The Andover City Council Nov. 5 approved assessments for two very different road projects that took place this year.
The council sees Nightingale Street as a regional road and thus difficult to justify assessing 13 parcel owners at the city’s normal rate for reconstruction. They will each pay $3,000.
On the other hand, 16 other property owners will pay $10,688.25 because 173rd Lane, 174th Avenue, Heather Street in their neighborhood used to be gravel roads, but they could have paid twice as much had the council not amended a city ordinance two years ago.
There were no objections to the assessments for either of these projects during the public hearings held Nov. 5.
Cory Thode, who lives on 174th Avenue, was the only resident who spoke and he said he appreciated that the project was done. “It’s nice out there,” he said.
In fact, 10 of the 16 property owners petitioned for their gravel road neighborhood to be paved and drainage problems corrected. Nobody objected in writing or in person. One resident told the council at last year’s public hearing that they just were not able to get a hold of everyone.
All of these property owners have the option to pay their assessment in full by Dec. 5 without paying any interest, according to City Engineer and Public Works Superintendent David Berkowitz. Those needing more time can take up to 10 years to pay off the principal, with 4.5 percent interest, through property tax payments.
The property owners along Nightingale Street would pay $379.14 per year or $3,791.40 total if they need all 10 years. The residents being assessed for the 173rd Lane, 174th Avenue, and Heather Street project would pay $1,350.77 per year over 10 years, which amounts to $13,507.70, Berkowitz said.
According to Berkowitz, residents could pay off the remaining principal early, but interest would be charged through the remainder of the year they pay it off.
Nightingale Street is a significant north-south route between Crosstown Boulevard and 161st Avenue and it was closed throughout the summer for reconstruction.
The project included additional left- and right-turn lanes at key intersections and an improved trail system. According to Berkowitz, the project cost $1,391,000 with most of it coming from the city’s road and bridge fund.
There was already a trail on the west side of Nightingale Street but the city had originally planned to stop the new trail on the east side of the road at 157th Lane because of wetlands in the area.
Steve Peterson gathered 175 signatures from people who wanted the trail to be extended to 159th Lane to better serve neighborhoods on both side of the road. He said the extended trail would enable about 250 additional residents to access it immediately rather than walk over a quarter of a mile on the road shoulder.
Peterson said the existing road sees a high amount of pedestrian and bike traffic from kids going to school, the Andover YMCA/Community Center and the ball fields and from families and many other adults, and the speed limit of Nightingale Street is 55 mph.
“As someone who does this for a living, plans trails and plans roadway projects, I know how important it is to have a safe trailway system,” Peterson told the council at its Feb. 19 public hearing.
Could have been more
Up until two years ago, Andover required benefiting property owners to pay 100 percent of the costs of paving a gravel road. The opinion of the council was that all residents pay for paved roads in front of their home whether through an assessment or higher home prices.
The council changed its stance when a couple of residents just west of the Ham Lake border and north of Crosstown Boulevard were facing reconstruction of their paved roads while there were no immediate plans to pave the gravel roads they had to drive on to get to their own homes.
The council consensus was it would be difficult to get any gravel roads paved without some city contribution. It settled on a 50-50 split between the city and benefiting property owners as long as certain issues were considered such as the role the street serves to the surrounding area, the impact on the city budget and whether other similar projects are planned in the general vicinity during the same construction season.
The first gravel roads to be paved under this new plan in 2011 were Butternut Street, 173rd Avenue and the south half of Flintwood Street north of Crosstown Boulevard. The north half of Flintwood as well as the Genthon Ponds neighborhood had already been paved because its developers had chosen to do so. Its streets were reconstructed around the same time as the gravel roads were paved. Residents along these gravel roads were each assessed $7,556.08.
Berkowitz said this most recent project on 173rd Lane, 174th Avenue and Heather Street was more expensive because curb and gutter was needed in certain areas while the first project had a ditch system for storm water.
Some areas of this most recent project had adequate ditches, but he said there were other areas where the steep banks on the side of the road made the more expensive curb and gutter necessary. One lot in particular had a lot of drainage problems, so the city purchased an easement to make additional storm water improvements so the driveway “won’t be a stream after every rainfall” as Councilmember Julie Trude put it.
“If we were to pave the road and leave the banks up high, you would just have continuous erosion down the edge of the bank, which would go to the lower area and we’d have sediment,” Berkowitz said. “Now, you put curb in there and you vegetate the side slope and the curb channelizes that water to the lower area.”
Councilmember Sheri Bukkila was the only one who voted against the city preparing plans and specifications for this project because she questioned whether the city should contribute to paving this road when it really only serves 16 residents. At the time, she wanted to know whether the drainage problems could be solved without paving the road and adding curb and gutter.
Bukkila said had more detailed information about the drainage problems, she would have hesitated on opposing the project because adequate drainage is the city’s responsibility.
Berkowitz said this was a tough project and the residents had to put up with a lot of activity and a large muck excavation, but the neighborhood was really good to work with.
“We’re glad that the neighborhood came together and had a vast majority sign off and say, ‘yes, let’s do this,’” Mayor Mike Gamache said.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org