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Rushford Village takes detachment/annexation issue off the table

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Apr 4th, 2014

Rushford Village residents of County Line Road and Laura Lane turned up in force again at the April 1 Village council meeting. Over just shy of two hours, a public hearing over a proposed 10-year pavement management plan encompassed topics including cost and maintenance affordability, and the future of roads within the Village, whether on the schedule or not.

Plan Option 2 Modified, was developed by Brian Malm of Bolten & Menk, Inc. and is scheduled to include overlay, sealcoating, or reclamation of roadways in two parts, 2014 and 2019, carrying them through the next decade. In 2014, south Rushford will see the bulk of scheduled upgrades. Prospect Street, Main Street, Plummer Street, Whitmore Street, Darr Avenue, and Goodrich Street will see sections of both overlay and reclamation. Hayes Street, Sherwood Street, and Meadow Avenue will be sealcoated, as is Oakview Loop, south off of Highway 43. To the north, in the Cedar Hill Park subdivision, Hillview Drive and Nordic Lane will have overlay upgrades and Ridgeview Road, from Highway 43 to Rush Creek Roe is scheduled for reclamation. East of Rushford, Money Creek Road is scheduled for sealcoating.

Then, in 2019, all roads listed, except Money Creek Road, will have a new sealcoat layer applied. Money Creek Road is instead scheduled for overlay in that year. Laura Lane, is also added to the mix in 2019, scheduled for sealcoating.

“The problem we’ve got is that we didn’t plan for the roads. We didn’t do due diligence,” noted Rushford Village Councilor Gordon Johnson. “They laid things on the table for us, brought things to light. We need to get back on track. We’re not used to spending a lot of money. We’ve been frugal with things and it caught up with us,” he continued.

The cost of roadwork is steadily rising, but the deterioration of Rushford Village roads is accelerating at the same or quicker a pace. Because of this, the Village sought out the development of a road management plan and thorough road condition mapping.

“We’re here tonight so we understand what you want us to do,” added Johnson, addressing the residents in attendance. “We spend a lot of money on our roads, but we’re not keeping up. We’re falling behind.”

The majority of residents in attendance encouraged the council to include County Line Road, which runs east off Highway 43 north of town. The heavily traveled road sees a fair share of rough road conditions, massive dust issues, and is plagued with safety concerns including a poor, steep culvert, narrowness in sections, and speed. “You have to look at the quality of life, how that will be improved,” noted resident Todd Lund. “Rushford Village should to be moving forward in creating a better road system. It’s going to be more if we do it later. I’m ready to put up and put my money where my mouth is. It’s a better solution and a better quality of life.”

The section of County Line Road under discussion, a one mile stretch, would add $318,000 to the current project total. If paved, maintenance will be an additional $7,400 per year. “Can we afford to maintain it? What does that mean for our taxes? That’s the question we’re faced with,” noted Rushford Village Mayor Dale Schwanke.

The city is currently spending $40,000-45,000 per year on maintenance of 33 miles of crushed rock roads. Through the process of developing a plan, the city discussed putting various roads into the project, removing others, and even letting some fall by the wayside, going from currently paved back to crushed rock. The 10-year project price tag is nearly $1.2 million. At that rate, a $100,000 residence is estimated to see approximately $100 more in taxes per year, while a farm, rated at $1 million (approximately 240 acres) would see a $550 increase, not including taxation to any home on the farm.

“If you add it to my taxes, I can’t afford it,” cautioned farmer Floyd Dunn, also referencing those who are older, retired, or on fixed incomes. Dunn also noted the number of younger generation farmers starting out. “The young man who rents my farm won’t be farming if taxes go up.”

Unanimous approval of the modified option gives Rushford Village legal authority to issue debt for its funding. It does not legally bind the city to do the work, which still needs to see final design and go through a bidding process. The amount that can be bonded is limited at the approved amount, but can be reduced by project scope. The city can opt in areas such as County Line Road if it can fund it through cash reserves or adjust the project scope to not exceed capacity. It can also be added later, after a new public hearing, through supplemental bonding.

“The streets are deteriorating quicker than you can keep up,” noted financial consultant Mike Bubany, of David Drown Associates. “It’s better to borrow a big chunk today. It puts you in a better position to catch up, then, rollover into a phase two. If you can bite the bullet, it makes sense to do it that way.”

The city council adopted the modified plan unanimously, without the addition of County Line Road. “We’ve looked at a lot of different options. This is the most doable. We’ve taken a hard look at it and I think this is the best plan,” added Councilor Dennis Overland.

While authorization of final design work and preparing the project for bid can proceed, the city is aware of a 30-day petition period in which residents can stop the project. In that case, the city would be forced to hold a referendum on the project, pay cash for it or apply special assessments. “The petition is a deal breaker,” added Bubany. The total required for the petition is limited to 5 percent of the total number of voters in the last election. If faced with such, the city cannot hold a hearing and bond for the project again for a period of 12 months.

In other news, the city has decided to table the annexation petition by Peterson residents Alan Lipowitz and Jan Smaby, who sought detachment from the City of Peterson. Mayor Schwanke and Rushford Village Councilor Hamilton Peterson met with Peterson council representatives Mayor Jennifer Wood and Councilor Dick Lee to ascertain if there was some reasonable common ground that could be found between the City of Peterson and the petitioners, resolving the issue locally. Two compromise options were discussed with neither approved by the city of Peterson or the petitioners.

“We hoped each would give a little more, but there was not really any give or take,” noted Mayor Schwanke. “This is the way it’s gonna have to be. We couldn’t get all parties to accept compromise. I think we should table the issue and leave it for the petitioners to bring back. It’s their issue, not ours.”

“We have no interest in wanting to take land,” he continued. “This was dropped in our lap. It puts us in mode of being judge and jury. We didn’t bring the issue up. We didn’t ask for it. We tried to make it go away. Let’s just take it off the table.” After no discussion, a motion on Schwanke’s recommendation was made by Hamilton Peterson and seconded by Todd Baker. It was approved unanimously.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.

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