MIAMI – Endeavors to raise the Highway 125 approaches to the Neosho River Bridge at Riverview Park have not been given up on.

Miami City Manager Dean Kruithof, Mayor Rudy Schultz with the assistance of Ok. State Representative/City Attorney Ben Loring and Senator Micheal Bergstrom are continuing efforts to find funding for the project after the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) informed them there are no state funds available at this time for the project.

“We have started an additional dialogue with ODOT right now about the 125 bridge,” Kruithof said.

With ODOT’s plans to re-deck the bridge in 2018, the City leaders had hoped to have the highway approaches to the bridge raised above flood levels. With the bridge closed and traffic diverted, the plan was to complete the improvements during this time frame.

Floodwaters often cover the roadway to a depth forcing closure to the highway and bridge.

“In my two and a half years here we’ve had to close State Highway 125 five times because of high water,” Kruithof said. “It’s just a continual situation.”

The flooding causes difficulty with travel, traffic, emergency response, and impacts economic development with the frequent closure of a major highway in and out of Miami.

A previous agreement with Olsson Associates had been approved in the City Of Miami budget by the council for the potential project for $45,000 to be used for engineering services. That agreement was put on hold when the City of Miami learned there was no ODOT funding accessible for the improvements.

“This is still going to be probably the best opportunity to do that we’ve ever had,” Kruithof said.

Together with ODOT, the Ottawa County Commissioners, and the Cherokee Nation, city leaders are looking at alternative ways to fund and complete the necessary changes to the bridge approaches.

“We’re coming up with a plan right now in which this project might still be done with local resources and with some assistance from ODOT,” Kruithof said.

Kruithof said ODOT’s approval is needed for any plan to upgrade the state highway approaches and some initial engineering estimates and plans are needed to aid and assist in the acquisition of funding.

“Since this project is going to be let, I believe, probably this coming fall we need to talk to ODOT about the potential dates on which this project will be let, because if we’re going to be raising the approaches above the flood area, we’re going to have to take care of a number of different processes through the flooding guidelines," Kruithof said. "FEMA, things such as that takes a bit of time, and also some engineering. It’s going to require us to do some engineering.”

The council approved expenditures of up to $43,000 in their last meeting to Olsson and Associates to do the preliminary engineering work on the project needed to set the search for funding sources and planning in motion.

The engineering plan will be submitted to ODOT to show the scope and cost of the proposed project.

“I think it’s important. We have one shot at doing this,” Kruithof said. “I know people will say there are other priorities too, but when you consider that five times in the last year or two one-quarter of our town has been cut off where people are having to detour, this is an important project for our future.”

Schultz said Grand Gateway and Ed Crone and GRDA are also interested in the project and assisting in coordinating efforts and potentially contributing toward raising the highway.

“The challenge Ed has is he has to know how much money do we need before he can start going to the Cherokee Tribe or the City or grant funds,” Schultz said.

Olsson Associates engineer Shaun McConnaughey said he estimates up to $43,000 for services and using FEMA model maps to determine feasibility, conceptual design, and costs.

Councilman Brian Forrester said his concerns stem from issues that arose over the Stepps Ford Bridge project and “miscommunication” between ODOT and the County.

“My concern is I don’t want into that situation,” he said.

Forrester asked if waiting for ODOT funding would be possible, but was informed this project was not included in ODOT’s 8-Year Plan.

Forrester said waiting for ODOT to fund and oversee the approach project may push the improvements back a year or more and therefore he believed it best to move forward to avoid flooding and another lengthy closure of the highway.

Schultz said there are no guarantees the project can be fully funded but with in-kind labor from Ottawa County and other stakeholders he was optimistic the project can be completed.

“It’s a gamble, but it’s our best chance I think,” Schultz said.

As part of the consent agenda a Master Service Agreement contract was approved with Olsson Associates for fiscal year 2017-2018 for general city engineering services in the amount of $120,000.

In other business, Kruithof reported ODOT contractors are scheduled to begin resurfacing A Street NE and NW this week, which is now underway. City crews are doing crack sealing in preparation for micro-surfacing of other city streets.

“It won’t be too much longer before people will start seeing asphalt laid in Miami,” Kruithof said.

The council approved several measures:

• City Prosecutor Glenn Beauchamp's contract for fiscal year 2017-2018 was approved.

• A stop sign will be placed on Linden Lane in the intersection of Linden lane and Oak Lane for added traffic safety.

• Ross Aviation’s contract to serve as the Miami Municipal Airport’s Fixed Base Operator was renewed for a third year.

• Approved an MOU for use of the Fair Grounds/Show Barns by the Ottawa County Fair Board for the County Fair and other events for fiscal year 2017-2018.

• Approved a work order for $18,800 to Garver Engineering Service for airfield lighting bidding and construction services, and awarded a contract for upgrades of $953,002 to TGE, Inc. and approved grant applications to the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and Federal Aviation Administration for airfield electrical upgrades. The application proposes an estimated obligation by the City of Miami of 7% of the project costs. The OAC will contribute and estimated 57% while a State Apportionment will provide the remaining estimated 36% of the project cost.

• Approved an economic development contract with MAEDS (Miami Area Economic Development Services, Inc.) and the Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce for $50,000 in funding disbursement and a utility credit of up to $6,000 for FY 2017-2018.

In the commentary portion of the meeting, Mayor Schultz commended staff for their work on the historically award-winning annual rodeo.

The 2017 PRCA Rodeo Miami initially set for May was rescheduled due to torrential rainfall to July 3rd and 4th, and still had to contend with rain during the event.

“I want to thank all the City staff that worked so hard on the Rodeo the first time and the second time. I know it rained some but it was still a good rodeo and next year will be even better,” Schultz said.

Kruithof thanked State Representative Loring for providing tickets to the rodeo to City of Miami employees.

An executive session was held after the regular meeting to discuss two pending litigations Miami Properties, LLC vs., the City of Miami and Corey Rogers vs., Miami Special Utility Authority and the City of Miami.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.