PR adopts assessment for frontage road project
The owners of 21 properties will be assessed more than $400,000 of the $1.6 million costs of this year's street and utility improvements.
The Park Rapids City Council voted Tuesday to adopt an assessment roll totaling $411,110 for this year’s U.S. Hwy. 71 frontage roads and 11th St. surface and utility improvement project.
Combined with $1,166,745 to be paid by the city, the total cost of the city’s portion of the joint project with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Hubbard County was $1,577,855.
The assessment roll identifies 21 properties benefited by the street, water and sewer improvements, being assessed for amounts ranging from $1,785 to $40,185.
City Engineer Jon Olson presented an overview of the project, which accompanied construction of the Hwy. 71 roundabout.
Olson noted that the city’s improvements brought the streets up to date with curbs, gutters and pavement, extended water and sewer utilities to several unserved properties, replaced an outdated sewer crossing and added sidewalk up the east side of the highway corridor. He anticipated that lower street surface will improve drainage issues and new street lights would be installed this week.
The city is responsible for the costs of the water and sewer extensions and replacements, frontage road storm sewer, frontage road and 11th St. surface improvements and half of the cost of the new lighting, he said.
Regarding costs to be shared by adjacent property owners, Olson said standard-size water and sewer mains are 100 percent assessable, except for looping and trunk-lines, and street improvements are 60 percent assessable. The city is assuming responsibility for the storm sewer improvements and its half of the street lighting costs, with MnDOT picking up the other half plus 100 percent of the sidewalk costs.
Property owners are being assessed for each water or sewer service, plus a share of the total assessable dollar amount on the street and utility improvements based on the width of their frontage. Corner parcels (five properties on 11th St.) are being assessed based on all short-side frontage facing the project, plus half of their long-side frontage up to 150 feet for residential property of 200 feet for commercial, Olson explained.
By policy, he said, end lots (Park Rapids Building Supply, National Propane and Faithbridge Church) would be assessed for their average width. However, these lots were among the largest in the project area, averaging more than 300 feet in width.
“When we looked at the average width of these lots, we didn’t feel like it was necessarily a fair application,” Olson said. “So what we did was, we looked at what was the average lot width for all of the parcels along the corridor, (which was) 182 feet.”
Olson said he, City Administrator Ryan Mathisrud and Public Works Superintendent Scott Burlingame decided a 150-foot assessment was “a reasonable application of the assessment policy” for these end lots.
Assessments will be billed to property owners in their semi-annual property tax statements starting in January 2020, financed at 4.75 percent interest for 20 years. Until Dec. 12, Olson said, property owners have the option to pay the full amount or part of their assessment and finance the remaining balance.
Terrance Novak, owner of Park Rapids Building Supply, objected to the method used to calculate his assessment. “Furthermore,” he said, “the city is charging a storm sewer fee on my taxes yearly. … Where are you using that at? Because this is the perfect project to help some of those business owners, to use some of that up.”
Olson responded that the stormwater fees are intended for annual maintenance costs, and that the stormwater utility fund will be used to cover storm sewer costs in this project.
Novak warned against overburdening small businesses, “It seems like the city just wants to keep adding a tax and adding a tax, thinking that’s the way to get out of ... debt,” he said. “But you’re going to chase people away, and you’re going to lose businesses.”
He urged city officials to “watch it, how you tax us,” adding, “We just can’t afford it. Wages are going up constantly. Other expenses are going up. … At the end of the year, there’s nothing left.”
Council member Erika Randall, who chaired the meeting, said that an appeal process is available at city hall for anyone who disagrees with their assessment.
Asked whether damages are being pursued for late completion of the project, Olson said that as project lead, MnDOT may pursue that, but he will look into it. He said the contract specified a number of working days but allowed for weather delays.
Jason Jalbert, owner of Park Rapids Ford, described the city’s communication with property owners during the project as “wide-open and transparent,” adding that he would recommend working again with general contractor Gladen Construction.
Butch De La Hunt, president/CEO of the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “I’d love to see us now focus on developing this corridor. This is going to be a fabulous gateway to our city.”