By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Who should pay for road improvements in Delano? Should the full cost be divided amongst all the taxpayers, or should the benefiting property owners be assessed a portion?
That’s the central issue surrounding Delano’s proposed assessment policy, according to city administrator Phil Kern.
So far, there have been three public hearings regarding the proposal, and a fourth one is set for Monday, June 7 at 7 p.m. at the Delano City Hall.
“The council’s goal is to find out the community’s perspective,” Kern said. “There are communities that do it both ways.”
Residents will receive a postcard notifying them of the hearing in June.
At each of the public hearings, there have been anywhere from 12 to 25 property owners in attendance. The major concern has been regarding road projects, although the policy also addresses other public improvement projects, such as streetlights, parks, and flood control, among others.
“I still think they should do it by capital bonds,” Delano resident Duane Swenson said. “And if there isn’t enough money, we should negotiate to 30 percent or something, so that it doesn’t hit people too hard.”
In Delano’s 15-year pavement management plan, a total of five road construction projects are recommended.
Kern gave the example of the downtown area streets, which are scheduled for reconstruction around 2014, at a total estimated cost of $1,681,878. If the city doesn’t assess, this would result in a 5.2 property tax increase, whereas assessing to the property owners would result in about a 2 percent increase.
For properties on street reconstruction areas, the estimated average impact is between $1,400 and $3,500 over a 20-year period.
According to Kern’s presentation at the April 6 hearing, properties benefiting from reconstruction will see the increase in cost balanced by lower property tax increases. Meanwhile, properties not in street reconstruction areas would see lower increases in property taxes.
Delano resident Scott Shoutz said he thinks the policy might “cause more problems than it’s really worth.”
“Everybody uses the roads,” he said. “Shouldn’t we all pay the same thing?”
“I don’t understand why they can’t go on the same way they’ve gone on in the past,” Swenson added.
Delano resident Thelma Estby said she isn’t in favor of the policy, either. She lives on Franklin Avenue, which is a narrow, dead-end road.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s fine the way it is for now,” she said, adding that hardly anyone uses the road.
Shoutz, who lives on Clover Lane, said that his road should have been fixed years ago.
“My contention is that my road has been on the docket for eight years, and hasn’t been done,” he said.
According to Kern, one purpose of the proposed policy is to allocate a portion of public improvement costs to properties deriving special benefit.
“Historically, we’ve assessed for many things, such as delinquent utility bills and mitigating nuisance issues on properties,” he said.
By having some type of assessment policy in place, the procedures and practices for special assessments can be formalized, he noted.
“There’s nothing that says the city has to make a decision on this now, but the goal is to establish consistency for all projects,” Kern said.
“It’s a tough situation,” Estby said. “Hopefully they’ll get something worked out that will be fair. It will affect a lot of people, so hopefully people realize they should come to these meetings.”