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Paynesville Press - Aug. 27, 2003

City moves forward with street plans for 2004

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Homeowners and businesses on streets included in the 2004 Street Improvement Project could pay higher assessment rates than ones paid for recent city street projects.

At a public hearing last week, almost two dozen property owners learned that assessments for the project areas where streets will be rebuilt could be as high as $65 per foot of frontage property. Property owners on streets that are to be re-faced only could pay assessments of $12 per foot.

At a previous city council meeting, city engineer Pete Carlson, acknowledged that assessments could be quite high for this project and suggested that the city assess residents $39 per foot, an average assessment amount for similar projects. Instead, the city opted to keep the higher assessment estimate, at least for now.

"These assessment rates are outrageous," said Sheryl Schmiginsky at the public hearing. She pointed out that the assessment rate is significantly higher than the rates for similar projects.

Carlson agreed that the rate is high – so high in fact, that he thought he had made a mistake in figuring the amounts. But after careful checking, he realized that rates were driven up because of numerous side lots in the project areas. (Side lots are counted at half of their actual footage for assessment purposes.)

According to Carlson, the assessment rate for the 2000 Street Improvement Project was $37 per foot. In 1998, the rate was $35, in 1996 it was $45, and in 1995 it was $39.

Carlson added that this assessment estimate represents a worst-case scenario. In some cases – for instance on streets where the water main and sanitary sewer are in good shape – residents won't have to pay assessments for those services.

Pat Hansen, president of Paynesville Lutheran Church, also expressed concern over the assessment amount. If left unchanged, the church stands to be responsible for nearly $21,000 in assessments, she said.

Part of the city's ongoing street improvement plan, the 2004 Street Improvement Project will rebuild and redo the city utilities on Belmont Street, Belmont Drive, Hudson Street, Railroad Street and Lake Avenue. Part of Minnie Street, the Industrial Loop, Ampe Drive, and Claire Avenue will be overlayed with two inches of new asphalt.

Also, because of a flooding problem near Railroad Street and Garfield Avenue, the city would like to build a stormwater retention pond, possibly on the north side of Railroad Street, if the city can purchase property there. Stormwater could then be directed to the pond where it could be held until it drains into the river.

The total cost of the 2004 Street Improvement Project is estimated at $1,415,945. Of that, an estimated $1,022,986 would be spent on street and storm sewer repairs; $63,750 on new sidewalks; $136,925 for sanitary sewer improvements; and $192,302 for new water mains.

The city will pay for new sidewalks, sanitary sewer and water main improvements, and a portion of street and stormwater improvements. Residents with properties bordering targeted streets will pay half of street and stormwater improvements in the form of assessments.

Also, under the street project plan, a new sidewalk will be built along Belmont Drive, bordering Paynesville Lutheran Church. According to Hansen, the church does not want a sidewalk there. A sidewalk isn't needed in that location, said Hansen, and the church does not want the responsibility or liability of maintaining one.

Another concern during the hearing came from Ken Bjerke, who lives on Belmont Street. He expressed concern over being able to access his driveway during construction.

Carlson assured property owners that while it may be inconvenient they will be able to get to their homes and businesses and construction crews will be required to assure access for emergency vehicles.

According to Carlson, the city would like to start accepting bids for the project in January and would like construction to begin in April 2004. Until a final design is made, there is no way to estimate how long the project would take, said Carlson, but similar projects have taken about four months.

He also assured Paul Evans, Cenex manager, which has a fertilizer plant on Railroad Street, that the city will work closely with businesses to ensure minimal disturbances to their customers. Evans was concerned because estimated construction times coincide with his busiest seasons…spring and fall.

After the streets have been repaired, construction crews will be responsible for replacing any trees that were removed, said Carlson when asked if many trees will be lost during the project. In the past, said Carlson, a fair number of large trees were removed, but until a design has been done, he has no way of knowing exactly how many trees will have to go.

Another resident who owns a vacant lot on Belmont Street wanted to know if water and sanitary sewer service would have to be installed, as the lot currently has no house. Typically, said public works director Ron Mergen, service is installed at vacant lots because eventually, a home could be placed on the site. It would be more difficult to install city services later.

Once designs for the street improvement projects are done, the city will hold another informational meeting where property owners can learn specifics about how improvements will affect their properties.

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