Council paves the way for 2012 Anoka street project

by Mandy Moran Froemming
Union Editor

Plans are moving forward to reconstruct more than a mile of streets this summer in Anoka.

The streets outlined in red are slated for reconstruction as part of Anoka’s 2012 street renewal project. Courtesy of the city of Anoka

Anoka City Council last Tuesday held both a public improvement and assessment hearing on the 2012 street renewal project.

“This is a complete street renewal project similar to what we’ve done over the last 13 years,” said Greg Lee, public services director/city engineer.

Streets slated for reconstruction in 2012 are in the southeast corner of the city, where 5,621 lineal feet, which is just over one mile, of roadway will be completely redone.

“This is a little larger than what we’ve done historically in the past,” said Lee. “Typically we’ve done six-tenths to seven-tenths of a mile per year as part of our street renewal program.”

It was extended for 2012 in order wrap up work in this particular neighborhood, which has been going on for several years.

The project will include complete replacements of streets, water mains and sanitary sewer systems. The storm sewers will also be upgraded.

Improvements also include streetlights, but not sidewalks.

The estimated cost of the project is $2.29 million.

“We’ve got a great project here, it’s overdue and I think the neighborhood will benefit greatly by having it done,” said Councilmember Steve Schmidt.

The council unanimously adopted the assessment roll and ordered the 2012 street renewal project.

Funding sources

The majority of the funding – 28 percent – will come from the city’s street renewal fund. Also helping pick up the tab will be utility funds for water, sewer, storm sewer and electric.

Assessments to property owners will total $449,000, or nearly 20 percent of the project costs.

Unique to this particular street renewal project will be a financial contribution from the city of Coon Rapids.

“Ninth Avenue is within the city of Anoka but the city of Coon Rapids benefits from this project so we are going to be assigning half of the cost of half of that street… to the city of Coon Rapids at a cost of $104,000.”

Anoka is still working with Coon Rapids on a joint powers agreement for the cost of reconstructing Ninth Avenue, along with the elimination of one of Anoka’s sanitary sewer lift stations, which would require the sewage to be redirected to Coon Rapids. The city council should see that agreement on Feb. 6, when it will also be asked to approve the plans and the specifications on the project.

The contract is expected to be awarded on March 19, with construction to start in April. It should be wrapped up in August.

Assessments

Seventy-four properties will benefit from the 2012 street renewal project. Five of these are commercial properties.

The residential unit assessment fee is $2,750, plus an additional $14 per residential frontage foot. Homeowners are also charged for water and sewer utilities.

“So a typical lot, assuming the lot has 80 feet of frontage, would be assessed $5,770,” said Lee. “Our rates have not changed over the last three years, our assessment amounts have been the same since 2010.”

Commercial property assessment rates are twice the residential rate amounts.

Payments can be made over 10 years with a 5 percent interest rate, at an average cost of $752. The assessment can be paid off at any time.

Many of the properties in the area will not need new water and sewer hook ups, so owners may have a reduced property assessment.

“As we do the excavations and determine where the water services and sanitary sewer are actually connected to we will address the assessments based on what we see,” said Lee.

During the Jan. 17 assessment hearing, property owners did raise concerns.

Eastwood Lane resident Mike Gundlach asked if his assessment will be reduced if bids come in lower than the project’s estimate.

“The last couple of years when you’ve submitted bids on these projects you’ve come in with some really good bids by contractors,” he said.

Historically, assessments have not been adjusted after project bids come in. Gundlach questioned why residents would be locked into an assessment before the true construction costs are known.

“In order for your assessment to change I don’t think your bid could come in that favorable,” said Mayor Phil Rice.

Gundlach also questioned how the city is able to prove his property will increase in value after the street and utility infrastructure are upgraded.

“In light of today’s home values that have been fluctuating and in fact dropping, it might get a little harder to prove I’m going to get $6,000 worth of benefit when the value of my house has dropped $30,000 in the last few years,” said Gundlach.

According to City Assessor Scott Varner, before and after appraisals have not been done on properties included in the city’s street renewal projects.

“But it is my belief if those appraisals were prepared they would prove that benefit they have assessed against the individual properties,” said Varner, who did admit it would be more challenging to prove that benefit today than it had been in the past.

“Residents need to keep in mind we are only assessing a small part of the actual cost of this project,” he said.

Councilmember Mark Freeburg pointed out the city-wide benefits of the street renewal program go beyond having better roads to drive on.

“I know when we started this program 13 years ago we were warned if we didn’t do this program our bond rating would fall in the tank and we would pay higher interest rates to borrow money,” said Freeburg. “The same with the homeowner if we never improved or replaced that infrastructure and the water didn’t run and the sewage didn’t flow, what would their house value be? It wouldn’t be worth a whole lot. It’s kind of an intangible that isn’t real exciting because its underground and you can’t see it. But if it didn’t work, you wouldn’t sell.”

Varner pointed out home buyers look at the conditions of the streets, curbs, which could cause them to question the age of utility infrastructure.

“I would be very concerned as a buyer to buy a property that didn’t have newer infrastructure,” said Varner, who added that if roads and utilities weren’t upgraded, property owners would see even larger declines in the value of their homes.”

Clifford Gribble, also a resident of Eastwood Lane, questioned why assessments are included in this particular project, but not on the reconstruction of East Main Street.

City Manager Tim Cruikshank explained that because of extremely high traffic volumes, in excess of 20,000 vehicles each day, East Main is a city street not comparable to any others in Anoka.

Future projects

This summer will wrap up several years of street reconstruction, completing the neighborhood in the southeast corner of Anoka.

The city will then move on to focus on a new area that requires reconstruction.

“After 2012 we’re looking at moving just south of Main Street to the blocks in between Eighth and Tenth Avenue,” said Lee. “We’re looking ahead to moving into that neighborhood for the next several years.”

Mandy Moran Froemming is at editor.anokaunion@ecm-inc.com

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