Neighbors oppose street costs

Published 10:14 am Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A group of at least a dozen Albert Lea residents spoke out Monday against a street project slated for the summer — some saying the city could open itself up to litigation because of the proposed special assessments.

The project calls for the bituminous overlay of a series of residential streets in the Shoreland Heights neighborhood, including portions of Willamor Road, Ridge Road and Meredith Road, to name a few. The price tag is estimated at $1.184 million. It also calls for the total curb replacement for a portion of the project because the previous overlay was placed over the top of the existing concrete gutter in 1992.

Larry Baker

Larry Baker

“We don’t think we should have to pay as much for a mistake the city did years ago,” said Terry Stahl of Ridge Road.

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Residents questioned whether the project was necessary and asked what was driving the project to move forward at this time.

City Engineer Steven Jahnke said the city hopes to get 75 years out of the roadway, and the overlay would go to extend the roadway toward that 75 years.

He said though the road may look “fairly good” right now, but if the city were to wait a few years to do the project, it might be too late to do an overlay and then a total reconstruction would need to be done.

“By doing this now, we think we’re saving you as the homeowners here a significant amount of money over the long-term,” Jahnke said.

Resident Tony Strom of Ridge Road questioned a Minnesota statute that allows a city to order special assessments.

For a special assessment to be made, the land must receive a benefit from the improvement, the assessment must be uniform and the assessment must not exceed the special benefit, he said. He asked if the city were willing to show the residents how the project would improve the market values of their homes.

“If you don’t do that, you are opening up the city to these lawsuits,” Strom said.

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker, acting as mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Vern Rasmussen, said he felt uncomfortable moving forward with the project without having the city manager or the city attorney to be able to address the concerns.

He asked if the project could be tabled until the next council meeting; however, the council ultimately moved forward with ordering the preparation of plans for the project.

A meeting about the assessments will be slated for a later date.

Third Ward Councilor George Marin was the sole councilor to vote against moving the project forward, he said, because of the opposition he heard.

“I have a tough time pushing some of these projects in this economy,” he said.

Steven Jahnke

Steven Jahnke

First Ward Councilor John Schulte V, whose ward covers a majority of the project, said despite the opposition he heard at the meeting, he still supports the project being done and said he recognizes the need for it.

He also noted that the vote Monday only authorized the council to order plans for the improvement, not to move forward with the assessments at this time.

Look to the Wednesday edition of the Tribune for more information about the meeting.