Whitewater property owners receive money from city as part of East Gateway Project

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Andrea Anderson
Friday, April 18, 2014

WHITEWATER—Property owners are being paid for their land as part of an upcoming project that will reconstruct some of Whitewater's most used intersections and streets.

Twelve property owners shared a lump some of $146,568 from the city for either the permanent acquisition of land or its temporary use, according to information provided by the city.

The properties are located along the East Gateway project construction route.

The project will reconstruct Milwaukee Street to Wisconsin Street to the three-way intersection with Whitewater and Main streets.

Property owner Dean Zweifel received $19,200 for what he said was 2,010 square feet of his property at 211 E. Main St.

The city plans on softening the corner along Main and Wisconsin streets and removing the access along Wisconsin Street. Traffic will only be able to enter along Main Street, Zweifel said.

The project has a $2.3 million budget and includes all land acquisitions and temporary use payments, said Wallace McDonell, city attorney.

The amount paid is based on appraisals completed by the city's appraiser and negotiations with individual property owners.

For example: If a property is valued at $100,000 and a portion is being taken for the project, reducing its value to $75,000, the owner would receive $25,000.

Permanent or temporary acquisitions are normal with construction projects, McDonell said.

By law, the city must compensate property owners or the use of their property during construction. It also must compensate owners in order to acquire property.

Five payments of $1,000 were given to property owners along East Main and South Wisconsin streets. The $1,000 payments are temporary limited easements, or temporary use of the land.

Temporary property could be “a few square feet” used to store equipment during construction, McDonell said.

He also said it is “pretty minimal use” on easements but that it “could go on for a few months,” and owners need to be compensated.

In the past two weeks, the city finished paying the owners, he said.

The city does not have a specific start date for the project, Christopher McDonell, assistant city manager, wrote in an email. Once it begins, it is expected to last six months, he said.

“In the contract, we will only specify completion dates: substantial completion is September 12, 2014, final completion is September 30, 2014,” McDonell wrote.

Substantial completion is defined by when cars can use roads and streets and when lights and signals are working. Final completion is when the entire project, including landscaping, is complete.

Nine acquisition payments ranging from $2,200 to $30,600 were made to property owners along Main and East Milwaukee streets. Land permanently acquired by the city ranges from curb sides to parking spots to portions lots.

Three of the nine payments went to Donna Henry, who has three properties along the route.

Henry, a Whitewater property owner for more than 30 years, rents out three properties along the construction route. Her property at 227 E. Main St. is losing part of its front and access from Main Street. Another property at 216 E. Main St. is losing access from Main Street for a sidewalk.

Three of Henry's parking spaces at 108 W. Main St. will be taken away to make room for a sidewalk that will be expanded for a joint pedestrian bicycle path, she said in a January interview.

The city is paying Henry $54,468 for acquisition of parts of her land. 

In the January interview, Henry said her tenants at 108 W. Main St. and 227 E. Main St. planned on leaving due to potential loss of business. She also said communication with the city was lacking.

She would not comment further on the settlements or communication with the city when contacted Thursday.

On Jan. 16, Christopher McDonell and Cameron Clapper, city manager, held two public information meetings on the reconstruction of some of Whitewater's most used intersections and streets. The meetings were geared towards business and property owners affected by the project.

In a January interview, Christopher McDonell said he wanted more one-on-one conversations with business owners to make sure their businesses remain successful during construction.

Since January, city staff has met with several property and business owners. They have discussed plans to complete the project in one phase rather than three phases as previously decided. 

The previous plan was to complete one phase before starting the next. Completing all phases concurrently will eliminate four to six weeks from the six-month timeline, Christopher McDonell said.

Danielle Frawley, vice president of marketing and communications for Fort Community Credit Union, said communication with the city has been going well.

The credit union, 208 E. Milwaukee St., will lose about 300 square feet to 450 square feet of green space at the corner of Wisconsin and Milwaukee streets. The credit union was paid $20,600.

“The city has been excellent,” she said. “They've held a lot of community meetings and try to send us letters in advance and phone calls. They've been really great at communicating everything with us.”

Zweifel said his overall experience with the city and the project also has been positive. 

“I think it was pretty good,” Zweifel said. “They contacted me and told me what they were doing and made an offer I thought was fair and reasonable, and I accepted.”

At a Tuesday city council meeting, the council approved a bid with Forest Landscaping & Construction, Lake Mills. The contractor's bid was the lowest of three and came in at about $1.8 million.

The city now has to determine a start date with the contractor.

Christopher McDonell said the city plans to post weekly updates on the project once it begins.

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