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Baxter residents torn on proposed road improvements

BAXTER — A proposed $2.7 million road project filled Baxter’s City Hall Thursday night.

Few residents spoke against the idea of adding pavement and city water and sewer for the project area of Woida Road and Franklin and Wildflower drives. But a number said the assessment cost would effectively push them right out of their homes.

“It would be nice, but that’s a lot of money,” one Franklin Drive resident said, adding no one knows what the state of the economy will be a few years ahead.

Of the $2.7 million project cost, $1,334,200 million or 49 percent would be assessed and $1,396,200 or 51 percent would be paid by the city. There are 75 parcels in the project area with 53 homes, one business, a former private school and 19 undeveloped lots. About 40 people attended the informational meeting, which was designed to bring everyone together in one place to talk about the three roads which are tied together in relation to the utility connections.

The proposal calls for 26-foot wide roads on Wildflower and Franklin, which are currently gravel, and a 40-foot wide road for Woida. At first blush assessments were expected to be about $21,000, which had the city taking a new look at its assessment policy. Mayor Darrel Olson said the city council realized that is not a realistic number and wasn’t defensible so the city took on 51 percent of the project cost.

For a single lot with sanitary sewer, water and the road, the assessment would be $14,381 or $1,451.82 annually for 15 years. Paving Wildflower Drive instead, for example, without utilities was expected to cost about $1,000 per year for five years.

Beyond the initial construction costs and fees associated with the utility connections, residents would then have monthly utility costs as they replaced well and septic systems. If the city expects to do the project in 2014, it will have to set a public hearing in the next 90 days.

“You guys have been talking about doing Woida Road for 15 years and it keeps getting put off and put off,” one resident said. “If you are going to do it, do it all and do it right and then let’s forget it.”

Dawn Reed, Wildflower Drive resident, said she and her husband both work two jobs now to make ends meet. If this project goes through, Reed said they might as well put their house on the market right now.

“The cost of this is going to bury us,” she said.

A single mother who lives on Wildflower Drive said she was hanging on now but the assessment would push her out of her home.

“We just can’t afford it,” said Barb Sathre, another Wildflower Drive resident. “It scares us. It makes me sick to my stomach for going into that much debt for something we really don’t want anyway. I like it the way it is and we’re scared of the cost.”

Other residents said they’ve already been waiting for years for this project to go through. They spoke of aging septic systems they’ll soon need to replace and of an inability to compete for their home value if they wanted to sell compared to other neighborhoods with utilities.

“Not having utilities on Wildflower Drive is killing our property out there,” said resident Don Narveson. He said he lived on a fixed income but he saw the value in the project. “You keep putting it off and all it does is add cost to it. ... I think something should be done yesterday.”

The city has been looking at this project for a few years.

“It’s never going to get cheaper and it’s going to get to the point people can never have city water and sewer,” said David Warren, Wildflower Drive. “It’s never going to get cheaper and I think it needs to be done.”

The city provided an overview of project plans.

Trees will be removed in the right of way. The city wants to have a 40-foot right of way from the center line of the road, which means it will need to purchase an additional 7 feet of right of way from residents. No parking would be allowed on Woida Road. Franklin and Wildflower drives would allow off-street parking. Olson said with common sense they realize with graduations and garage sales, people may park along the road. The right of way will mean space for a bike path, like the one on Inglewood Drive, at the city’s expense.

In a break down of costs are: $434,100 for water; $676,900 for sanitary sewer; and $1,619,400 for the roadway for a total of $2,730,400. The city pays 100 percent of the storm sewer costs and 100 percent of the roadway beyond the 26 feet and curb and gutter. So one lot with sewer, water and the road, would be assessed $14,381. For a single lot with sanitary sewer and the road, but with pre-existing city water services, the assessment would $10,568.

Residents would have an assessment amortized during a 15-year term with an interest rate estimated at 5.7 percent. The interest rate will be finalized once the bonds are sold. The city has a number of deferment options, such as those with homesteaded undeveloped lots.

Additional charges and fees include: $600 for a sewer availability charge (SAC) for an existing home and $3,000 for new home; $600 for the water availability charge (WAC) for an existing home and $2,800 for new homes; $500 for a lift station fee for an existing home; $40 city inspection fee; $45 city excavation permit; and $300.65 for the water meter. The SAC and WAC charges are one-time fees and go to pay for the city’s capital improvements of lift stations, wastewater treatment plant and water treatment plant. A resident asked if people were already paying for those improvements on property taxes. Olson said those costs were not covered by property taxes instead the city’s half percent sales tax goes to cover those fees along with the SAC and WAC charges.

In addition, the city estimated private costs to hook up to the sewer is $4,000 and $4,500.

Council members Rob Moser and Todd Holman were present. Council member Mark Cross was absent.

“I appreciate your coming and I appreciate the input,” Olson said. “I’m not sure where we are going to go. I appreciate your coming. We’ll get back to you.”

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz.

Renee Richardson

Covering and connecting the lakes area communities is what drives the Dispatch's dedicated journalists every day, whether it's breaking news, keeping you informed about your elected officials and local government, feature stories about your neighbors in times of celebration or challenge, tech tips, or the latest biz buzz, and much more, we strive to bring news and sports to your fingertips. It's a worthy endeavor, but it won't happen without readers like you.

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