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Baxter council talks fall road project assessments

The Baxter City Council on Thursday conducted assessment hearings for two big road projects slated for October finish dates: a general project that covers a sundry smattering of roads, and more thorough renovations for a specific portion of Excelsior Road.

Assessments are what the city charges property owners who live on the roads to be redeveloped. Cities hold assessment hearings so that those property owners can sound off on the projects, and more clearly understand what they're being charged money for.

First up on Thursday, the city covered the general mill and overlay project, which includes portions of Oak Street, Marohn Road, Mountain Ash Drive, Wedgewood Drive and Lakewood Lane.

On that list of residential streets, the Oak Street and Memorywood Drive intersection as well as the south side of Mountain Ash Drive west of Parkwood Drive were both selected for full depth reclamation.

The commercial streets proposed for work include Goedderz Road and Dogwood Drive for full-depth reclamation, or recycling the existing street and putting a new pavement on top.

Tri-City Paving of Little Falls will do both projects.

Streets in good condition can skip the full depth reclamation and are instead considered candidates for a mill and overlay, which means grinding off the top 1.5 inches of pavement and repaving the street with perhaps 2 inches of new bituminous pavement, along with shoulder and restoration work. Workers mill a portion of the existing asphalt off the road, and overlay a new layer. In the commercial area, broken or cracked concrete curb and gutter would also be replaced.

Nine people showed up for the mill and overlay assessment hearing. Kevin Wernberg with Widseth Smith Nolting, consulting engineer, began with an overview of what was to be constructed. The first audience question was about manhole casings and how they would be affected by the altered road surface. City Public Works Director Trevor Walter said they would try to avoid manholes not being flush with the road surface, as manholes sticking out wreaks havoc on city plows during the wintertime. However, there would be no guarantee the manholes would come out perfectly even, he said.

Later in the evening Thursday, the city also went over the Excelsior Road plans for reconstruction between Inglewood Drive and Forest Drive. The project is considered distinct from the much-discussed Excelsior Road roundabout project, also in the works. The straight road project occurring to the west of the roundabout consists of 6.5 inches of full depth reclamation, and 4 inches of new pavement.

The Excelsior Road project, which also includes improvements to the storm sewer and new LED street lights, is projected to total $638,219.60. That total is about $15,000 less than the $653,240 cost projection the city had earlier put forward at the time of the improvement hearing. The discrepancy is because the city has put the project out for bid since the initial hearing, so they know more precisely what they'll pay. The estimated yearly payment is $650.09 for assessed property owners. In both the mill and overlay and excelsior Road projects, the city pays for a portion of the total and the rest is assessed.

Seven people showed up for the Excelsior Road assessment hearings. One person questioned why the Excelsior Road was assessed to residents as the road was a "main artery" where large trucks drove through. Residents also expressed concerns that increasing the durability and weight capacity on the road would increase heavy truck traffic. Walter said the street used to be a highway, but for the past 15 years has been a city street. It is a municipal state aid street where the city gets funding from the state of Minnesota, Walter said, so the residents are being assessed on a rate consistent with what they would get if the road were thinner. The maximum tonnage of the road will increase from seven ton vehicles to 10 tons of maximum weight.

Mayor Darrel Olson acknowledged residents' concern about added traffic, but countered that the road improvements were designed to help improve safety through things like added lights and bike lanes. He mentioned that those extra measures were not assessed to residents. The police can rotate a speed trap to Excelsior to help remind people of the limit, Olson said.

Another resident asked about the possibility of driveways being cut off during construction. Walter said there would be brief periods of about an hour, and residents would be notified ahead of time.

The mill and overlay project is expected to cost $538,686.85, which is slightly less than a $115,000 difference compared to the $653,240 initially put forward at the improvement hearing.

In this case, the city is using the "unit method" of assessment, meaning each resident pays the same assessment amount. The estimated yearly payment in residential assessment is $432.11, for a total of $2,478.66 per lot.

Prepayments and partial payments are allowed up to 30 days following the adoption of the assessment rolls (next week's city council meeting at 7 p.m.), but otherwise the balance will amortized over a 7-year period for mill and overlay and a 12 year period for full depth reclamation. The interest rate is estimated at 4.75 percent.

There are a number of areas where people may qualify for a deferred assessment, including age, disability or military active duty. The deadline to apply is Aug. 31.

A futher information meeting for the mill and overlay project and the Excelsior Road project will be 6 p.m Aug. 22.