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Lanesboro council looks at Whittier Street and Maple Drive improvements

Fri, Mar 21st, 2008
Posted in Government

Members of the Lanesboro City Council have to make some major decisions about financing the much-needed repairs on Whittier Street and Maple Drive. At the regular meeting on March 17, Dillon Dombrovski of Yaggy Colby Associates presented the council with the feasibility report set up by the engineering firm.

Using the city's recently approved assessment policy, Dombrovski came up with some projected costs and assessable costs for both projects. The total cost for the Whittier Street improvements, which includes engineering, legal costs, full reconstruction of the street, water main, curb and gutter and storm sewer, would be $580,491.20. If assessed to the adjacent property owners at 35 percent, the assessable cost would be $203,171.92. According to Dombrovski, this comes to around $94 per foot, which is pretty typical. The problem with the street is that there are some lots that are very long, some longer than 100 feet, which would be a large cost for the property owner.

The smaller project of Maple Drive would include curb, gutter and pavement, and comes to a total of $110,715.02. The assessable cost would be $38,750.26, which is $27.92 per foot.

Dombrovski made the recommendation that the city take soil borings along the roadways to determine the extent of the existing pavement and to help identify areas that would need subgrade correction. He added that the projects are cost-effective and feasible.

Along with the problems of the large lots on Whittier Street is the fact that there are two lots that are not considered developable. If the city decides to assess them as well, and defer the payment to when and if they are ever developed, it would decrease the cost for the other residents on the street.

Mike Bubany of David Drown Associates also addressed the council to speak about the different ways to finance the projects and how they would affect the residents of Lanesboro. He showed projected tax rates for several years that included future projects as well. He also showed how the city could use money from the water fund to reduce some of the cost that would have to be assessed to the property owners. His presentation also showed how that would increase the cost of the water bills for everyone in town over several years.

A resident at the meeting spoke out against adding to the water bills to pay for the project, saying it felt like the city is hiding things by doing it that way. Bubany mentioned that water main is 25 percent of the project, and they could be justified in taking from the water fund. Also, the project will benefit more than just the people that live on the street, as there have been water run-off issues with nearby residents that could be helped.

The council considered reducing the assessments to 25 percent, which would keep the tax rates down. They also looked at taking 15 percent of the costs from the water fund.

Mayor Steve Rahn said they have a few choices to consider as they try to reduce costs. They can reduce the assessment rate to 20-25 percent, limit the length of a lot that can be assessed, take some of the money from the water fund, or any combination of these. Whatever rate they decide to assess the project at they will have to keep for future projects as well.

City Attorney Tom Manion reminded the council of the state statute that the assessment amount cannot exceed the benefit bestowed to the property, something that is very hard to determine, especially on a street with houses with different values.

The council decided to table the decision until the next meeting, after they get more information and feedback from Bubany and Dombrovski. An Improvement Hearing will need to be held soon to inform residents of the project and the costs. There will then be a Special Assessment Hearing, after which residents will have 30 days to challenge the decision.

Other Business

• Lanesboro will be celebrating Earth Day this year by having a ceremony at Sylvan Park on Saturday, April 26. City Administrator Bobbie Vickerman stated there will be kids' activities at the park, as well as a clean-up and tree planting. Waste Management and Tri-County will be there that day helping out.

• Vickerman also mentioned that the audit had been completed, and had gone very well. The accounting firm will be presenting the audit report at the next council meeting.

• Rahn spoke for the Park Board about work that needs to be done to the kitchenette, and the council approved the purchase of eight coin machines for the showers at the park. The coin machines cost $1,200 each, and they would like to have them installed before the camping season.

• Vickerman informed the council that she had invested $125,000 in a money market account from the general fund, and $100,000 from the public utilities fund. The money is easily accessible in the account and is getting higher interest at 2.9 percent than it was in the checking account.

• Council member Joe O'Connor said the EDA (Economic Development Authority) is applying for a grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation to help strengthen and sustain current local businesses. The council approved having the city as the fiscal agent for the grant.

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