September 9, 2015

$5.7 million improvement project topic of Sept. 16 special meeting

By Annette Tait
It was no surprise that the city’s sanitary sewer system, water system, and streets are in need of repair. What did come as a surprise to city council members was the price tag for the recommended work: $5.7 million, with an initial investment of $456,000 in engineering costs. The remainder of the work would be financed, with repayment through a 30-year special assessment to property owners of $30 per month per 100-feet of street frontage.
Contract City Engineer Mark Johnson, Ulteig, provided the $5.7 million estimate for replacing failed or poor sanitary sewers and adjacent streets during his improvement district update at last week’s city council meeting. Several areas of Johnson’s report drew questions and concerns from council members, who felt they needed more information before moving forward. As council was less than halfway through an unusually long agenda, a special meeting was set to hear Ulteig’s proposal in greater detail, with more time for questions and answers.
 “We can’t just decide to spend [more than] $400,000 dollars without getting input from our citizens,” Mayor Sandy Olin said, also noting the lengthy term of the special assessment could be a burden for property owners.
Council Member Dallas Morast agreed, pointing out that the city would have to look at its budget – which is still in the preliminary stages for the coming year -- to determine where the funds would come from should the city decide to move forward with the engineering work.
City Attorney John Mahoney stated that the city is not yet prepared to enact a special assessment, as the project itself has not yet been defined.
“You have to have a project in order to do a special assessment,” Mahoney said. “It has to be a specific project; we’re nowhere near that.”
Johnson provided council members with a report on the condition of the city’s infrastructure, with recommendations for replacement of failed and/or poor sanitary sewers and adjacent streets, and also advised that the city’s water system is non-compliant. Johnson told the council that state standards require 20 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure at all times, and that 20 psi is considered marginal for maintaining the integrity of a water system according to the 10 State Standards.

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