Shared street project hits dispute as township wants to opt out
After Oak Lawn Township supervisors stated they were opting out of paying for a street project on the jurisdictional line with Brainerd, city council members were considering their options.
Pastors at Faith Baptist Church, which is in Oak Lawn Township, also wondered how they would be affected if the township does opt out. The question is who is going to pay and how that is going to be divided up, said Council President Dale Parks.
The state statute that addresses such streets with shared jurisdiction noted either party can petition the county board for dispute resolution.
The council voted 4-2 to have the city attorney start the process on the dispute resolution and to find out if the city can go ahead with half the property in Oak Lawn Township. Council members Gary Scheeler and Chip Borkenhagen were opposed. Council member Dave Pritschet was absent.
Waiting to fix the road comes with its own expenses in trying to maintain it, said City Engineer Jeff Hulsether.
At issue is 28th Street, between Oak Street and Highway 25. The total project cost is estimated to be $419,000 with $147,000 assessed to property owners in Brainerd and $42,750 charged to Oak Lawn Township.
Council member Kelly Bevans asked if the township opts out if the city is left picking up those costs. Bevans also questioned if the city could pave the street without Oak Lawn Township’s consent. Bevans said he was reluctant to go forward without having those questions answered.
Council member Mary Koep said she thought Oak Lawn Township was in favor, at least for the street, but didn’t understand why they were opting out now.
“I don’t think I’ve heard anybody say that road doesn’t need to be done,” Koep said. “... I’m really puzzled tonight.”
Koep said she couldn’t vote for it and lay the assessment on the people of Brainerd. “We can’t assess the church because they are in Oak Lawn.”
Council member Gary Scheeler said Oak Lawn Township has never assessed a property so instead of assessing Faith Baptist Church, costs would go to everyone in the township.
In a report to the council, Hulsether said the project is “feasible to construct and undeniably necessary.”
Scheeler said the consensus was to move forward with the project but there were concerns with the trail.
The project has been discussed since the summer of 2012 with two neighborhood meetings and a session with the Oak Lawn Township Board.
A resident on 28th Street who has lived there since 1972 said improvements are needed as traffic has increased greatly and a sidewalk is needed for pedestrian and bicycling safety.
“We need that sidewalk,” she said.
Another 92-year-old resident questioned having to pay the extra price for trail or sidewalk with this project. She was in favor of the road but not the trail.
The city also received a letter opposed to the project from Brainerd Carefree Living, which estimated an assessment of $10,868 “far exceeds any improvement or benefit” to their property. Brainerd Carefree Living also expressed concern about additional risk from a pedestrian/bicycle trail as people enter the organization’s driveway.
“We are not opposed to seeing bike trails in our community, however, just our organization cannot afford to help pay for them when we need to utilize all our resources to pay for our resident and staffing needs,” Kris Neff, vice president of operations for Spectrum Homecare, stated in a letter to the city.
At Monday night’s meeting, Neff said the organization is not opposed to improving parks, trails and benefiting the community but this project severely impacts their business.
Neff said the organization has little means to come up with new revenue to fund new projects and originally were told the assessment would be more than $10,000. Most recently, Neff said, an additional letter was received and the total price, with two parcels, would be about $45,000.
“It has no real benefit to our business, to our property,” Neff said, adding perhaps the city can understand how the organization, which takes in people most facilities won’t and serves people on Medical Assistance, is not supportive of the project.
The organization was not opposed to upgrading the street but was opposed to the trail.
The bike trail would cross the entrance to the property. Neff said it would pose an additional risk to those using the path.
“It would really be a detriment,” Neff said.
Robert Brady, resident, said he was in favor of the road but was concerned with cost sharing as more vehicles are on the street than residents. Brady also said not including sewer and water seems shortsighted. As a resident, Brady said he has to pay for the treatment system but can’t access it.
The recommended project scope includes:
• No extension of city water or sanitary sewer.
• Creation of an urban roadway, 26 feet wide with two driving lanes, no parking and curb and gutter.
• The existing roadway would be removed, graded and new pavement put in place.
• A storm sewer collection and treatment system to manage storm water runoff.
• A separate 8-foot wide pedestrian/bike trail on the west side of the road. Without the trail, city staff reported it would have insisted on a roadway with a minimum width of 32 feet instead of 26 feet to allow room for pedestrians and bicycles. The city would pay for half of the trail cost with the other half assessed to adjacent property owners.
“While this may be somewhat precedent setting,” city staff reported to the council. “Staff believes this to be a unique situation which is not likely to re-occur often, and if it does, it is really just a trade of an on-street cost for an off-street cost.”
• Costs would be assessed, at 100 percent, to adjacent property owners. Storm sewer costs would be paid by the storm water utility fund.
The council has six months from the time of the public hearing to order the improvement. If the improvement isn’t done in that time, the city would have to host another hearing.