March 25, 2015

Special improvement districts covered at public information meeting

By Annette Tait

Aging water and sewer lines and deteriorating streets are not news to Center residents. Street conditions have been an ongoing issue, especially as the contractor who was to make repairs last year was unable to do so. A number of residents have also experienced frustration during emergency sewer or water repairs, when the actual placement of lines was not where their locations were indicated on the drawings on file.
During a public information meeting about special improvement districts held earlier this month, those present agreed that a plan is needed to replace aging infrastructure that has outlived its expected use life. However, they did express concerns, mostly about the costs: how much the needed work could cost, and how the costs will be allocated.
City of Center Engineering Consultant Mark Johnson, Ultieg Engineering, explained how special assessment districts for infrastructure projects are created and used, and also presented detailed steps and the costs the city would incur to complete the process.
“There’s two ways, typically, to assess people, to assess properties,” Johnson said. “One is for people who are adjacent to the affected area. Typically, the cost for water, sewer and street is $200-$250 a foot. That’s a [huge] hit -- that’s bigger than a lot of people’s mortgages.”
The second way to assess infrastructure replacement costs is to create a special improvement district that includes all properties that are within the city or are served by the city’s water and sewer systems. By creating a special improvement district, costs are shared by all property owners within the district, reducing the assessment per owner to a more manageable annual amount.
 Johnson went on to explain that about 10 percent of street frontage is in intersections and cannot be assessed. The city would be able to assess the remaining 70,000 feet of street frontage through use of a special improvement district. He provided the example that, for a 25-foot wide lot, the assessment would be $36 for each $100,000 of improvement project, or $360 for a $1 million improvement project.

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