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Park Rapids adopts new special assessment policy

The city of Park Rapids has adopted a new special assessment policy, although there are few changes.

The Park Rapids City Council approved the policy upon recommendation of a committee that has been working on the issue since the fall of 2010. The formation of the committee came at the urging of the city's civil legal advisor, Flaherty & Hood.

During several meetings, the committee reviewed the city's current policy in regards to adequacy, fairness and legal defensibility.

John McKinney, chairman of the committee, presented recommendations to the city council last week.

He made the following recommendations on behalf of the committee:

n The storm water assessment should be gradually reduced over time as fees from the new storm water utility can be raised. The committee recommends that for now the assessment rate drop from 100 percent to 90 percent with it understood that the rate would be reviewed again in a few years.

n The committee recommends that the sidewalk assessment policy remain unchanged. The policy says the property owner pays 50 percent of the cost and the city pays 50 percent of the cost.

n The committee recommends that content involving streetlights be in a section of its own.

n The city council should continue with its current policy on deferments for unimproved property as per Minnesota statute 429.061(2). The statute lists types of deferrals for senior citizens, disabled persons, members of the National Guard or military reserves, property owners enrolled in the Minnesota Green Acres program or unimproved property. The city council can make decisions regarding deferrals.

n The committee recommends removing content involving sidewalks from the "streets" section and placing it in a section of its own.

n The engineer reviewed and clarified the methods of assessing for irregular lots and updated the corresponding exhibits. The committee expanded language, which defines the methods of assessing.

n The committee recommends, based on the city engineer's input, leaving the design standards unchanged.

n The committee recommends the removal of previously defined allowable assessable costs as they are already defined in state law.

n The city council should develop a street classification policy. Such a policy, along with a street inventory, would be useful to the city council when considering project, the recommendation states. Road classifications assist with the establishment of right-of-way widths, cross-sections, pavement structures, drainage systems and sidewalks. Likely classifications are local, collector, arterial, industrial, truck and bicycle.

The council approved the recommendations.

The committee initially moved to take a broad review of the special assessment policy with an eye toward recommending significant modifications. The goal was to find a way to reduce the burdens imposed by special assessments upon parcel owners.

However, in the end, the committee recommended very little in far-reaching changes to the policy.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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