Businesses voice assessment concerns

MARSHALL – A trio of hearings on planned street projects drew a crowd at the Marshall City Council meeting Tuesday night. Local residents asked plenty of questions and in the case of reconstruction planned for a frontage road along East College Drive, raised business concerns.

Representatives from businesses including the Traveler’s Lodge motel and El Rancho asked the city to consider holding off on street assessments this year.

“It’s a really hard hit,” said Bruce Bjelland, general manager of the Traveler’s Lodge. Several of the businesses being assessed are still getting established, he said. “We are very new owners, and the timing is bad.”

Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson introduced the reconstruction project planned for Service Drive, a frontage road running along East College Drive between Mustang Trail and O’Connell Street. Olson said the road was in poor condition. However, he said, he anticipated there would be concerns about reconstruction. The assessment costs for commercial properties affected by it would be higher than for residential properties.

The total estimated cost for the street improvements is $721,000.

Bjelland and other speakers at the hearing said the cost of street assessments could be harmful to the businesses on Service Drive.

One option that might reduce the cost of the project and its accompanying street assessments would be for the city to vacate the access road that runs between the Traveler’s Lodge and Mike’s Cafe, Olson said. If that area was privately owned, the city wouldn’t be responsible for paving it. Olson estimated it would shave thousands of dollars off the total assessment cost, and the road could be converted to extra parking lot space or access for Mike’s Cafe.

Vacating the street would require a petition from the neighboring property owners, Olson said.

Olson also said that, depending on the timing of the project, the properties may not be assessed until 2016. Based on the concerns voiced at the hearing, he said city staff would take that into consideration in the project’s planning and assessment process.

The city council voted to approve the reconstruction project and advertise for bids.

Homeowners mostly had questions during hearings for two other street projects in residential areas. Olson went over the plans for street and utilities reconstruction on North 5th Street and Pleasant Avenue. The estimated total cost for the construction is about $920,000. Olson said city staff held informational meetings in February for homeowners affected by the project.

Members of the public asked questions on topics ranging from the placement of streetlights on the affected streets to possible tree removals and where property lines were located. Following the hearing, the council approved a motion approving plans for the project.

Although there were members of the public present for the South 1st Street/Grimes Avenue hearing, there were no comments made. Olson said property owners would be assessed for a total of $49,305 out of a $567,000 project to replace the street, water and sewer lines and to build a sanitary sewer lift station. The assessments for individual properties would be limited to a $5,500 maximum, not including costs like private driveway reconstructions.

The city received two written appeals for the assessments. The council voted to approve assessments for the project.