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Well-attended public hearing on street project brings some clarification, interest

By Anna Jauhola
About 30 people from the public attended a special Hallock City Council meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 31 to hear more about the street project proposed for this summer. This was the first of at least two public hearings to be held regarding the project. Not all affected property owners were notified regarding the meeting – letters were not sent to those whose corner lots will be affected along side streets.
Although last week’s meeting was intended to include discussion about assessment costs for property owners, the notification snafu limited that conversation to the overall numbers.
“We just want to make sure we do it right and make sure we bring the other property owners in and be consistent,” said Jon Pauna, with Moore Engineering.
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.
“As of right now, we’re just shy of $5.8 million total project costs,” Pauna said. “That’s estimated construction costs, plus engineering, legal and administration costs, which will go toward the levy.”
Of that amount, the general levy is expected to incur $3.5 million and assessable costs are just under $2.3 million.
The assessable portion of this project includes street reconstruction plus the storm sewer. Sixty percent of that will be assessed to property owners and 40 percent assessed across the city tax base.
“Water and sanitary sewer work, including service lines up to the property line would be city cost, covered under the levy portion,” Pauna said.
Pauna reminded the audience that each lot was measured and will be assessed by its front footage. Some lots are irregular, and those were measured by averaging the front footage and rear footage. Lots that include a corner will be assessed differently.
“If you’re on a corner, we take half of the long side and the other half, we propose to spread it out over half of the side street distance,” Pauna explained. “So if you’re on that corner lot and your long side abuts this project, we take half of that as yours, plus your percentage of half of the block down the side street.”
These property owners are the ones who were not notified of Wednesday’s hearing and that issue came to light within the 10-day period prior to the hearing, Pauna said. Hence the need to hold another hearing.
Outgoing City Clerk/ Administrator Aimee Sugden went over the city’s bonding history and how the reduction of debt led the council to move forward with this street project. The city last undertook a street project in 2008 with Columbus Avenue, South Birch, Fifth Street and Sixth Street. In recent years, the city has paid off other bonds and will reduce its debt further by paying off bonds in 2025, 2027 and 2028.
It is noteworthy to mention no one from the public vocalized opposition to the project, and civil discourse and discussion encompassed the hearing.
Questions from the public
Several affected property owners addressed the council and Pauna with questions about the project. Keith Klegstad, a former council member and engineer by profession, noted he needs sewer work done at his home, which he knows he’s responsible for. He asked if Moore Engineering needs that information prior to the project beginning.
Pauna said he can give the contractors that information if Klegstad is interested in having them do the work.
“The only other thing I have is the importance of, from 3 o’clock and on, you have people there to watch this work,” Klegstad said, noting oftentimes when a supervisor leaves, employee activity can lag. “That’s my main concern, that there’s proper inspection there, that this work is getting done right.”
Pauna said the construction plan calls for a full-time inspector to be on the project at all times.
Resident Terry Ogorek asked the council to consider stopping the Fifth Street reconstruction at Forest Avenue and removing the block between Forest and Grove avenues. He said there is a “drastic difference between Elm and Forest than there is between Forest and Grove, and Grove Place.”
Theresia Gillie, a county commissioner, asked why the block of road on Fifth Street in front of the Kittson County Courthouse is not being reconstructed.
“That road needs a lot of improvements, a lot of curb and gutter and stuff, too. I would recommend talking to my county board and having a discussion about that,” she said. “I think we’d like to have that done.”
Resident Corinne Lipinski said she is concerned about how much she’ll be assessed for her corner residential lot and the adjoining vacant lot she owns. She referenced the League of Minnesota Cities’ Special Assessment Tool Kit, which states an assessment can’t be more than the market value of a property. She said she hasn’t seen numbers related to assessments for her property yet, but information in the Enterprise indicated “it might be a pretty good-sized assessment.”
Sugden said, “The number published in the paper is for an abnormal lot size, an oversized lot, and has been adjusted down too.”
Preliminary assessment numbers published in an Enterprise article from Dec. 13 stated ranges of assessment costs with the majority of property assessments between $14,000 and $30,000. Larger front footages are estimated to be assessed between $30,000 and $60,000. The largest two front footages were estimated at $95,000 and $225,000. These numbers remain estimates from the latest information obtained from public meetings, and could change before the project is finalized. The information is always on file for public review at the city clerk’s office.
Sugden told Lipinski she will receive specific numbers as well.
“You won’t see exact numbers yet,” Pauna said. “So there are two hearings. You’ll get a reasonable estimate and understand what is footage of your property. We’ll tell you what numbers we’re using.”
Pauna said the second hearing will provide property owners their right to protest if they disagree with the assessment amounts.
Resident Jan Younggren asked about whether this would be the time to extend North Douglas Avenue as her son owns property to the east beyond the end of that roadway. Sugden said that is something the council could discuss.
Resident Jerry Olsonawski asked if curbs the sloped curbs will replace the current curbs in all construction zones. Pauna said they typically “put back in what’s there.” So the plan is to keep the 6-inch curbs.
Resident Tim Schulte, a former county government engineer and current contractor, requested the elevation of Fourth Street in front of his house be changed during construction. He hopes a change will eliminate water collecting at the end of his driveway all the way to the corner of Birch Avenue.
Resident Bob Skoglund, who also works for a contractor, asked how long the project will las and when the project will go out for bids – noting many contractors’ schedules are filling up fast. Pauna said the project should start in May and be complete in the fall, minus the final paving, which will be done after one freeze/thaw cycle.
“If we’re gonna do it, let’s get the project on papers and get bids out so as many contractors get a chance to take a look at it as we can,” Skoglund said.
Sugden said the goal is to have it bid out by the beginning of March. The council has to hold its second public hearing before it can be bid out.
That hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. at Hallock City Hall.

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