The Rushford City Council held a public hearing May 9 for the purpose of receiving information regarding assessments to property owners affected by the Highway 30 Street & Utility Improvement Project prior to the council adopting the assessment roll. Engineer Derek Olinger, of Bolton & Menk, was present to discuss details and noted it was unique to have the public not attend a hearing.
The project includes full street reconstruction, curb and gutter, sidewalks, and water, sewer, and storm sewer upgrades. The total cost of the project is $5.9 million with $3.6 million representing the state’s share and $2.25 million as the city’s share. Assessment calculations follow the city’s existing assessment policy and are a portion of the city’s share of the project.
Street improvements are calculated by 100% of the front property width and 50% of any side property width, if applicable, ranging from $20-27 per foot, depending on whether it’s in the residential or commercial district. Sidewalk replacement/addition is calculated the same at $33-40 per foot. Sanitary sewer is assessed at $3,200 per connection, while water is $3,600 per connection, with the exception of Mill Street to Elm Street, which are $700 per lot due to having already undergone some upgrades in recent years.
“A lot depends on MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) rates and percentages of coverage,” noted Olinger. “Generally, commercial is more expensive.”
Typically, as an example, Bolton & Menk calculates total residential assessments as 100-foot lots and downtown lots as 50-foot property frontage. This equates to roughly $12,256 for residential and $10,173 for commercial assessments. It was noted there are properties which fall above or below the frontage. “Every property has something unique about it,” added Olinger. Despite bid prices coming in high for the MnDOT-led project, assessment costs aren’t far off from engineer’s expectations.
Property owners have the option to make full or partial payment until the end of November. Whatever remains will be certified to the county for addition to the 2023 property tax rolls. The balance will be paid over 10 years at 3.3% interest.
Property owners may also still qualify for deferment until November. These special instances are granted to eligible property owners who are approved and may include those that are 65 and older, in military service, on total disability, if the lot is undeveloped or agricultural, or those suffering hardship under special circumstances. Per policy, applicants need to verify repeatedly to remain eligible.
In approved deferments, the lien is still filed, but property owners are not required to pay immediately, although interest will be compounded. After the deferral period, the lien must be paid off with full interest.To date, no one has ever applied for a deferral in the history of city projects.
“It is a rare occurrence,” said Olinger. “Statutory requirements with the deferrals allow cities some flexibility.”
Work on the project started downtown Rushford May 9. “We’re hoping for a smooth project. We’ll get through the pain of this one summer,” added Olinger.
City Administrator Tony Chladek praised Olinger for the public meetings that were conducted and noted the signage around town has been efficient.
“We’re not the only city going through the pain of construction.” Following the public meeting, the council adopted the assessment roll unanimously.
The council also reviewed 2021 statistical and financial reports for the Rushford Aquatic Center. Operating expenses are getting closer to normal levels again, following the closure of the pool in 2020. Season ticket sales were down slightly following an increase in the rates, as were lesson revenues. “People start to wonder if it’s worth it for the season tickets and pay each time,” said City Clerk Kathy Zacher. “I’ll bet this year, season tickets are up again. They go through that season ticket price pretty quickly.”
With season ticket sales down, daily rates were up. The total revenue of $28,800 is down considerably compared to 2019. “With the total costs of operating with everything, it’s kind of standard. We can never charge enough fees to cover operating costs,” added Zacher. Staff for the year is still being determined.
The Aquatic Center anticipates offering Zumba classes and adult swim and might start offering private lessons and adult lessons. The first session of lessons kicks off June 13. Season tickets can be purchased any time. Lessons are $40 for city residents and $70 for non-residents. Resident season tickets are $60 for individuals and $90-120 for families, depending on the number of adults on the ticket. Non-resident fees are $100 for individuals and $130-160 for families.
As a notice, the Rushford Public Library and Rushford Lions Club are coordinating on an owl presentation at the American Legion scheduled for June 1. More information will be made public as the date draws closer.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, May 23, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.