, people came out with cookies in the morning and the contractor kept working on the project diligently every day. At the end of the project, they ended up having a block party and they invited the contractor, which is the first time I’ve ever heard of that in 25 years. One gentleman on the project had a riding lawnmower and he had a trailer and would just go down the block and pick up everybody’s garbage and take it to the end of the street. Hopefully, we can find some of those good neighbors throughout all of this, too,” Sanow said.



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