Monroe Street Utility and Street Project Plans Are Underway
Plans for the Monroe Street Utility Street Improvement Project in Emmetsburg are well underway. The project includes street replacement, curb and gutter replacement and sidewalk replacement, in addition to sanitary sewer main and services, water main and services, intakes and manholes.
Work will be done on the following streets: Monroe Street from 12th Street to 5th Street; 12th Street from Monroe to Jefferson; 11th Street from Pleasant to Jefferson; and 10th Street from Monroe to Des Moines Street.
“Will the people involved in this assessment be receiving notification shortly?” Mayor John Schad asked at the Feb. 14 meeting of Emmetsburg City Council.
“Assessment notices will be mailed by Feb. 25,” City Administrator John Bird told the mayor.
He added, “There will be a notice in the paper notifying the public of a hearing March 14 at the Emmetsburg High School Auditorium.”
Council representative Sandy Pelzer questioned the percentage of assessments.
“It has to do with the size of the lot,” said Bird. “The assessment is based on units of benefit. They show up on the preliminary assessment schedule.”
“I have a feeling we are likely to get some phone calls on this and because of that would you go over the formula for determining the assessment,” Mayor Schad requested.
Bird explained the 1996-97 infrastructure improvement project policy. “After about a year and a half, the council found its way to the policy that has been used ever since. The policy is that people benefiting from the improvements: curb and gutter abutting private property and five feet of the street surface on their side of the street. So, ten feet of the street surface are being assessed to private property and curb and gutter is being assessed to private property, as are the costs associated with those underneath. The general public pays for all the improvements in the intersections. The general public pays for the remainder of the street (the middle ten feet), all the storm sewer. The utility customers, as a whole, pay for the mains (water and sewer mains). The property owners, where it’s applicable, pay for sanitary sewer and water service lines from the main, only out from underneath the new street.”
The estimates are made by the project engineer. Assessments can be paid all at one time, or over a period of ten years.
“If there are people who feel the assessment is high, what happens?” asked Mayor Schad.
“It takes 80-percent of the total value of the assessments,” answered Bird. “If you look at the total assessed dollars, the owners of the property against which 80-percent of the total assessment value would be levied would have to sign a petition. It’s called a remonstrance. That would stop the project.”
“Not 80-percent of the people or the property owners, but 80-percent of the total amount,” reiterated Schad.
Bird told the council that he has started a spreadsheet just in case the council decides to use LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) reserves and how that would affect the assessments.
“My personal opinion is, some people don’t believe that a street improvement abutting the property increases the value of the property,” said Bird. “I don’t agree with that necessarily because in the past when I’ve purchased homes that’s one of the things I look at what’s the condition of the street and am I going to be assessed in the future if there is a good street here, good curb and gutter, that I know is going to last for 20 to 25 years. If I know I’m not going to have to pay for an assessment, I’ll pay more for the property.”
Bird added, “That’s really the only reason the statute allows you to assess people for those improvements because, at least in the state’s eyes, it increases the value of the property.”
Bird suggested that if the council considers applying LOST reserves toward the project to keep assessments down, the funds be applied to the street portion of the assessment instead of the curb and gutter portion of the assessment.
“The curb and gutter is an improvement to an abutting property as opposed to the road,” Bird explained.
“If these are based on engineers estimates of the cost of the project, the bids could cause this to go up or down,” commented Councilman Brian Campbell. “These (preliminary assessments) are not solid, cast in stone.”
Councilman Corey Gramowski asked the total cost of the project. Bird said the cost is $2.391 million.
“So the rest of the city is taking on $2 million, roughly,” said Gramowski.
“The utilities will use cash reserves to put in the new mains, but they also pay a portion of the paving costs,” said Bird. “If they were to go in and do the project themselves, to replace the pavement that was also stated in the 1996-97 policy. So not all of that $2 million goes to the taxpayers.”
Project engineers will be at the public hearing in March.
“The project engineer will go over this before the hearing is open to public comment,” said Bird. “It’s customary for the project engineer to explain the method they use for assessing properties, so he will explain and he will have diagrams showing how these assessments are calculated.”
Councilman Steve Finer asked, “Do you send a page out with the assessment, explaining the breakdown? People could bring that along so they could follow along.”
Bird noted that for the First Street project and the South Grand project, letters were sent explaining what the property owners are being assessed for (curb and gutter and a portion of the street, and water and sewer service lines if applicable).
“John, did you say at the budget meeting that there is some accommodation for people below the poverty line or those kinds of things?” asked Council representative Sandy Pelzer.
“Low income and elderly,” said Bird. “I think that will probably be talked about too. In the letter I will encourage people to contact the county treasurer. They’ve got the applications there at the courthouse.”
Bird noted that the statute only allows the maximum dollars assessed against a private property cannot exceed 25-percent of the value of the property. The deficiency is picked up by the community as a whole.