by Eric Hagen
The Andover City Council Jan. 17 unanimously voted for the city engineer to complete plans and specifications for two neighborhood street reconstruction projects in 2012, but residents from one neighborhood are already saying they do not want this work done.
Residents from eight households in the Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace neighborhood raised their hands when the council asked who was against the project. One resident said she was not sure. No residents spoke for the project, which could result in a $7,070 assessment per lot, according to the estimate made by City Engineer and Public Works Superintendent David Berkowitz.
“I don’t have $7,000 to pay for this kind of project right now,” said Reine Kassulker, who lives on 147th Avenue. “We’re telling you that if you want to take this money and spend it elsewhere go ahead.”
There are still a couple of steps to take before any project would move forward, according to Berkowitz. The council on March 6 will determine whether to seek a bid for this project or cancel it for the time being. If the council seeks bids, Berkowitz said bids would be received in late March or early April. At that point the council will make the final determination on whether the project would move forward this year.
The council between the Jan. 17 and March 6 meeting has been discussing ways to lower the assessment in a manner that would be fair to residents who were assessed for past projects and will be assessed for future projects.
The idea is to not charge residents for improvements that happen on the north half of 147th Avenue. There are three homes on the north half of 147th Avenue, but these homes face 147th Lane and thus were not included in the assessment. Citizens are assessed for improvements that happen on the road that is in their home address.
The city may pay for the work that happens on the north side of 147th Avenue and this would be subtracted from the residential assessment. Berkowitz told the council during its Jan. 31 workshop that this would decrease the assessment to $6,170.
The conundrum for the council is city staff wants to combine Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace and the nearby Ivywood Estates into one reconstruction bid package for 2012 in order to secure a better price. Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace is a larger project, so noting it as an alternative bid may cause the overall bid to increase and thus affect residents in Ivywood Estates, Berkowitz said.
Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace road issues
Berkowitz said roads typically need to be reconstructed anywhere from 20 to 28 years after they are constructed.
Every two to three years, inspectors conduct a visual inspection of road segments to determine what work needs to be done. The roads are rated on a scale of 0 to 100. Berkowitz said if a road is in the 40s, it is in bad shape and needs to be reconstructed. One area of Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace had a rating in the low 50s, but there were other areas that rated below 40.
“This was one of the worst areas in the city,” Berkowitz said regarding road conditions.
The city’s average road rating is 86 and credited the council for being committed to maintaining the city’s road infrastructure, he said.
Berkowitz said he understands that $5,000 to $7,000 is not easy for residents to swallow, but he said the city has an obligation to all residents in the city to maintain the infrastructure. The city typically covers 75 percent of project costs and assesses the remaining 25 percent to the property owners.
“We keep up on our roadways,” Berkowitz said. “If we don’t, we’re going to fall behind and it’s going to cost a fortune to try to catch up.”
The reconstruction of streets within Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace was going to happen in 2009, according to the city’s 2007-2011 capital improvement plan (CIP). However, funds were needed for other road projects, so it was bumped back a few years.
The Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace roads are now 33 years old, Berkowitz said. Over time, a road deteriorates to the point where alligator cracks show up, he said. Once a pavement has this, overlay will not work, history has shown in many cities.
During an interview with the Anoka County Union, Berkowitz pointed out areas of concern in numerous photos. One showed lines where spray patching material had been applied to cracks at the edge of the road where heavy garbage trucks travel. Another photo showed pools of water in the road after a large rainfall. A third photo showed dirt and grass at the edge of a driveway, which sat there after the water drained or evaporated away instead of being carried to the storm sewer like it should.
Water and dirt sitting on a road lead to more breakdown of the pavement, according to Berkowitz.
Berkowitz said most if not all the drainage of this development ends up on Guarani Street. There are areas near the intersection of 145th and 146th lanes where the water settling has led to the roadway breaking down. He said a substantial amount of storm sewer improvements are needed on Guarani Street from 147th Avenue to just north of 145th Avenue, which will consist of adding catch basins and replacing the bituminous curb with sturdier concrete curb.
Residents have many concerns
On the southern side of 147th Avenue, the city may add a shoulder to the road. Although 147th Avenue has a shoulder on both sides east of Guarani Street, which is just outside the project area, Berkowitz said the slope on the north side of 147th Avenue makes expanding the road to that side difficult.
Patricio Salamanca lives on the south side of 147th Avenue and is concerned about losing trees on the edge of his property.
Berkowitz said the city would be widening 147th Avenue by 1.83 feet. The city is concerned about trees within the city rights of way because it makes snow storage difficult and overgrown trees block road signs. Berkowitz said they remove trees within five feet of the back of the curb.
Berkowitz said the council could decide to not widen the road, but the city felt it would be best to have a shoulder lane to allow safer passage for pedestrians and bicyclists.
John Caldwell, who lives on Guarani Street, said even with the spring rain they had no problems with flooding. His big concern was whether their money was being spent wisely and if the project was needed. He said the fact that the road has lasted 33 to 34 years show the old design with asphalt curb and no catch basins has worked.
Mayor Mike Gamache reiterated that the city does not want to fall behind in road repairs. Gamache said the project will have to happen at some point and this may be the perfect time to do it when project bids have been coming in under the city engineer’s estimates because contractors are looking for work.
Caldwell understands the inflation concerns, but he said his property taxes have skyrocketed while property values have declined. He said the road assessment would be an additional burden.
“You reflected on decisions that were made several years ago when the market was phenomenal,” Caldwell said to the mayor.
Kassulker said the city is talking about policy indexes to judge when roads should be reconstructed. He wanted to focus on the children, his neighborhood and his pocketbook.
“I don’t want to see this project in my neighborhood just because an index tells us that the road needs to be changed,” Kassulker said. “I walk up and down these streets with my dog every day. I don’t see alligator cracks. I don’t see puddles of water sitting in the street.”
Sally Sullivan, who lives on Hopi Street, has heard neighbors say this assessment will make them choose between paying for medicine and paying taxes. She does not believe people’s property valuations will increase by the amount they are being assessed, which is a state statute requirement.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org