The city of Sandwich acquired the former Designed Stairs building at 1251 E. Sixth St. in 2016 to serve as the city's police station.
The city of Sandwich acquired the former Designed Stairs building at 1251 E. Sixth St. in 2016 to serve as the city's police station.

A busy Sandwich Committee of the Whole meeting Oct. 19 featured discussions about the new police station, state grants and updates concerning the Latham Street reconstruction project, traffic signal improvements and a new wheel loader purchase for public works.

Chris Kozak, vice president for operations for Harbour Contractors, told the council the pandemic hasn’t impacted any of the firm's projects and that once the drawings from the architects are completed the final bid documents for a new police station will be ready.

“I knew there has been some renewed interest in moving forward,” Kozak said. “Everybody is a little concerned with current market conditions and everything that is going on. Sub-contractor bidding is very competitive right now and obviously the COVID has been a big concern. We have not really seen an impact on any of our projects with that. All our projects have been moving ahead.”

Mayor Rich Robinson said it doesn’t make sense to put anything out to bid until the financing questions have been answered.

“Obviously I don't think it would be smart of us to put anything out to bid until after we know how we’re going to finance only because we’ve done that in the past and don’t think we’d have a lot of people interested in bidding on certain things just with our track record per se," Robinson said.

The city council voted twice in 2018 to reject contractor bids for the new station, planned for the former Designed Stairs building at 1251 E. Sixth St. Built in 2002, the building has been vacant since 2009. The city purchased the 17,000-square-foot building and an adjoining 2 acres of undeveloped land for $480,000 in 2016. The present police station at 308 E. College St. has been crowded for years and cannot be expanded, so a new facility is needed, according to city officials.

Latham Street stabilization called imperative

Randy Newkirk, corporate secretary for Hampton, Lenzini and Renwick, told the council the stabilization of Latham Street is imperative.

“As preliminary plans are being finalized, we are looking at full depth reclamation to stabilize the base of the street out there,” he said. “We plan stabilizing using a cement mix. This really provides a nice base for the roadway. Very solid and a hot mix asphalt on top of it would correct the underlying problems of the road specifically.”

Signal detector issues on Duvick Avenue

Tom Horak, director of public works/city engineer, said that there have been some issues with the signal detectors at Duvick Avenue and Church Street.

“We had some issues earlier this year and we went back and forth on fixing them, but I’m not sure how long they’ll last,” Horak said. “They’re not triggering by cars pulling up so I spoke to Randy on what we could do differently.”

Newkirk explained that anytime you “have to work around the railroad right-of-way you need to have flaggers and liability insurance,” and that adds up to your repair costs.

“It really makes sense to implement this project so that we do need trigger hoops to identify vehicles are triggering the signal and everything is working properly,” he said. “So in the long run you save a lot of money when you don’t need to get the railroad liability insurance and all.”

New wheel loader purchase questioned

In discussion about a new wheel loader purchase, alderman Shane Surratt questioned why it is a 50/50 split using water reserve and sewer reserve funds.

Horvak reminded Surratt that in April the council had changed the recommendation from a three-way split to a water-sewer 50/50 split.

“All the departments are going to use it,” Robinson said. “It’s a matter of where we take the money: three piles or two piles. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to get the equipment.”

Finally, Penny Huxdall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture area program director, said the Rural Business Development Grant Program is highly competitive and is only open for a short period of time once a year, taking applications from Sandwich and others in the spring or late winter.

“A lot of what we do is Main streets,” Huxdall said. “We’ve done sidewalks to get accessibility and those types of things to help beautify your downtown.”

While competition for the money might be fierce, Huxdall said the USDA tries to help as many as it can.

“Because of the small pot of money we try to stretch it as much as possible,” she said. “Our average grant is usually anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000.”

Kendall County