Citizens turnout for hearing on 2000 street projects

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 8/4/99.

After hearing comments from citizens of Paynesville concerning the 2000 street project at a public hearing last Wednesday night, July 28, the city council approved having the engineers move forward with the plans.

The project for next summer will consist of three main areas: Mill Street and Koronis Avenue near the elementary school; James Street, Pomeroy, and Garfield Avenues east of downtown; and a short stretch of Augusta Avenue and Railroad Street downtown. Additionally, the end of Richmond Street will be paved to allow better access to the Nature Park and the streets in the Chladek Addition will be seal coated.

Mill Street, from Stearns Avenue to Highway 124, will be widened to 40 feet, and Koronis Avenue, from Mill Street to Main Street, will be widened from 22 feet to 38 feet. James Street is 40 feet wide up to Pomeroy Avenue, and 22 feet from there to Garfield with gravel shoulders. James Street will be redone at a width of 40 feet, and Pomeroy and Garfield, north of Highway 23, will be widened from 25 feet to 36 feet.

On both Augusta Avenue, just the one-block segment north of James Street, and Railroad Street, running past AMPI from Augusta to Washburne avenues, the width will remain the same.

In these main areas, curb and gutters will be installed, along with storm sewers. The city’s sidewalk plan calls for no new sidewalks in the 2000 project; just existing sidewalks will be replaced. The water main and sewer mains will be replaced on Augusta Avenue, Koronis Avenue, Pomeroy Avenue, and Garfield Avenue.

The city’s policy for street improvements is to cover all the cost of the sidewalks, sewer main, and water main. The city splits the cost of the street with the landowners. Where mains are replaced, homeowners will also be financially responsible for running a service line from the main to their property line.

According to assessment estimates by city engineer Pete Carlson, the assessment rate for the project should be close to $42 per linear foot. That rate would be similar to the assessment rate for the 1996 project, while the 1998 rate was slightly lower.

The linear footage of a corner lot is figured by taking 100 percent of the length of the short side of a lot and 50 percent of the length of the long side. So a 50’ by 142’ corner lot would be liable for all 50’ on the short side (50’ x $42/foot=$2100) plus half of the long side (142’ x 0.5 x $42/foot=$2,982). That would total $5,082.

Service lines for the sewer are estimated to cost about $750 and for the water $850. Estimated assessments for most lots are between $2,000 and $3,000, but a number of lots could have assessments over $5,000. The elementary school should have the highest individual assessment, around $30,000, according to the estimates. Some private lots could be assessed around $8,000.

The final assessments will not be known until the project is complete and the actual costs are known and can be used in the calculations. For paying the assessments, the city uses a 10-year payment plan, where residents pay their assessment along with their taxes. The interest rate used for last year’s street assessments was seven percent.

Around 25 residents attended the public hearing, and several asked questions about the project. Gordon Everson was told that Koronis Avenue would probably be lowered slightly as a result of putting in curbs and gutters. He also felt that $1600 for sewer and water service lines from the main to a property line was rather expensive, considering the material.

Len Gilmore of Pomeroy Avenue was concerned about how the widening of the street would affect his yard. He was told that if requested by a property owner the city would come out and mark the area taken by the street, including any trees that would need to be cut down.

Gilmore was also assured that if contaminated soil was found under Mill Street, near the old filling station on the corner with Highway 125, the cost could be recovered from an MPCA program and would not be part of the assessments.

Bob Stoneburner, whose business borders Railroad Street, was concerned about damage done to his building during a previous street project and questioned how the city spread out the assessment costs, contending that narrow streets like Railroad Street cost less and should cost neighboring property owners less.

Mayor Jeff Thompson said the city’s policy has been to take the costs of the entire project and divide them among all the property owners. In lieu of traffic counts, that was the fairest way, he said.

City administrator Dennis Wilde did some checking about assessment policies with other towns in the area and found the city of Paynesville’s policy to be quite generous. In other towns, he reported, assessments were as high as $12,000-$15,000.

If it continues, the project could be bid in February, with work starting in April and, hopefully, being completed in July.

Legion assessments
Mayor Thompson cast a rare vote to break a council deadlock in voting on whether to forgive the American Legion $19,000 in assessments. The mayor’s vote in favor of forgiving the assessments made the vote 3-2.

Through miscommunication, the assessments on the Legion’s new lot across from the high school were $19,000 more than expected. The Legion did sign a contract, but felt compelled to do so to get their building project started.

Legion member Joe Kremer told the council Wednesday that the Legion members felt they should be forgiven the additional $19,000.

As evidence, he described the proceeds from the Legion’s charitable gambling program. Over the past three years (1996-1998), he said, the Legion has donated $85,000 to the community, an average of $28,000 per year. Donations have been used for scholarships, school and youth programs, and to support the police and fire departments, and the Trail Guards and Legion baseball program.

“We’ve been active in the community,” said Kremer. “It seems (forgiving the assessments) shouldn’t be done, but all our profit stays in Paynesville.”

The Legion is allowed to pay property assessments from its gambling fund. “In effect, every dollar that you take out of that fund is a dollar less that they have to donate,” said Thompson.

“The donations are wonderful,” agreed council member Dennis Zimmerman, but “somebody will end up picking up that $19,000.”

Harlan Beek made the motion to forgive the assessments, with Jean Soine seconding. They both voted for the measure.

Zimmerman and David Peschong voted against with the mayor breaking the tie in favor of forgiving the assessments.

Other business
• The council approved repairing the runway lights at the airport at an estimated cost of $3,000. Gophers have caused a lot of the trouble. Currently, some wires are lying on the ground after being repaired. The wire will be buried again and some lines put in conduit. The city’s maintenance staff already has started a gopher project.

• The council approved a bid of $24,359 to Precision Electric for electrical work on the pond aerators.

• The council approved EDAP loans of $12,500 to Jo and Kelly Speldrich for their hydorponic tomato project and $5,000 to Rick and Norma Block for renovation at the Koronis Lanes.

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