NYM homeowners assessed for county paid improvements
New York Mills citizens are questioning the legality of the city assessing homeowners for the cost of road repairs made by the county. For the past two summers, water, sewer, road and sidewalk improvements were made to a stretch of Hwy. 67 which ...
New York Mills citizens are questioning the legality of the city assessing homeowners for the cost of road repairs made by the county.
For the past two summers, water, sewer, road and sidewalk improvements were made to a stretch of Hwy. 67 which runs through NY Mills.
On Nov. 1, the city adopted the assessment resolution, but held a public hearing prior to the decision.
At the public hearing, City Engineer John Pratt gave a power point presentation explaining the costs of the projects and how the assessments were set.
The assessments were based on the size of the homeowners' lots and will be applied to homeowners' property taxes for the next 20 years.
The interest rate on assessments was set at three percent. The city was able to offer a low interest rate due to the low funding the city received for this project, Pratt said.
The actual costs varied per resident, but the average cost for a 50-foot lot was $504 for one year.
After Pratt's presentation, a question and answer session ensued. Homeowners voiced opposition to the assessment.
Debby Porkkenen asked how much of the street, gutters, curbs and sidewalk the city paid for.
According to Pratt's presentation, the total city and county costs for the street alone were $875,735. The city was assessing the homeowners about half of this cost, which equaled $429,186.
After Porkkenen's question, Pratt said the actual cost of the street for the city was zero dollars. He said the street was paid for by county state-aid put in place to help towns with fewer than 5,000 people. This aid is funded through the gas tax.
Porkkenen then asked why the city was charging homeowners for something the city had not paid for.
Pratt said it was to cover other costs the city accrued.
For example, City Clerk Darla Berry said the city replaced the gas lines in certain sections of the road during this construction project, and this cost was not assessed to anyone.
Mayor Larry Hodgson said, due to the assessment policy that has been in place for years, the city assesses properties regardless of the funding used. This is to make it fair to everyone.
Hodgson said that Broadway (North County Hwy 67) was improved a few years ago on county funds, and the owners were still assessed.
In 2009, NY Mills received a federal grant that paid for most of the street improvements made on Gilman, Hayes, Walker, Van Aernam, Nowell, and Frazee streets.
According to the city's assessment policy, all homeowners on these streets were assessed.
Porkkenen then asked whether or not the city has ever checked into the legality of assessing for things they haven't paid for.
Hodgson said this assessment policy has been in place for years.
According to the Minnesota Office of the Reviser of Statutes, the cost of any improvement may legally be assessed whether or not any part of the cost is paid from the county state-aid highway fund.
Hodgson also pointed out that the city is not charging anyone for the sidewalk, because the sidewalk is used by everyone.
To that, Porkkenen said, "Thank you for not assessing me for a sidewalk that you didn't pay for."
The sidewalk, curb, gutter, and part of the sewer costs were also picked up by the county.
Porkkenen asked what the city was going to do with the money that residents were 'gifting' to the city.
Berry said the money would not start coming in until next year, and then it would go into the general fund to cover costs like the upcoming sewer bond payments.
Other area cities have varied assessment policies. Henning does not assess homeowners for any improvements made to streets and utilities. Perham assesses for half of street costs and the cost of sewer and water directly to the owners, but not the main water and sewer lines.
Other homeowners questioned the accuracy of the city councilmembers' statements.
Don Zylstia was assessed based on a 200-foot lot, but he only owns 150 feet.
Upon hearing Zylstia's objection, the council immediately looked at the map and realized he was right. Action was then taken to correct this matter.
Jessica Gibble said she was unsatisfied with her driveway. She was under the understanding that the property was to be restored to the condition it was before the street work, if not better.
Gibble said that ever since her new driveway was set, her car bottoms out whenever she leaves her driveway.
Pratt had seen the driveway earlier that day and was looking into getting it fixed.
More than one homeowner complained about lawns. Weed problems, large ruts, and sections without enough seed, resulting from the road and sidewalk repairs, were mentioned.
Pratt said the city was already aware of this problem and in fact did not accept the turf as it was. They left the contract open until the problems have been rectified.
Missing mailboxes and lilac bushes were also mentioned.
After the Hearing
After the public hearing was closed, the council opened a meeting to vote on whether or not to pass the assessment resolutions.
Hodgson mentioned the good questions brought up, and then asked Berry if there were any written objections.
Berry said no.
Hodgson asked Berry if the citizens were aware that they had to turn in a written objection.
Berry said it was clearly written in the packet of information that was sent to each homeowner.
Hearing that there were no formal objections, Hodgson asked if there was a motion to approve this assessment.
A motion was made and seconded, and the resolution was unanimously approved.
The city is having another public hearing about truth and taxation on Dec. 13 at 6:01 p.m. This hearing is about the upcoming proposed general levy increase of 12.4 percent.