BE citizens upset over Highway 169 assessments
When the Blue Earth City Council held a public hearing about the improvements planned for next summer on the Highway 169 reconstruction project, the public showed up.
And, some were not happy to hear their property was going to be assessed for the work.
At the meeting on Monday at the Public Safety Building, city engineer Wes Brown of Bolton and Menk and City Administrator Kathy Bailey explained the city’s portion of the project.
While a majority of the $9 million project is being paid for by state and federal dollars, the city is also doing some utility and street replacement work.
“Property owners will be assessed for water and sewer lateral hookups to the property and for 30 percent of a 36 foot wide, seven-ton street, no matter what the size of the street actually is,” Bailey said.
The rest of the cost of the street and the cost of the sewer and water main lines is covered by monthly fees charged to the entire city, Bailey explained.
Several property owners expressed frustration with the fact they did not know they would be assessed for the improvements.
“This is ridiculous,” Mike Foty of Fairmont said. “No one ever told us we would be assessed this amount. We would have dumped this place had we known it.”
Foty owns a business property on Highway 169 that he says is empty and he uses just for storage.
Mark Moore also said he was surprised there was an assessment.
“Ben Martig (former city administrator) told me that the businesses would not be assessed for this, that it was all being paid for by the state,” he said.
Lori Maher said she and her husband Mark, who own Blue Earth Monument, never knew about an assessment either.
“The frustration is that we never knew we would be assessed for this,” she says. “We have been attending meetings on this for two years and never heard about an assessment.”
Bailey said the city has been using the same assessment policy since 2009 for the various street and utility projects that have been done each year in the city.
The assessments to property owners covers only a portion of the city’s portion of the costs of the work, Bailey explained.
The cost of the water main construction will be $582,463, with the city picking up $523,338 of the cost.
Property owners will pay $61,490, which breaks down to an average assessment per property of $2,365.
The sanitary sewer total cost is estimated to be $805,778 with the city paying $771,608.
Property owners will be assessed $34,170 or $2,010 per property.
Streets are the big item, coming in at $4.3 million. Property owners will pay $526,457 of that, or an estimated $79.50 per running foot of property frontage.
“There is also a $580,000 cost for the city’s share of the decorative lighting,” Bailey says. “That whole cost will be covered by Blue Earth Light and Water from utility revenues and will not be assessed.”
The city had a list of the estimated assessments for all of the affected property in the Highway 169 corridor. The costs ranged from just a couple thousand dollars to several that were in the $8,000 to $17,000 range.
A few were more than that, including an $86,000 assessment to the Blue Earth Area Schools.
“The assessments can be placed on a property’s taxes and spread out over 15 years,” Bailey says. “The council also has the option to make that time period longer.”
After closing the hearing, the council voted unanimously to proceed with the project and call for bids for the work.
“The plan is to let the bids in February or March and proceed to construction in April or May,” Brown told those at the hearing. “The work is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2013.”
Bailey says the actual assessments will be certified in 2014 and put on the tax rolls starting in 2015.