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Woodbury Phase II contract awarded, council sets preliminary levy

Woodbury's Phase II is one step closer to reality with construction starting as early as October.

City staff and council have been planning the development on paper for three years now and last Wednesday, the council approved a bid for its trunk sanitary sewer project.

The city received 11 competitive bids for the area located in the southeast corner of Woodbury near East Ridge High school, said Engineering and Public Works Deputy Director Klayton Eckles.

The engineering department estimates the total cost of the development at $3.6 million with the sanitary sewer portion about one million less.

Northwest Asphalt, a contractor that has worked on various projects in the northwest suburbs, entered the lowest bid at $2.5 million.

Eckles said the contractor is prepared to work through the winter to keep crews busy during the down economy. However, the city is giving the company enough time to take a break during the cold months.

But many of the project's aspects can indeed be completed during the winter and completed as early as next spring, Eckles added.

The project's plans were altered to accommodate more advanced technologies that would've cost more in an otherwise unfavorable bidding environment, Eckles said.

The contractor is eager to begin the work and developers have shown interest in Phase II as well.

"There has been some land transaction in the area, there has been some developer interest in the area," Eckles said.

In other business:

-City Council set the preliminary levy at a maximum of $28,165,979 - a 0 percent change from last year and a $1 increase to the tax bill on the average home. Council member Christopher Burns voted against the measure explaining that he wasn't in favor of any tax hikes, even the smallest bit.

"No tax increase, not even a dollar, not even a fraction 10th of a percent," he said.

State law demands cities set "maximum" preliminary tax levies in September before approving the final levy in December. The city may be able to decrease the levy amount by the end of the year but the council can't go up.

City Administrator Clint Gridley said to make the $1 household boost go down to $0 would cost the city about $35,000 in cuts.

Burns suggested cutting the number of newsletters mailed to all the residents from 10 to 6 per year and increasing online forms of communication.

Gridley said that would save about $26,000.

Although not disagreeing with Burns, the rest of the council was opposed to setting a maximum levy $35,000 lower than the city can afford.

"For tonight's purposes I don't want to lock us into that," Council member Amy Scoggins said, adding, "I'm comfortable with this if this is how it does indeed end up when the year is over."

-City Council gave a favorable review to Gridley who will receive a 1.5 percent cost of living annual pay increase starting in January.

Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said there has been no general pay increases for city employees including Gridley for the last three years.

The bump brings Gridley's salary up to about $143,115 and makes him the top paid city employee.

The second-highest paid city employee is Engineering and Public Works Director David Jessup with an annual salary of $124,116. Public Safety Director Lee Vague comes in third at $121,974, with Community Development Director Dwight Picha following at $121,573. Finance Director Tim Johnson's annual salary takes fifth place at $119,910.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.