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Nisswa: Council may vote again on road assessment policy

After meeting in a workshop Monday, Nov. 27, to learn more about how a road assessment policy would work, Nisswa City Council members indicated they were ready to vote again on the topic.

They also indicated that even after being further educated on how an assessment policy could be applied to road projects, no one would change his stance on the issue.

In a split vote, a former council in September 2016 adopted a policy to assess residents up to 30 percent of the cost to improve their road, with all city taxpayers paying the remaining 70 percent. The issue was a hot-button topic then and continues to be.

Tom Pearson, city attorney, shared information about the assessment process Monday, saying the council could take each road project individually and decide whether to apply the policy, or could change the percentages. He compared the policy to a tool in the toolbox, or a guideline.

"It doesn't bind you. You should have something on the books to guide you," he said, suggesting the council keep the policy and saying most area cities have such policies in place.

If the council eliminates the policy and a special assessment project comes up by citizen petition or city council request, there would be no guideline to follow, Pearson said. There are discretionary items that apply when deciding whether to use the policy for a project, such as how many people use the road.

However, council members wondered how they could assess residents on one road and not another, indicating that wouldn't be fair. They also questioned when to apply assessments, seeming to agree assessments wouldn't be right for milling and paving maintenance projects, but possibly would be for special features.

Though Mayor Fred Heidmann said the intent wasn't to debate what is right or wrong, but simply to learn more about implementing assessment policies, council members did debate the issue a bit. In the end, they indicated they wanted to vote whether to keep or abolish the current policy - which hasn't been used yet - at their next meeting Wednesday, Dec. 20.

Council members also learned they could require assessments on road projects without a policy.