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Council Discusses Street Assessments

By Staff | Mar 3, 2011

Without making any commitments, members of Emmetsburg City Council discussed assessments for the Madison Street Improvement Project and a possibility for reducing those assessments. Discussion was held during the Monday night meeting of Emmetsburg City Council.

Preliminary assessments for the proposed street and utility improvement project have been sent out to property owners.

“The preliminary assessments did go out and I talked to six or seven property owners since then,” said City Administrator John Bird. “I am happy to report that each and everyone of them have been civil.”

Mayor John Schad said he and councilman Steve Finer had meet with Bird.

“There are a couple of major reasons you may want to create an exception to the policy that was formed 10 or 11 years ago that called for a certain portion of the street to be assessed back to the home owners – the city pays for some and the utilities pays for some – because it generated some very high assessments, as you can see,” said Schad. “First, we have two major industries in town that are in need of that street. We may want to do whatever we can to make that happen as smoothly as possible. We appreciate them and want them to know that.

“Second, at this particular juncture, we have a ragged economy. It may be recovering, but slowly, and it’s going to be very hard. Some of these people were actually hit back in 1997 with several thousand dollars and now they’re being hit again.”

Schad said they had talked about the possibility of cutting back the assessments so the street portion of the as assessment would not actually be assessed to the property owners.

“Because of the high traffic created by the two businesses, possibly the city would pay the assessment of the paving of the street,” added Finer.

“I don’t have a vote, but I would like to urge the council to really consider finding a way to lower the assessments,” said Schad. “It’s just a terrible problem for some of these people right now.?If we have a way of finding alternative money, finding a fair way, an equitable way to assess them only a portion of it.”

When council representative Pelzer asked how they would fund the city portion, Bird answered, “You’re going to have a bond issuance to cover the cost of this. We sized this, entering into a loan agreement not to exceed a specific amount. If the size of that bond issuance isn’t great enough to cover the street portion, then you would have to use Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) reserves. The street portion of the assessments is $123,000 for the whole project.”

Councilman Malm commented, “Whatever we take down on assessments will affect every other taxpayer.”

“Do you think there will be repercussions from the people on First Street?”?asked Councilman Campbell. “That street gets a lot of travel. That’s not a residential street.”

“We’re talking about making an exception, not changing the policy,” said Bird.?”Every single project in the future, somebody’s going to have an argument.”

“I?just wondered. Are we going to have repercussions from people in the past??Are we opening a can of worms, setting a precedent fot the future?”?said Campbell. “I’m not saying aye or nay on this particular one, I’m just saying it’s something we need to take a look at.”

“Regarding the past, I think basically we’re in a different time,” said Schad. “We have a far different economy. We have people who are not in the same economic situation that they were 13 years ago. The point is, you really shouldn’t be in a position of just taking a hard nosed attitude. because there are differences. I think we have to recognize that. I’m with Steve. I just don’t think that we want to go after these people with the figures that are on the assessment chart right now.”

“Is there the possibility that we can keep this in the back of our heads until we see what the bids are on this project?”?asked Campbell. “If they do come out to be near the estimates, then we can make some adjustments. If they’re considerably lower, then maybe we don’t need to make adjustments. Maybe that would bring the assessments into an area that’s tolerable to the property owners. If we feel we need to modify the assessment, we can do that after the project is bid. Nothing says it has to be done before the project is bid.”

Bird pointed out that final assessments will not be known until the project is completed.

Finer noted, “We want to make sure that we’re not giving that signal because right now we dont’ know if it’s going to be lowered or we don’t even know if we’re even going to agree on this.”

Pelzer summed it up, “I think we could say we’re going to work with you.”