NYA residents turn out for public hearing on street projects

Approximately 40 people attended a public hearing during Monday’s Norwood Young America City Council meeting regarding the city’s proposed infrastructure rehabilitation project, which includes street overlay projects in many of the city’s neighborhoods, as well as related assessments to homeowners.
No action was scheduled to be taken by the council during the meeting, which was a chance for residents to express concerns regarding the projects or the proposed assessments. The recommended proposal before the council would include assessing homeowners 33 percent of the costs of the street overlay projects, but not for other work that is proposed to be part of the project, including storm sewer additions and upgrades in the same area, Tacoma Ave. North utilities, or park improvements to the Willkommen Park restrooms and the Legion Park Storage shed.
The most common question or concern brought forward by residents was the issue of how the city determined which roads would be repaired, and more importantly, how the determination was made to repair these streets using an overlay instead of a complete reconstruction.
City engineer Kreg Schmidt said of the city streets that have not already been repaired recently, any street that  is still feasibly in good enough condition to qualify for an overlay was added to the list for what is expected to be a two year project, with some streets being repaired this year and others in 2014.
According to Schmidt, overlays are about 1/5 the cost of a complete reconstruction and and generally extend the life of the street for 10 to 12 years. The goal in proceeding with overlay projects on roughly a quarter of the city’s streets would be to extend the life of as many streets as possible at a cheaper cost instead of choosing one area for a complete reconstruction. Schmidt added that the longer the city waits to overlay any of the streets, the more likely it is that they would begin to fall off the list of streets still eligible for overlays and onto a list of streets that need to be reconstructed at greater costs.
Still, one homeowner, who lives on a street with heavy traffic, said she would rather see the city completely reconstruct the street in order avoid needing to come back to homeowners for more assessments in 10 or 12 years. Other homeowners questioned how often city streets get sealcoated, and expressed concern that it isn’t often enough to properly maintain the streets. Several were looking for assurances that if their streets received overlays, that they would sealcoated according to a proper schedule — every five or six years — in order to maximize their investment in the street.
The recommended financing option for the project includes using Chapter 429 bonds along with a 33 percent assessment to homeowners for the overlay work only. In the past, the city has assessed homeowners 50 percent for reconstructions, but has not assessed for overlays. However, Schmidt said many of those overlays were different because they were complete on main thoroughfares and collector streets, while these projects are proposed mainly for residential neighborhoods and in place of possible reconstructions.
Homeowners would be assessed on a per-unit basis, meaning the costs of each part of the project would be divided evenly among the number of houses on that street, regardless of square footage. Commercial and industrial properties would be assessed one unit for every 75 feet of frontage. Corner lots would also only be assessed one full unit — they would be charged for one half of a unit on each street.
The typical assessment for homeowners would be $1,540, which could be paid up front, or over the course of the 10 year bond term at an estimated annual payment of $185 per unit, including interest.
The city council could also explore other financing options, including completing the work as part of the general budget with no assessments. However, it is expected it would take 15 years instead of 2 to complete, at a cost increase of nearly $1 million over the course of the projects.
The city could also pursue Chapter 475 street reconstruction bonds, which also would not include assessments. However, it would count toward the city debt limit, and debt limit restrictions would not allow the project to be completed in two years.
Another option would be to assess homeowners only 20 percent for the overlay work, but most property owners would end up paying roughly the same amount anyway. While they would pay less for overlay work, the city would need to assess for other improvements, including drainage, in order to meet bond requirements that 20 percent of the total project costs are covered by assessments.
Even with the proposed 33 percent assessment to homeowners for the overlay work, the total assessment percentage for the overall project, as proposed, is hovering right around the minimum 20 percent. That’s because some improvements — like the drainage work and park improvements — are not assessed, making the collected assessments a smaller percentage of the overall costs.
As currently proposed, the total overall cost for all aspects of the project is $1,789,280, and the total estimated assessed amount — 33 percent of the overlay work only — is $355,159. That makes up only 19.8 percent of the total project costs.
In order to meet the Chapter 429 bond requirements, if that is the route the council ultimately chooses, the city may have to reduce the scope of the overall project. That could be achieved, for example, by not making the proposed improvements in Willkommen Park.
Those improvements — which would include a block building bathroom structure on the back of the grandstand — would come at an estimated cost of $128,771, and the proposed Legion Park improvements — which include a wood storage structure on the east side of the pool facility — would come at a cost of $21,483.
Contact Matt Bunke at matt.bunke@ecm-inc.com

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