Jun 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm
ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KNSI) - After over an hour of heated testimony and discussion, the St. Cloud City Council unanimously approved moving forward with $15 million in construction and repairs to the Seberger-Roosevelt Neighborhood.
The project will update the aging water and sewer system, fix neighborhood streets and alleyways, and add or improve sidewalks.
The backlash at Monday night's meeting was in large part to concern over recent property assessment estimates homeowners received.
City Engineer Steve Foss explained, the scope and cost of the project - larger than other neighborhood construction work in recent years - is to tackle repair efforts that were shelved or diminished in poorer economic times.
However, many residents explained those same poor economic times have remained, and may prevent them from being able to afford those project assessment costs.
During the public hearing, council members collected the concerns, comments and questions from 21 neighborhood residents.
Many asked that the city reconsider the necessity of some of the project details, including plans to add more sidewalks or update roads that appear to be in good shape.
Several members noted the work would diminsh the size of their lot or remove trees and shrubs from their yards, potentially affecting future property values.
Others supported the project, but wondered if it could be completed over a longer period of time to avoid the strain of high up-front assessment costs.
"It's not a Cadillac," Foss said, saying the city has already looked at many cost-cutting measures. He explained the currently proposed improvements are necessary and will have to be completed sooner or later.
"If you're going to fix the sewers, you'll have to rebuild the street," Foss said, adding that the design of the effort has the best "cost to benefit" ratio the city could create.
$5 million of the cost of the project will be assessed to homeowners, with $1.1 million eligible for state aid, and the remainder paid for by city funds.
Property owners at a certain income level could be eligible for assessment stabilization, and were encouraged to seek details on the program by January 15, 2014.
With regard to sidewalks, the council will take up a public hearing on a proposed ordinance to make them an automatic part of all construction projects on July 15th.
Currently, sidewalk costs are assessed to owners, which would change under the new ordinance.
The council also intends to host public hearings at every phase of the project to gauge residents' views on progress.
The Seberger construction project would start in 2014 and last through 2015.
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