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Hallock City Council addresses streets project in second hearing

By Anna Jauhola
The Hallock City Council held a second public hearing Wednesday, Feb. 21 to better inform taxpayers about the impact of the proposed street improvements project.
About 30 people attended the hearing. Jon Pauna of Moore Engineering explained the project and how it will affect the taxpayers through assessments. The entire project, as it sits, encompasses five sections of street – North Douglas Avenue, four blocks of Fourth Street South, one block of Third Street South, two and a half blocks of Fifth Street South and Holly Avenue. Total reconstruction of these streets include pavement and subgrade removal, replacing utilities, water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer, rebuilding subgrade and paving with asphalt, and new curb and gutter.
The total estimated cost is $5.8 million, with $3.5 million expected to be paid through the city’s general levy, and $2.3 million to be assessed to property owners.
Property owners will be assessed 60 percent of the $2.3 million, which includes the street improvement and storm sewer costs. The other 40 percent will be paid by the city’s general levy.
The city carries the cost for sanitary sewer and water lines, including service lines up to the property line. The assessments and bonding will be spread out over 20 years.
Since the last meeting, the city has notified property owners on side streets who may be affected by the project. Pauna said the approximate cost per assessable foot will be between $240 and $260. For those on the side streets, Pauna said the footage will be spread down the block. For example, if a corner lot owner has 200 assessable feet, “100 feet of that is getting spread out down that block. … You may own 100 feet on a side street, but you’re going to get some weird number because we’re ratioing out the last portion of the corner lot. We’re calculating it down to an assessable footage.”
He reminded the public that assessable footage for irregular lots is figured by averaging the front and rear footage.
He added that some of the proposed areas may change, including the suggestion of swapping out the portion of Fifth Street from Forest to Grove Place with the block in front of the courthouse.
The council’s next steps will be to consider approving the project, with any changes, ideally during its next meeting, which is on Monday, March 4. That approval would implement the official boundaries of the project and allow the council to send it out for bids from contractors. Once they receive bids, the city can then hold its assessment hearing, which is required by state statute. This will give a solid picture of the actual cost. Property owners would again be notified of the hearing, the project cost, assessment costs and their right to object to the project.
Mayor Dave Treumer said several times during the hearing that if bids came in ridiculously high, the city would stall the project. They are not required to approve bids just because the city calls for them.
If the bids come in favorable, the council would then determine whether to award the project and continue to construction, Pauna said.
Resident Tim Schulte, who is also a civil engineer, asked how far along they are with the design. Pauna said they’re at 80 to 90 percent of final designs, and once the council approves final boundaries and to move forward, they’ll be ready to send out for bids. The timeline is still for summer 2024 construction with the final lift of bituminous paving set for the summer of 2025.
Schulte said the company he works for now just went through bidding with the North Dakota Department of Transportation and nine of the 16 projects came in way over estimates and three only had one bidder.
“That’s telling you the bid climate,” Schulte said. “I’m worried about the timeline.”
He also asked about the project design. Pauna said the roads will have a fabric base, 8 inches of class 5 aggregate, and 4 ½ inches of asphalt paving.
Scott Younggren, who owns a lot just off the east end of Douglas Avenue, asked whether the city would consider extending that road during this project. Pauna said it’s up to the council and there is still time for them to consider including that approximately 100 feet to extend the street so Younggren can develop that lot. Younggren thought a cul de sac would make sense for that location, rather than a through road.
Hallock resident Corinne Lipinski is a corner lot owner, who also owns an empty lot that faces Fifth Street, for which estimates show she’d pay $24,000 in assessments. She said the lot is worth $4,000, she put in $15,000 to tear down the derelict house on the property, and will now owe assessments.
“I’ll never be able to sell my lot for $28,000,” she said. “So if you could work with us at all, I would appreciate it greatly.”
Pauna again said that type of decision is up to the council, and Treumer said the council will look at individual cases, but can’t make any promises.
Hallock resident Joel Muir commented that perhaps it’s time the city re-evaluates its 60/40 split rule for assessments.
“If we’re going to treat everyone equally, there’s always a time to change. Maybe it’s time to change so the general city pays for more of these streets,” Muir said. “We all use them and it’s for the betterment of the town.”
He also suggested the city have a better plan for its street maintenance to keep the streets in better condition moving forward.
The council will meet in regular session on Monday, March 4 at 5:30 p.m.

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