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City tackles resident tax concerns

The growing price tag of city street assessments was a topic of concern for citizens Monday evening.

The Perham City Council's assessment hearings for the Fifth Avenue SE and Third Street NW/Lake Avenue improvement projects generated dissent among residents whose property taxes have seen a significant jump as a result.

In 2007, the city identified the two projects in a 2010 capital improvement plan as top priorities, said Project Engineer Jade Berube.

The Fifth Avenue SE project generated a 50 percent assessment rate for street repairs. For the entire project, $88,000 was passed down to homeowners, while $554,750 was deemed the responsibility of the city. Street repairs alone ate up $69,000 of the assessed costs, while sanitary sewer service accounted for $11,315, according to the city.

A typical 50-foot lot saw an assessed cost of $6,500, while a 100-foot lot saw $10,700 - costs that will be paid off by homeowners over the course of 15 years with a four percent interest rate.

While residents understood there wasn't much they could do now in the way of protest, some still made the effort to voice their opinions to the city.

Living on a corner lot that intersects with Third Street, Deanna Stromme was concerned that within a few years, she would be hit with street repair assessments from the second side of her home. The project on hand will cost her $11,700 alone over the course of the next 15 years - enough to triple her property taxes.

"It's like adding $140 a month on my home payment," she told the council.

While council members expressed sympathy with the situation, Stromme was assured that Third Street was not on the city's docket for repairs for 2015.

"Expenditures have to be made to keep the city growing," said Councilmember James Johnson, who also voiced his sympathy with affected residents.

Cindy Davidson, who lives across the street from Stromme, echoed concerns. Her property taxes will more than double.

"This is never a fun process," said City Manager Kelcey Klemm. "The city does pick up some of the costs. Unfortunately, there's no other funding source aside from city taxes."

In order to quality for a hardship from the city, residents must be ages 65 or older or have been deemed disabled.

The project is close to completion, but still requires seeding, which may be administered this fall if the weather cooperates. Final paving and seeding will be completed by June 2012, Berube said.

Improvements to Third Street NW and Lake Avenue were also discussed. In addition to street construction and utility improvements, additional pavement thickness to handle heavy truckloads was also added, a cost that will be entirely assessed to industrial users.

The project was broken down into areas one and two - area one consists of Third Street NW to Fourth Avenue, from County Road 8. Area two includes Third Street NW to Lake Avenue.

Assessable costs for area one ran at $540,000, with the city picking up $74,600. Assessable costs for area two were $129,200, with the city absorbing $118,750.

In a project update to the council, Berube said construction for the project is complete for this season. However, the finishing touches are needed on the county highway. The project will wrap up in June 2012, after final pavement is down.