ADVERTISEMENT

Washington County's project wish list comes up for review

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES
  • Star Tribune
  • November 2, 2012 - 6:02 PM

Washington County has penciled several major road and park projects into its five-year wish list for capital improvements.

Those tentative proposals, subject to change before commissioners put a final stamp of approval on the county's 2013 budget in December, would amount to about $146 million in spending through 2017.

About $18 million of that overall figure has been included in next year's proposed budget.

Much of the funding would come from federal grants and state sources such as the Metropolitan Council and the sales tax for arts and parks. Some money could come from bonding, although commissioners would decide at a later time whether to do that, and how.

Requests on the 102-item list range from building improvements, such as new carpet for courtrooms and upgraded lighting for libraries, to more costly projects, such as the county's long-term investment in transit development.

Work on roads and bridges will consume an estimated 71 percent of the proposed capital improvements in Washington County over the next five years. Parks and land acquisition ranks second with 13 percent.

Included in the roads and bridges portion is development work on three major transit corridors under discussion in the county -- the Rush Line along Interstate 35 N., the Gateway along I-94 from St. Paul to Woodbury, and Hwy. 36 from Oakdale east to Oak Park Heights and Stillwater.

The parks and land portion includes $10 million in bonding in 2015 for the voter-approved Land and Water Legacy program to preserve clean water and open spaces. The parks wish list includes construction of a paved trail for a new Point Douglas Regional Trail at the southern end of the county, improvements in Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park and an extension of the 10-mile Hardwood Creek Regional Trail between Hugo and Forest Lake.

Among other requests:

Patrol cars: The Sheriff's Office has asked to replace 17 patrol cars that have high mileage. New sedans cost $26,000 each, which includes equipment. The Sheriff's Office also expects to replace one of its six canine officers each of the next five years to avoid extra costs associated with aging dogs. They're used for tracking suspects, looking for missing people and searching for drugs.

Lake Elmo Park swim pond: Improvements at the county's popular swim pond at Lake Elmo Park Reserve would accommodate larger crowds. Built in 1986 for 600 to 800 people at one time, the swim pond now draws more than 2,000 on hot summer days. The county board recently approved a study of the swim pond to determine possible improvements in parking, security, restrooms, concession operations and other facets of what has become Washington County's most popular recreational attraction.

Traffic signals: The county will contribute up to $100,000 in "cost share" for new traffic signals at two Hwy. 36 intersections in Oak Park Heights that will be rebuilt as part of the new St. Croix River bridge project.

Wi-Fi in county buildings: Wi-Fi expansions in county buildings -- and technology updates of existing Wi-Fi installations in county libraries -- will cost about $50,000 a year beginning in 2014. The county's sprawling Government Center in Stillwater currently has no Wi-Fi service. Expansion would make wireless connectivity to the Internet available in conference rooms and public areas of county buildings.

The county is accepting public comments on the proposed capital improvement plan through Nov. 16. To read the full plan, and for contact information, go to www.startribune.com/a1855.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles

© 2014 Star Tribune