The Waverly City Council on Monday night approved a pair of resolutions that deal with two upcoming projects for 2020.
The first was for a resolution of necessity to replace water and sewer mains along Fourth Street Southwest between Third and Eighth avenues and 10th Street Southwest between West Bremer and Second avenues that coincide with street reconstruction work in those two areas. The second was a cooperative agreement with the Iowa Department of Transportation to fund the Fourth Street project, which is also Business Highway 218 or Iowa Highway 116.
In the water and sewer resolution, a preliminary assessment was set for property owners along each corridor. The minimum assessment for property owners who have just a 1-inch water service line and sidewalk is $2,200, while those who would have a 2-inch service line would be assessed $3,300.
However, those properties that need a 4-inch sewer line with a 1-inch water line and a greater sidewalk replacement would be charged $3,740, but if combined with a 2-inch water line, it would be $4,840. The highest assessment would be for Collegetowne Plaza, which would have a total of $26,400 for two 4-inch water lines, a 6-inch water line and three 8-inch sewer lines and $2,400 worth of sidewalks.
The resolution passed on a 6-1 vote, with Ward 3 Councilman Rod Drenkow voting against it.
“These are all sewer and water lines that are probably approaching a century old, because they are in parts of the city that are beyond a century old,” Drenkow said. “The people who are having these assessments are not giving — this is not a voluntary assessment; this is a mandatory assessment. These changes are being made without their approval or consent.
“My concern is that all of these assessments are being done in areas where the people are living there are least able to pay for them. Looking at these properties… the assessments are in some cases multiple times what their real estate tax is. This is going to be a fairly significant burden to people in these areas.”
He was wondering if the city should be more responsible for paying for the work that would be done on the water and sewer lines.
Drenkow had asked how often the city has special assessments like this. He mentioned the rotating sidewalk replacement project over the last seven years as well as for the Bremer Avenue reconstruction project that had been worked on during the 2017 and 2018 construction seasons, and he was wondering if there are more to come.
City Attorney Bill Werger stated that there were assessments for sewer and water replacements along Third Street Northeast and recently for the sewer main extension along East Bremer Avenue toward 39th Street. Public Works Director Mike Cherry said Waverly has a “long history” of these assessments.
“What we are less inclined to do are street assessments,” Cherry said.
Drenkow asked if most of those projects were for older pipes. Cherry said some of the work was done following annexation of many areas of town in 1977.
“We’re now to the point where the infrastructure has aged to the point where it’s 100-plus years old,” Cherry said. “As we do major street reconstruction projects, we’re going to be faced with the questions as whether to replace the sewer and water mains as well and how to finance those projects.”
He added that homeowners along the corridors are only being charged for the replacement of the lines, not for the street in this project. If there would be a repair of service that involved the street being dug up, the owner could face up to a $15,000 bill.
“When we were doing the Bremer Avenue project, we had a resident come in and provided testimony to what they were faced with for several years before the East Bremer street reconstruction and water main work was done,” Cherry recalled.
He added that the projects will commence next construction season, with the assessments finalized around November or December of 2020. Werger added they would be certified in April or May.
“They don’t become payable until the September (2021) payment,” Cherry continued, consulting with Werger. “That’s nearly two years from now.
“With the assessment, they are probably going to be at least five-year assessments and probably 10-year assessments, so they have option to pay as little — they can pay as much as they want up front, or they can have it filed as an assessment over a period of years.”
Drenkow thought there might have been a little bit more of a cost-share with the city.
“My hope is that maybe at some point going forward, we can have a discussion of how some of these assessments and other special costs and burdens that are imposed on people in certain neighborhoods affect the property values and the marketability of the properties in those neighborhoods,” he said. “I think that might be a broader discussion than simply just talking about the assessments on this property or on this project. … I don’t think these assessments are fair.”
Later in the meeting, the council OK’d an agreement with the DOT for the state to provide $590,000 toward the Fourth Street project construction that has an estimate of nearly $3.25 million total. According to a memo, the city could pay $1.95 million from Local Option Sales Taxes, general obligation bonds, tax increment financing and other unnamed sources.
Meanwhile, water and sewer revenues would provide $205,000 from each account, and the DOT would also contribute $300,000 from the Traffic Safety Improvement Program.
The project would widen Fourth Street from two to three lanes from near Burger King to between Second and Third avenues. The road was already widened at the latter point as part of the Dry Run Creek improvement project where it went under the intersection of Fourth Street and Second Avenue in 2016.
At-Large Councilwoman Ann Rathe confirmed the inclusion of the TSIP funding, and Cherry said it was already approved.
“If they can add a zero, it would be a whole lot nicer,” City Administrator James Bronner quipped, which resulted in a few chuckles from the dais. “It’s a hefty project.”
Drenknow said his disappointment with the project is that it takes out a lot of trees that are situated along the street inside of the right of way. He hoped the road could have been moved over some to preserve them.
Cherry explained all trees that are between the sidewalk and the curb must be removed for the repaving work to be done.
“We have been in the last 20 years discussing a tree-planting program along the home there,” he said. “We had very few takers. Evidently, the property owners aren’t expressing a great deal of interest at this time.”
Ward 1 Councilman Brian Birgen — using his mathematical skills from his professorial job at Wartburg College — believed the construction costs would be approximately $2.5 million. Cherry said the city will have a firmer number in a few weeks.
“We’ve been going back and forth with the DOT on some issues,” Cherry said. “That may affect the final cost. We are also looking at constructability issues and ways to try to manage and make the project as efficient as cost-effective as possible. At this point, we’ll know a lot more in a couple of weeks, and we’re planning to do a formal council update at that point.”