With the first phase of the Riverside Drive utility and road project ready to go, Brainerd officials are still working on easement agreements with landowner Harriet Piehl.
The Brainerd City Council Monday agreed to an offer from Harriet Piehl to pay $75,000 for the utility easement on five acres of property she owns.
The city council Monday also approved the plans and specifications for the project and authorized advertising for bids.
At an estimated cost of $2.6 million, the Riverside Drive project is one part of a 10-phase, $18 million sewer and water project in areas north of Brainerd. The project will be done in conjunction with a Crow Wing County plan to reconstruct Riverside Drive, and the project will be let out as two separate contracts -- one for the city's portion and one for the county's portion -- with a construction manager overseeing both portions.
The project is being assessed to Brainerd residents within the project on a per-lot basis. The per-lot estimated assessment is $11,300. That cost doesn't include the $1,400 water and sewer availability charges or the connection from the main line to individual homes.
Two other proposals from Piehl, submitted by her attorney, Gregory Peters, in a memo to Brainerd City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick, weren't accepted by the city council.
Those two proposals from Piehl were that the city agree to waive any interest on any assessments imposed on any property Piehl owns and to defer the assessments until the property is sold; and that the city agree to waive any assessments or hookup fees on a two-acre parcel Piehl owns that adjoins the 70-acre parcel to the north.
With that two-acre parcel, Peters wrote that there is presently a house on this parcel where Piehl's daughter, Jane, lives.
"This home would be most affected by the sewer and water work and especially the temporary road construction and traffic," Peters wrote.
Instead of agreeing with the two proposals, the city council approved, by a 5-2 vote, to proceed with friendly eminent domain if an agreement with Piehl isn't reached within one week. Voting against eminent domain were council members Bob Olson and Mary Koep.
While in agreement with paying $75,000, Olson said he believed Piehl wouldn't agree to the easement unless the two other proposals were approved by the council.
"I feel we're going to create some problems that are not necessary in future negotiations," said Olson. "I can't support the motion if it's tied to friendly condemnation."
The cost of the easement was also discussed. Council member Lucy Nesheim criticized Olson for advising Piehl to ask for more than double the price of the easement and that the city acted in good faith to arrive at the current price. Olson responded that the Piehls wouldn't talk to anyone else at the city, and that if the city wanted to save money it should have accepted an offer from the Piehls in 2000 for about a third of the current price.
Koep was concerned with where the $75,000 would come from, especially in light of the $500,000 reduction in local government aid from the state in 2003.
The offer from Piehl the council approved includes a temporary road easement when the water and sewer extension is put in and also when water and sewer go in under Riverside Drive. After completion of the work and utilization of the temporary road easement, the city will restore the surface of the easement property to its original condition. There is a possibility that Mrs. Piehl may wish to leave the temporary road on the property, which would save the city the expense of removing it and restoring the property but she would reserve her right to make that decision later.
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