Andover seeking bids for neighborhood road project

After several residents spoke against a road project assessment, the Andover City Council unanimously approved seeking project bids because it does not want the city to fall behind on its road maintenance.

Gerald Odash believes that the Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace neighborhood roads need to be reconstructed, but he does not believe the more expensive concrete curb is necessary. He and other residents prefer keeping the curb as asphalt.Photo by Eric Hagen
Gerald Odash believes that the Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace neighborhood roads need to be reconstructed, but he does not believe the more expensive concrete curb is necessary. He and other residents prefer keeping the curb as asphalt.Photo by Eric Hagen

Reconstructing streets in the Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace neighborhood along with the north bordering 147th Avenue from Seventh Avenue to Guarani Street is estimated to cost $734,890. The city would pick up $586,810 of the tab, while the 24 property owners would each pay a $6,170 assessment for a total contribution of $148,080.

The costs will come more into focus when bid results are brought to the April 17 council meeting. The actual assessments and city costs won’t be finalized until the assessment hearing this fall. Construction is slated to take place from May 14 through Aug. 10, Assistant City Engineer Jason Law.

“From my perspective, this is a form of maintenance,” Councilmember Mike Knight said. “We maintain our homes. We maintain our cars. If we don’t, things deteriorate.”

The projected assessment of $6,170 per lot that the council and residents saw March 6 is $900 less than was presented at the Jan. 17 meeting. The city agreed to pay for reconstructing the north half of 147th Avenue because the three homes on the north side of 147th Avenue face 147th Lane. Andover citizens are assessed for improvements that happen on the road that is in their home address, so these three homes were never involved in the assessment with their neighbors to the south.

On the other hand, Dave Rekuccki said the city should pay for the reconstruction of all of 147th Avenue instead of just the north half. According to Rekuccki, there are a lot of people living in homes east of his neighborhood that use 147th Avenue to get to Seventh Avenue.

Councilmember Julie Trude said that a lot of people use other streets and that is why the city pays for at least 75 percent city street reconstruction costs and assesses the other 25 percent to residents who front the improved street.

Reine Kassulker said of the neighborhood residents he surveyed, half are in favor of some road repairs and half are against the project. Everyone he talked to opposes the assessment. Some would be more favorable to the project if they felt they were getting a return on their investment, Kassulker said.

Joseph Zborowski said a new road will make the neighborhood look better, but he does not believe an appraiser will evaluate the street when determining the value of his house.

“I’m going to shell out a lot of money,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s not going to bring up the value of my home up like a driveway would if I repaired my driveway it definitely would increase the value of my home.”

Kassulker is an employee of Hennepin County and his job is strategic planning. Kassulker is well aware that state budget cuts have impacted cities, but he said Andover needs to consider other solutions instead of the assessment, which he referred to as a massive tax increase. According to Kassulker, the cities of Apple Valley, Minnetonka and St. Louis Park do not assess residents for road project costs and instead pay for projects out of the property tax base.

Trude said these cities have a much higher commercial property tax base.

Kassulker said he and other residents would do whatever was necessary to explore alternative funding options for road projects and recommended the city form a steering committee of residents to begin this research.

Mayor Mike Gamache said a previous council adopted this road assessment policy 13 to 14 years ago. It is a good policy and Gamache will have to face this in two to three years when the city street in his neighborhood is reconstructed, he said.

Gamache said if they got rid of the assessment policy, the city would have to raise taxes to cover this lost revenue.

In addition, the council would need to explain to people still paying off road assessments why others are no longer getting assessed, he said.

Gamache said he does not expect any assessment policy changes this year.

Councilmember Tony Howard lives on a 2.5-acre lot that has an asphalt curb in front of it. He is not looking forward to the assessment either, but he knows it will be his turn to pay at some point.

John Caldwell said the city should re-evaluate its policy of requiring asphalt curbs to be replaced with concrete curbs during reconstruction projects. He said their neighborhood is a prime example that asphalt curbs work.

The Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace roads have lasted about 33 years, according to City Engineer and Public Works Superintendent Davis Berkowitz. He said roads typically need to be reconstructed every 20 to 28 years.

Gamache said money will be saved in the long term by having concrete curbs. It will be easier and cheaper to fix the road in 30 years because the curb likely would not have to be replaced at that point, he said.

“I believe we’re going to get good bids,” Gamache said. “I think the price of $6,170 per lot is going to be lower. I can’t guarantee that, but we’ve seen that in the past years that it has been lower.”

A longer warning time

Zborowski said that residents should be warned two to three years in advance of a road project.

According to Gamache, the council adopts a five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) every year and this document is available to view at city hall and on the city website under the finance department link.

Perhaps the city could look at better ways to advertise projects further in advance, Gamache said.

Berkowitz said the first two years of a five-year CIP are fairly set as long as the council ultimately approves the project. Projects three to five years away sometimes are delayed or moved up, he said.

Johnson’s Oakmount Terrace was originally planned for 2009 in the city’s 2007-2011 CIP, according to Berkowitz.

However, almost all subsequent CIPs had a target year of 2012 and the only exception was the 2010-2014 CIP, which stated this project could happen in 2013, Berkowitz said.

To list an example in another part of the city, reconstruction of 159th Avenue from Seventh Avenue to Roanoke Street all of a sudden popped up in the 2010-2014 CIP to take place in 2012 even though it was not listed in the previous two CIPs, he said.

The next two CIPs, including the current 2012-2016 CIP anticipate this project will not happen until 2014, Berkowitz said.

Trude said the city does notify further in advance than it used to. She recalled that the city’s first notification used to be just before the public hearing and then the project happened three months later.

Berkowitz said the city now includes a list of road projects for the following year in the city newsletter about one year before the project is scheduled to happen.

He and other engineering staff later hold a neighborhood meeting months in advance of the public hearing at the council meeting.

Councilmember Sheri Bukkila said it is a fair claim that citizens should get notified a couple years in advance.

She said that she has raised this issue with Berkowitz in the past and the response has been that the city does not want to create false alarms because project dates are moving targets.

“I’d prefer to heads-up,” Bukkila said. “I need to know that I need to save some money because I like to see things coming head-on.”

Eric Hagen is at
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