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Nisswa: Road assessment policy won't be applied for paving

The city of Nisswa still has a road assessment policy, but that policy now does not include assessing residents when their road is repaved.

The Nisswa City Council voted 3-2 Wednesday, Dec. 20, to keep its assessment policy with some changes, including that assessments not be applied for routine repaving projects, but rather be applied for any special projects.

Mayor Fred Heidmann and council members Gary Johnson and John Ryan voted in favor, with council members Ross Krautkremer and Don Jacobson opposed.

A former council in September 2016 adopted a policy to assess residents up to 30 percent of the cost to improve their road by resurfacing, with all city taxpayers paying the remaining 70 percent. The issue was a hot-button topic then as well, and the policy was approved on a 3-2 vote at the time.

Tom Pearson, city attorney, last month told the council it could take each road project individually and decide whether to apply the policy at all, or could change the percentages. He compared the policy to a tool in the toolbox, or a guideline.

At the Dec. 20 meeting, Heidmann said the council needed to clarify the intent of the policy. He broke the issue into two parts, asking if the council wants to assess residents for routine resurfacing of roads, and does the council want to assess residents for special road projects.

A visually frustrated Krautkremer said the road assessment policy was born from planning and figuring out how to pay for roads in the future, as well as from a lot of city money being spent on a park. He said a lot of inaccurate information has been spread regarding the assessment policy, and the assessment policy wasn't given a fair shake.

Jacobson said suggested changes would gut the road assessment policy. He suggested keeping the policy, saying it allows projects if the council and residents want them.

Johnson said he understood the changes mean only repaving would not be assessed; any other improvements could be assessed. Jacobson disagreed.

Heidmann said the assessment policy unnecessarily complicates road improvements.

Ryan said all alternatives to pay for road improvements haven't been researched. He said the proposed change to the policy was not to assess for general maintenance. He said special improvements could be assessed.

He proposed keeping the current policy with the proposed changes, which passed on the 3-2 vote. Ryan also proposed that the Public Works Committee consider all alternatives regarding how to fund street improvements and then present that information to the council and the public. The council wants a status report by September.

That passed unanimously.

Earlier in the meeting, the council approved a list of roads for improvements in 2018, saying assessments wouldn't be used. Jacobson and Krautkremer voted no. Krautkremer said he wanted clarification on the city's road assessment policy first.

Roads included in a five-year plan for improvements are parts of the following: Hazelwood Avenue and Hazelwood bridge, St. Columbo Road, Gull Lake Drive, Mission Road, Lower Cullen Road (north), Nisswa Lake Lane, Hyland Avenue and Smiley Road (south), for a total of 5.16 miles of road.

Not all improvements will be completed in 2018; rather, completion would take two to three years. However, one bond will be created and funded in 2018 to cover these road improvements.

Edna Lake Road

Regarding the safety of a curve on Edna Lake Road, which the council talked about Dec. 13, council members agreed not to install a guardrail at this time on a 3-2 vote. Krautkremer and Jacobson favored installing the guardrail now for safety reasons.

Edna Lake Road resident Roger Landers presented a survey that indicated residents on that road preferred to wait until spring to review all options to make the curve safer.

Krautkremer asked if there is a safety issue, saying if there is then the city should pay the money to install a guardrail. He cited the resident who spoke to the council in November about going off the road in slippery conditions.

Jacobson has advocated for the guardrail since it was first brought up, also citing the need for safety.