BAXTER-Concerns for high assessments for a stormwater project-with one property owner with multiple parcels facing a potential bill of $87,842-had Baxter City Council members once again thinking about project costs and bills for residents.

At issue is a 2019 stormwater project in the Greenwood Road area, off Cypress Drive and just north of College Road. City staff and consulting engineer Aric Welch, Widseth Smith Nolting, recommended the feasibility report be revised after seven additional parcels were identified as contributing to the stormwater runoff along with additional costs that took the project from an original $155,165 to $254,335.

City staff also recommended a change in the assessment method for the project. When the project was presented to residents at an improvement hearing, the plan was to assess 100 percent of costs on a per acre basis. In a memo presented to the Baxter City Council Tuesday, Jan. 15, it was noted the city typically contributes 40 percent of project costs if they are associated with a new utility or street reconstruction or a citywide benefit is perceived.

"Based on the recommended revisions, stormwater assessments are estimated to be $10,073 per acre rather than $21,415 as presented at the improvement hearing. The revised total project cost is $2,348,635. City costs are now estimated to be $676,695 or 28.8 percent of the total project cost and assessed costs are estimated to be $1,671,940 or 71.2 percent of the total project cost," according to the memo.

Greenwood Road and Basswood Road were the two residential portions of the project, with commercial and office areas of Fairview Road and Industrial Park Road part of the mix.

Mayor Darrel Olson said he still had a problem with the assessments, which seemed higher than other projects. Olson noted part of the problem is there are only 19 people on the project.

"But that is really not their fault," Olson said.

Olson questioned an estimated assessment of $7,706 per lot compared to the recently completed work on Excelsior Road estimated at $6,798 per lot.

Council member Todd Holman agreed, saying the lot size, geometry and number of them all played a role. Holman presented three options, including one to put a $6,000 cap on the assessment. Holman said residents were notified in 2017 they would be getting a mill and overlay project, which grinds off about 1.5 inches and then puts down about 2 inches of new pavement. But, as they have experienced, Holman said the mature road's condition worsened quickly.

When the road starts to go, he said, it doesn't do so gradually but really takes a nosedive. So as the city got to the project, Holman said the street was no longer a candidate for mill and overlay but needed the more expensive full depth reclamation to replace it. When that happened previously at Flintwood, Holman said, the city honored the cost first presented to the property owners for the mill and overlay and not the significantly higher project to redo the street. As a second option he suggested doing that again for Greenwood and Basswood. A third option, Holman said, was directing staff to go back and come up with a method that produces a more equitable cost. Basswood property owners were in the same situation, notified in August of 2017 they would get a mill and overlay project in 2019.

Trevor Walter, public works director, told the council they were being asked to amend the feasibility study Tuesday, but there was time to look at Basswood and Greenwood before they come up at a Feb. 5 council meeting. The council agreed and directed staff to look at the three options Holman suggested and bring the data to the February meeting so the council could make a decision then.

Council member Zach Tabatt said in his short time on the council they were now two for two for high assessment concerns and suggested it was worth taking a deeper look at the issue.