Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Moose Lake approves plan to improve infrastructure

Special Assessment Policy to fund the plan to be discussed further


Bethany Helwig

One of the rough patches on 4th Street that's included to be fixed in the Capital Improvement Plan.

The Moose Lake City Council approved the Capital Improvement Plan but did not approve the Special Assessment Policy after public hearings on both issues at the meeting of the council on Wednesday, July 10.

Inventory has been taken of all of the water, sewer, and streets in the city and each was rated according to condition. Storm sewers were not included in the plan, said Tyler Yngsdal of SEH, the city's engineers. "We looked at the number of residents and the traffic on the street and other criteria. The infrastructure in the poorest condition were listed in the top 10."

City Administrator Tim Peterson added that funds from the city's sales tax and the gas franchise fee would be used for partial funding of the projects. The projects would include a block and a half to three blocks every three or four years. A project may include more than one item on the plan.

"This is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule," said City Engineer Matt Bolf. "You will need to decide if we should have sidewalks on one side or both sides, or parking on one side or both sides. For landscaping, are trees going to be planted? We will be talking to people as we plan the projects."

The top 10 projects and estimated costs listed were: Fourth Street from Douglas Avenue to house #212, $506,100; West Sixth Street from Fir Avenue to the west dead end, $986,400; First Street from Arrowhead Lane to Douglas Avenue,$1,419,700; Sixth Street from Arrowhead Lane to the old school, $610,400; Third Street from Elm Avenue to Birch Avenue, $1,092,300; West Third Street from Hickory Avenue to west dead end, $237,300; Second Street from Elm Avenue to Birch Avenue, $1,161,300; Industrial Road from address #580 to Arrowhead Lane, $925,800; Fifth Street from Arrowhead Lane to Cedar Avenue, $541,500; and Second Street from Arrowhead Lane to Elm Avenue, $588,500.

Only one city resident attended the public hearing. He had met with the council previously to talk about a frozen water line.

"Where is Newberry in this plan?" he asked.

Peterson explained that the water line on Newberry was included in several other water line projects.

"Newberry did have a cluster of residents that had problems," said Peterson. "But it was pretty far down the list of priorities. There are others that are worse off. It is worthwhile adding it into the ranking."

Mayor Ted Shaw explained to the resident that his water line comes off of a shallow spot. That was the reason why it freezes.

Peterson said that the Capital Improvement Plan will be posted on the city's website.

The council passed a motion to accept the plan.

In the second public hearing about the Special Assessment Policy, Bolf said that the city did not have a policy previously. The policy would allow the city to assess the residents on each side for new construction and reconstruction projects. The assessments would have to be set at equal amounts for everyone, he said.

"The council would order a feasibility study to determine if the project is feasible and cost effective and then set the assessment," said Bolf. "A public hearing would be set about public improvement. After the hearing, the city has six months to order the improvement, start the design of the project, and then call for bids. Once the bids are in, the council would pass a motion to accept the bids. An assessment hearing would be held where the residents could ask questions. And then the assessment roll would be adopted and sent to the county to start the assessments."

Bolf added that most communities require that private development pay 100 percent of the assessments. Replacement of existing infrastructure would be assessed at 30 percent for the purpose of the report.

"You only assess the benefit to the property," he said. "You need to get an appraiser and determine the actual value of the property. The property owner would have the option of paying in full and save on the monthly payments. Otherwise they would pay monthly for 15 years."

Peterson said that the assessment policy is a guideline. The assessment for the entire project can always be lowered.

"How are we going to afford this?" asked Councilor Kris Huso. "There will be people who can't afford to live here. We're going to push everybody out of town. This will force everyone to sell their houses. I can't support something like this."

Her comments were echoed by Councilor Walt Lower III.

"I'm very worried about people being able to afford to do this," he said. "I'm very worried about the amount of time it will take to do these projects. It will take decades to do this."

He recommended that the city council set aside funds each year in an account to fund the projects.

"I'd like to see a commitment from the council that they make these projects the least painful," he said. "I agree with Kris, we can't afford this. The citizens are paying taxes. We have to make it as painless as possible for the citizens."

Councilor Doug Juntunen spoke about bringing new people into the community.

"How do we entice people to come here?" he asked. "The Economic Development Committee recommends breaks on the taxes. One example of how to do it is to get there as fast as we can."

Juntunen commended Peterson for all of the work that he has done. He said that there are a lot of good things happening.

Mayor Shaw recommended flexibility on the projects.

"We won't get to some of these projects for 10 years," he said. "They are so bad now."

The council tabled action on the policy.

Peterson reported that a grant from the DNR Local Trails Program in the amount of $150,000 for the trail between the Moosehorn River bridge on the south end of town to the new school has been received. That brings the total in grant funding up to $1,060,000 for the $1.2 million project. The first grant was from MnDOT Local Partnership Program for $610,000, and the second grant was from Safe Routes to School for $300,000.

In other business, the council approved more LED lighting replacement at Riverside Arena, and renewed the contract for Peterson, although there was two years left on the contract, he said.

The next meeting of the council is Wednesday, August 14 at 4 p.m.


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