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Homeowners challenge Perham city over 1st Ave. S. improvements

A legal challenge on a Perham street improvement project has been filed-the first such action in recent memory for city officials.

Two property owners are filing objections to the assessments for the First Ave. South improvement project. Most of the 40 homeowners in the sewer-water-street improvement area will be assessed between $4,000 and $8,000.

The opposition is from homeowners Nate Welte and Truman Lauseng. The objections will be filed with Otter Tail County District Court.

At the May 10 assessment hearing and bid approval, Nate Welte argued that the assessments "grossly exceeded" the potential value to the property. He further expressed concerns about tree removal.

While there has been verbal opposition at assessment hearings, according to City Manager Kelcey Klemm, the city has not been legally challenged in court in recent years.

About 25 property owners attended the hearing, which was during the regular Perham council meeting May 10.

Several homeowners spoke in favor of the improvements. Advantages of the project, they noted, were larger pipes that would improve sewage flow and reduce back-up problems that have been experienced in the neighborhood. The larger lines will also improve water flow, as one homeowner noted, because water pressure is low if laundry is being done at the same time as watering the lawn.

For homeowner Bill Bauck, he favored new lines instead of the old, corroded iron pipes.

"We'll get rid of some of the bad water...which looks like black tea," said Bauck.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the project, despite the objections.

City Attorney Dennis Happel said that the two objections amounted to only about $14,000 of the total $776,679 project.

"With the scope of the project, and the need for the improvements, it doesn't make sense to hold it up over $14,000 in assessments," said Happel.