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CSAH 21 special assessments finalized

Dolly Dissmore is a senior citizen living on CSAH 21 in Menahga who said she can't afford to pay the special assessments.

"I think it's a lot of money for people living on a $600 social security," she said. "There is a lot of people like me living on that road."

But senior citizens, age 65 and older, can get their special assessments deferred until their properties are sold.

The Menahga City Council finalized the CSAH 21 infrastructure project special assessments Monday, where city administrator Teri Osterman told the public that seniors have alternative options.

She said Dissmore's property is not in her name, which is why it's complicated for her to qualify for the deferment.

Bob Berttunen's mother is left in a similar situation.

His parents' home was owned by his father and when he passed away, the property became in his and his brother's names, not their 88-year-old mother.

"If it was in her name, it's a slam dunk," Osterman told Berttunen.

So as long as the property is in the senior citizen's name, he or she qualifies for the deferment until their properties are sold.

The CSAH 21 project is city/county shared, with the city's share totaling about $979,000.

The improvements that will be assessed include water main and water service lines and sanitary sewer and sewer service lines to the benefiting properties.

The street improvements have been paid by Wadena County and no assessments will be applied to those improvements.

The storm sewer improvement costs are shared between the county and the city with no assessments applied. The sanitary lift station is also paid by the city.

Ulteig Engineers representative Chris Thorson told the public Monday that because of the unseasonably wet weather, the bituminous pavement on some of the driveway replacements will be completed next spring.

The total assessment costs are $592,113 with a 5.5 percent fixed interest rate for 15 years.

The preliminary assessment estimates averaged $12,000 per property, but some final assessments came in higher than that.

Jody Bjornson's assessment came in about $600 more than his initial estimate, he said.

One reason the project's assessments have gone up is because two phases of it were eliminated, Osterman said.

The council voted to eliminate Blueberry Drive and Oak Avenue, which had mobilization fees that had to be spread out and assessed.

"When you have a project that's that big and you start pulling things out ... you really do affect the group of people that are left," Osterman said.

Conflict of interest

At a previous council meeting, councilman Dennis Komulainen said he thought councilwoman Kim Rasmussen should have abstained from voting on the CSAH 21 project because she owns property there.

This week, the public brought up the issue once more, quoting from state law that a public official with ties to city matters should voluntarily abstain from voting.

Joanie Anderson suggested that Rasmussen should not vote on the project since she's a property owner.

At the end of the public hearing, Mayor Tom Larson, Komulainen and councilwoman Maxine Norman voted to adopt the final assessments starting in 2010 and for 15 years with annual equal installments.

Councilman Joel Mickelson was absent and Rasmussen chose not to vote.

"I'll abstain to make everybody happy," Rasmussen said.

In other action, the council:

-Accepted Greenwood Connections board's recommendation to change its insurance plan for its employees from a $5,600 deductible down to a $3,000 with 80 percent coverage thereafter.

The Health Savings Account for employees will also increase to $1,500 a year or $125 per month.

The changes will then be reflected in Greenwood Connections budget next year, increasing it by about $22,000.