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City Council hears from Main Avenue property owners

Downtown business owners are mostly satisfied with infrastructure upgrades and the beautification that went with them. Homeowners aren't so sure. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Downtown Park Rapids construction assessments were approved by the City Council after hearing feedback from the public Tuesday afternoon.

Several people gave feedback on the project and said they thought the assessments were too high and would be difficult to pay. The majority were homeowners rather than business owners.

City engineer Jon Olson gave a presentation followed by comments and questions from the public. Park Rapids property owners affected by the project had been sent out letters notifying them of assessments from the downtown construction project, which took two years to complete.

David and Norma Jean Wilkins sent a letter of appeal to the City Council and spoke at Tuesday's meeting. They own residential property on Main.

"We got caught up in the city's beautification project and are going to be taxed over $33,194.19 plus 5.5 percent for benefits we already had," they wrote. "We had a good sidewalk, trees and a decent lawn only to have it all bulldozed out and replaced with new."

Dave said the estimated value of the property is $152,600. Someone was interested in purchasing it at $79,000 to establish a business but once the assessments were announced the party backed out.

"There is no way, with these extravagant assessments that we will ever be able to sell this property," he said.

In addition, he said the center colored concrete is already eroding and he thinks that should be fixed before it is paid for.

Linda Ossowski said during the project her lawn was pulled up and the sod wasn't installed properly.

"They took out the trees as well," she said. "I'm unhappy, too, with the costs."

She asked for a guarantee that the grass would be fixed.

Olson, the engineer for the project, said grass would be planted next spring because it wasn't done correctly.

The Park Rapids City Council approved project costs to include a $700,000 federal grant distributed over the entire project rather than in one area.

This was determined to be a fair way to distribute the grant money, according to the finance committee.

Jim and Barb Preiner were opposed to the assessments.

"Regarding the decorative concrete, it's a dirty mess. It's not nice," Barb said.

She said the City Council has created excessive costs and the long-term maintenance will be higher because of the decorative concrete.

The decorative concrete on Main was damaged last winter by snowplow blades. This winter, a different edge will be used on the snowplow blade so no additional damage will be done to the concrete.

Olson said the decorative concrete will be sealed to prevent further damage as well.

Some people thought the 5.5 percent interest rate on the assessments was too high.

City administrator Bill Smith explained that the city's policy is to set the assessment 2 percent above the bond rate. The reason is to cover a shortfall if some assessments aren't paid.

Diane Smith said she has three properties downtown and more than $60,000 in assessments between them.

"I'm not sure how we're going to pay for them," she said.

She also commented on the colored concrete and said it looked terrible.

The City Council approved the assessments. By spreading out the grant the assessment is reduced by about 14 percent and the city share, which is the general tax base, is reduced by approximately 15 percent.

The final costs came in under the anticipated budget by 6 percent. The total cost is $5,194,751.99 while the budget was $5,536,841.73. The assessable share is $1,862,748.84.

A typical 25-foot lot has a $5,660.68 assessment, a typical 50-foot lot has a $10,961.54 assessment and a typical 100-foot lot has a $19,966.04 assessment.

Assessments can be paid in full or added to property taxes and paid over 19 years at a 5.5 percent interest rate. The assessment will first appear on next year's property tax statement.

Property owners can file an appeal to district court pursuant to Minnesota statute 429.081 by serving notice of the appeal to the mayor or city clerk within 30 days after the adoption of the assessment and filing such notice with the district court within 10 days after service upon the mayor or clerk.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561