Paying for water and sewer improvements for Riverside Drive was the topic of a special Brainerd City Council meeting Monday.
At issue was how Riverside Drive residents who aren't in the city but would receive a benefit from the water and sewer project would pay for the services provided by the city. By law, properties outside the city cannot be assessed by the city.
The cost of the project is estimated to be $4.6 million, and the city's financial consultant, Springsted Inc. of St. Paul, suggested the city charge access fees for water and sewer to make up project costs lost for not being able to assess non-residents. All new development, in or out of the city, would pay the fees.
"It looks like an assessment, it smells like an assessment, but it isn't ... but it really is," said Jerry Shannon of Springsted, noting the access fees would be based on the average cost to the city to install the services.
The city council directed staffers and Brainerd Public Utilities to work with Springsted to develop a comprehensive policy dealing with the finances of current and future utility projects.
The project is being done in conjunction with a Crow Wing County plan to improve Riverside Drive. Though a majority of the road lies outside of the city, City Administrator Dan Vogt said utilities should be installed with the new road.
"We're not going to put in a new highway and dig it up in five years," said Vogt. "We'd look really stupid."
Project engineer Tim Houle, of Widseth, Smith and Nolting architecture and engineering firm said the Riverside Drive improvements would probably begin this year and finish in 2003.
At a previous city council meeting Springsted suggested issuing general obligation bonds for $4,725,000. If bonds are issued at least 20 percent of project costs must be assessed against properties within the city benefiting from the project. The portion not assessed could be paid from city funds or from tax levies.
Several residents attended Monday's meeting, and a few took issue with the proposed assessment, which could be as a high as an estimated $20,000.
"I'm going to go out on a limb and speak for a majority of the people on this project," said Riverside Drive resident Bob Crawford. "You plan on assessing $19,000 per person on this project, it's not going to fly."
Houle noted those figures are arbitrary until the exact numbers of assessable properties are determined.
Other residents were happy to see the project come through. Gerald Sinner, a Mitchell Circle resident, wanted to see the water and sewer services not only to improve his property values, but also to keep lakes clean.
Michael Sands, a Riverside Drive resident, said his well and septic systems were failing and he would rather pay the assessment than buy new independent systems.
The Riverside Drive project is part of a 10-phase, $18 million sewer and water project in north Brainerd. The city council Monday directed WSN to proceed with the final design.
The Riverside Drive project involves two phases out of 10 for the north side sanitary sewer and water master plan. The other phases are: McKay Road; Ahren's Hill; Ashmun Road; River Hills Circle and Dewes Road; County Road 49, Gilbert Lake Road and Smith Road Area; Beaver Dam Road; Dal-Mar Drive; and County Road 49 north and west of Beaver Dam Road.
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