Eight property owners attended the November 13 public hearing regarding assessments. Engineer Brian Malm, of Bolton & Menk, was on hand to detail the final assessment and address concerns.
Three properties received service credits, as opposed to adjusted assessment rates, for work recently done that needed to be replaced as part of the project.
“I want to thank the residents for their patience, these were tough projects,” said Malm, kicking things off. A laundry list of items of concern included low quality of fill replacing previous soil, poor grass seeding/sodding, the possibility of a water credit for lawn care, difficulties in working with the contractor and occasional subcontract workers, difficulty in property access on the two dead end streets, and lack of communication regarding concerns. Malm indicated there is a period of correction and the contractor is aware of work needing to be completed. “Any defect work items will have to be addressed,” he added.
There was additional concern over a ponding area west of the South Burr Oak St. project. Malm reiterated that it was done per specifications as an alternate to original designs which called for a swale heading south based on property owner concerns. Residents are concerned that the maximum four-foot depth will cause a safety hazard, particularly in the winter with snowmobilers on the levee. It was noted by City Clerk Kathy Zacher that snowmobiling within the city is prohibited.
“I don’t know why none of you, except one, came and looked at it,” said South Burr Oak St. resident Kenny Highum. “If I’d known what I know now, I’d have fought you tooth and nail.”
Malm directly took responsibility for any lack of communication. “If there was a lack of communication, it was my fault. That’s my job and I apologize.” It was noted, however, that some council members had viewed the areas under construction and that in each instance of concern, either City Administrator Tony Chladek, Malm, or the contractor was made aware of the situation.
“It turned out really good, but the things we needed to go through…” added Hillcrest Dr. resident Paul Mart.
Councilor Terri Benson questioned whether or not there was a more effective way to prepare property owners for similar projects. “I don’t know how you get around it, but it wasn’t pretty,” said Benson. Discussion was also had on whether or not the city should proceed with low bid project awards. A change in the bidding process, to include project objectives, can include past performance and risk management to disqualify bidders. The city previously utilized a scoring system with bids. However, doing so may occasionally preclude the city from selecting the lowest bidder.
The preliminary engineering report for the project indicated a project estimate of $1.7 million. Based on the bid, the June 2016 estimate was $1.13 million. The final cost dropped to $1.07 million. Based on assessment policy and approved assessable percentages for the project were 24% for streets and 20% for water and sanitary improvements. Total assessment for a 100-foot linear lot was $8,699. Malm indicated this is in line with the 2009, 2011, and Highway 43 Street Improvement Projects.
Assessments are payable to the city before November 30. Remaining balances will be certified to the county for application to property taxes. The assessments are applied to tax rolls for 10 years at a rate of 3.5% interest.
In other news, the city has approved a study to provide potential developers with information needed to facilitate the sale of the former R-P Schools site in Rushford. Bolton & Menk will conduct a Hazardous Materials Assessment Inspection & Demolition Proposal for the site. The report will include inspection and cost estimates and, as an alternate, a Phase I Environmental Assessment. The demolition report will be broken into four segments for each of the four portions of the site.
“This information is going to be key,” said Administrator Chladek. “It’s best to have all the information and keep it rolling.”
The council approval also includes preliminary work needed for the development of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. It’s highly likely the district would be required by a developer in order to fund the project.
“The intent is to push this out there to get ourselves set up to get reimbursed,” added Chladek. “No one is going to take it on without a TIF. It’s the only tool we’ve got in the toolbox.”
Lastly, the council has approved a study for conceptual planning for residential development on land located within the City of Rushford Village, abutting the boundary of the City of Rushford. The property is owned by Don Woxland and the intent is to review concepts regarding Rushford zoning and estimates to provide utilities to the area. It was noted the estimates will not include opinions or costs related to any annexation proceedings. The item was identified in Economic Development Authority plans.
Councilor Vern Bunke questioned whether or not the City of Rushford Village had been made aware of the study plans. Chladek responded that if it was passed by the council he would send an email and follow up with a phone call to Rushford Village Mayor Gordon Johnson. “To be clear, this is Woxland’s property, not the Village’s.”
Bunke reiterated that communication should be made prior to council action, noting that past situations were poorly communicated. “You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” added Councilor Jim O’Donnell.
“I think we can probably guess what their response will be. It’s not like we’re going in and taking land. It’s a housing study,” responded Chladek.
“We’re investigating how we want our community to grow and succeed,” added Councilor Benson.
Approval of the study passed on a 4:1 vote with Councilor Bunke opposed due to the communication piece rather than the study itself. “We continue to make mistakes,” cautioned Bunke. “I’d think you would have learned.”
“I’m comfortable with it,” shot back Mayor Chris Hallum. “I think I have learned.”
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, November 27, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. However, a special meeting, for the purpose of meeting with the city’s financial consultant, Mike Bubany of David Drown Associates, to discuss city debt and upcoming projects, is scheduled for Monday, November 20, at 6:30 p.m., also at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend both meetings.