A public hearing was held at the November 14 Harmony City Council meeting to discuss the 2017 street and utility project assessments. City Engineer Brett Grabau reviewed the project with the council and residents attending the meeting. In 2016, each street along with the water mains and sewers in the city of Harmony was given a rating from 1-10 with 1 being a gravel road and 10 being a new road. The rating system determined that there were several areas in Harmony where the pavement was beginning to fail along with the underground utilities. Grabau presented a feasibility report to the city council in late 2016 and a public hearing was held at that time to inform Harmony residents of the proposed project.
Construction on the street and utility project was begun earlier this year and has been completed with the exception of a few minor details which will be finished in the spring of 2018.
Grabau led the evening’s assessment hearing to review the costs of the project with residents. Citizens affected by the assessments have a 30 day time frame to pay the amount in full or can choose to have it added to their taxes to paid over a 10 year period with 5% interest.
Harmony resident Judy Affeldt mentioned that her water pressure has decreased and the taste of the water has changed since the project was finished. Harmony resident Kathie Mock noted that her water has tasted bad as well. Grabau stated that the taste of the water could be due to a combination of extra chlorination used to eliminate bacteria in the new pipes, sediment and rust being disturbed in old pipes, and the fact that the water was moved around so much. He felt that it would resolve on its own over time.
Affeldt spoke again about the amount of the assessments, noting that she had spoken to the League of Minnesota Cities and reviewed the assessment tool kit available on their website. Her research led her to believe that cities should not charge residents more in interest on assessments than they themselves are paying on the original loans. “The city should not be making money on us,” she expressed. “You’re not a bank.”
City Administrator Jerome Illg verified that the city is paying around 3% in interest on the loans for the project and plans to charge 5% interest rates on the assessments. He also noted that it is standard for cities to charge 1-2% higher in interest than they’re paying.
Grabau stated that he is the city engineer for four cities total and his boss is the engineer for another four cities. All of them have assessment policies similar to Harmony’s. A sample assessment policy can be found on the League of Minnesota Cities website that is also comparable to the one Harmony has adopted.
Resolution 17-08 adopting assessments for the 2017 street and utility reconstruction project was approved by the council. Further discussion about the interest rate after passing the motion led them to rescind the approval. The council then approved a modified resolution, 17-09, in which the interest rate was changed to 1% above the borrowing cost for the project. The change will bring the interest down from 5% to 4% on assessments to residents.
The consent agenda was approved by the council.
Harmony resident Gary Ehler asked the council if the city has any right of way beyond the sidewalk. With the 2017 street and utility project, the grass in those areas has recently been resodded. “When you remove the snow this year from the sidewalk and the property past that (the sidewalk) is damaged, are you going to fix it?” he asked.
He was assured that any damage to the recently placed sod would be repaired in the spring.
Ehler also asked about the area where the street ends by the properties near the Harmony golf course. Mayor Steve Donney answered that the right-of-way goes past the pavement there, but he wasn’t sure how far. Ehler asked that the city truck not use the area to turn around when plowing as it tears the ground up. Mayor Donney suggested that Ehler contact the city staff to determine where the property line lays.
Harmony Fire Chief Rod Johnson asked the council to approve a wording change for #7 of the membership requirements for the department in the city ordinance. The change would mean that all department members would be required to attend a minimum of 70% of the monthly meetings and 25% of the annual fire calls in order to receive their annual service credit. The council approved the change as well as an increase to the fire pension bringing it to $900 from $850.
The EDA board recently contributed $500 to the SMIF organization. They also finalized the colors and design of the new city logo.
The next Harmony City Council meeting will be held on December 12 at 7 p.m.