Citizens comment on improvement project

A trio of public hearings made up the heart of the Waconia City Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 19 and the public hearing on the 2013 Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project was without question the star attraction of the three hearings.

The $1.085 million project includes three components.

The first part includes street reconstruction on Cedar, Vine and Olive streets between Lake and Main streets. The street reconstruction has an estimated cost of $500,000 and would be funded through a Chapter 429 Bond, which requires that special assessments must make up at least 20 percent of the funding. The street reconstruction is the only part of the entire project that would include assessments.

For the street reconstruction portion of the project, there are 15 properties that potentially face assessment. The average assessment would be about $7,000 per property (or about $650 per year based on a bond term of 15 years at an estimated rate of 4.5 percent). As presented, the total assessed amount would be about $106,000 (21.1 percent) with the city picking up the remaining $394,000.

The second part of the overall project involves mill and overlay for streets in the Ravenwood and Hilltop developments as well as on Sparrow Road. The total estimated cost for this portion of the project is $415,000.

The last part includes the reconstruction of the Ravenwood Trail from CSAH 10 to Sparrow Road and the construction of a new trail along the west side of Sugarbush Park. The estimated cost for the Ravenwood Trail project is $122,000 and the estimated cost for the trail work in Sugarbush Park is $48,000.

A number of citizens spoke during the public hearing, several addressing the assessments on the street reconstruction portion of the project.

One citizen reminded the city that his property had faced assessments for the Lake Street project several years ago and now he is potentially facing another assessment. He asked the council to reconsider what he described as high assessment costs. He was not the only citizen to voice concerns about the cost of the proposed assessments.

Other citizens had general concerns about the street reconstruction project.

The owner of HEI Collision noted he had installed brand new sidewalks along the south and east corners of his building a few years ago and hoped that the city would make an effort to protect those sidewalks where possible to save on costs.

One citizen referenced the loss of parking spots on Olive Street. The plan calls for current angle parking to switch to parallel parking, which officials indicated would lead to better flow, access and visibility on the street.

The proposed trail in Sugarbush Park also elicited several comments from the public.

One citizen noted that heavy rains sometimes create standing water on the west side of the park, a condition neighborhood residents refer to as Lake Sugarbush. The concern is that a new trail on the west side of the park would periodically flood. Officials insisted that the trail would be built on higher ground to avoid any potential flooding.

More than one citizen questioned the need for a new trail on the west side of the park (the park currently features a trail on the east side of the park that connects to a trail along Waconia Parkway N). Officials indicated the desire to create a trail loop in the park.

Another citizen asked about plans to connect the current trail from the park to Sugarbush Lane. This proposed trail would follow an easement between two properties. The citizen, who is one of the property owners that would be affected by the connection, asked officials to avoid removing a lot of trees, if possible, for that trail.

Another situation that was discussed involved a property that features a basketball court in the backyard right near the current trail on the eastern side of the park. The property owner told the council that many park users seem to think the court is part of the park and asked if something could be done to help dissuade park users from using the basketball court. Officials discussed the possibility of putting signage and/or some sort of buffer, whether it’s pine trees or a fence, between the current trail and basketball court.

After the public hearing closed, the council voted to authorize plans and specs for the 2013 Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project but directed city staff to review several of the concerns that were raised during the hearing, including the need for the western trail and the addition of a potential buffer for the eastern trail in Sugarbush Park.

Any changes, which could also include proposed street widths for the street reconstruction and the configuration of the connecting trail between Sugarbush Park to Sugarbush Lane, will be reviewed by the council at its meeting on Dec. 10.

Furthermore, several council members indicated a desire to reconsider the city’s assessment policies.

At this time, properties are assessed 50 percent of the project cost for standard street sections in street reconstructions. Corner lots are assessed at 50 percent of frontage length, a change made in 2007-08. Extra depth/width for street reconstructions are 100 percent city cost, as are sidewalk, trails and overlays.

Assessments can be pre-paid in full after the final assessment hearing with no interest charges. Assessments not paid in full will be paid through tax statements at bond term (15 years) at bond interest rate +1 percent (approximately 4.5 percent).

Council members made no promises to change the assessment policy but their willingness to review the policy and potentially make changes that could benefit citizens affected by assessments for the 2013 Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project was seemingly appreciated by several citizens who attended the public hearing.

At this time, plans call for the project to be substantially completed from May to August 2013. A final assessment hearing would be held in September 2013.

In other matters: • The meeting featured two other public hearings, both of which received no public comment. The first hearing regarded an annexation request by Gordon and Barbara Johnson for their one-acre property at 1050 Waconia Parkway S. The Johnsons are looking to move from Waconia Township into the city to be able to hook up to city sewer in order to alleviate a failing private sewage system. There is a sanitary sewer stub on the back of the property located just off of Kinder Lane. The Johnsons would be responsible for the cost of connecting to the stub. It was noted that the accessory structures currently on the property could stay. The property is surrounded by the Pheasant Ridge residential development. The council approved the annexation request. The second public hearing dealt with the certification for payment with tax collections in 2013, for delinquent utility accounts and other charges for service that have not been paid during the course of normal collection procedures throughout the year. The council approved the certification.

• The council approved the 2013 contract for police services with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office. The contract features no changes in the current level of coverage. The coverage includes a sergeant position for the city’s daytime lead position, community service officer staffing for 40 hours per week, four deputies (two day, two night) that work 12 hour shifts seven days a week (shared with Laketown Township, which helps cover some of this expense), a school resource officer in the summer months, membership in the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force, and overtime contingency funds. The total proposed law enforcement budget for 2013 is $568,789, which is an increase over the $525,186 budget in 2012. The increase is related to how the vehicle costs are calculated as well as the rate for the community service officer.

• The council’s next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 3. This is the 2012 Levy and Budget Public Information Meeting. As noted, the council will also hold a regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10.