A.L. City Council votes to pave gravel street

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Albert Lea City Council voted in favor Monday of paving a gravel street surrounded by blocks and blocks of paved streets.

The city this summer plans to replace the water, sewer, curb and gutter for the one-block dead end of North Lincoln Avenue north of West Front Street and to install a new bituminous roadway.

The price tag is estimated at $130,940, with $60,104 coming from assessments paid by property owners on the street.

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The request to replace the gravel road came to city officials in 2010 from residents on the street.

“A gravel road in the middle of town just isn’t right,” said Larry Sarver of 610 Lincoln Ave.

On Monday, he told council members that dust is a problem that caused him to replace his carpet and said he couldn’t sit on his deck on a windy day.

Stacey Bahr, a Tribune employee who resides at 608 Lincoln Ave., said the residents of the block have seen other streets in the neighborhood get new surfaces yet they remain having to live with a gravel road that gets muddy in snow and rain and dusty in dry weather.

She said she has a 9-year-old autistic son that a school bus picks up. She said the bus has had to deal with potholes for long enough.

Paul Field, who lives in the Lake Chapeaux neighborhood, owns Home Solutions Midwest. His business borders the street on the west and east sides.

Field said he has no issue with the street being redone but was concerned with how his vacant land on the east side of the street was assessed for his share of street repairs. He had an assessment around $20,000, and the land is worth about $7,000, he said.

“I would give the property away. You can pay the assessments, and I will lease it back from you,” Field said.

Albert Lea City Engineer Steven Jahnke said assessments are done by footage and said he assessed the property on the east side as capable of supporting three homes.

Field said he became owner of that land when he purchased his business in 1989. He said he failed to sell it a few years ago for $5,000 and estimated he has spent $17,000 in mowing, maintenance and taxes over the years. He said he parks trucks and trailers on it just to get some use of the land but added he could park those things elsewhere.

He mentioned he could walk away from the property and let it go through the tax courts, if need be.

Jahnke said the council could take action on an amended assessment at a later time and said he likely would come back with a recommendation to treat the land as though it could hold a single residence, lowering the assessment.

Field said he had no problem with the assessment for his lot on the west side, which is contiguous with Home Solutions.

Third Ward Councilor Ellen Kehr said Field’s assessment issue is separate from the issue of the neighbors no longer wanting a gravel road, and she noted that Field favors a new street. She said the residents are paying “quite a heavy assessment” to get a new street.

“We need to respond when residents want something as basic as a paved street,” she said.

Fourth Ward Councilor Reid Olson said he hesitated to vote for it because of the cost to the city ($25,001 from sewer fund, $24,369 from water fund, $21,467 general fund) but said he feels “areas like this need to be addressed.”

The Albert Lea Tribune owns property on the street and has no position on the plans.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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