Settlement agreement reached for Liberty Ponds project

Wyoming signs on, failed project has new developer

Alice Pickering
Wyoming Reporter

The Wyoming City Council on Tuesday, March 20 approved participation in a settlement agreement with other cities in a suit with Lakeland Finances. The company was involved with the financing of the Liberty Ponds housing development.

City Attorney Mark Vierling recommended participation with other parties in the settlement. The city will recoup some of its costs. There has been a transition of Liberty Ponds project to a different developer.

Council approved the decision by a vote of 4-0. Council member Joe Zerwas did not attend the meeting.

Lakeland Construction began construction of the Liberty Ponds development in 2004 according to Fred Weck, Building Official. The legal agreements were made with Wyoming Township, before its merger with the city.

Project History

The development was designed as cluster housing in the former Wyoming Township. The septic system was installed and two model homes were completed. Grading, drainage and some preliminary street work were completed.

The company went bankrupt in 2008, about the time the bottom fell out of the housing market, and before all the improvements were finished.

Lakeland had developments in other communities and they suffered similar fates. The company went into receivership. Now, a third party is trying to determine how much compensation investors can obtain from the assets remaining.

City Administrator Craig Mattson explained that Source Construction has purchased the two completed model homes and has had the septic system repaired.

Lakeland Construction had limited assets which Mattson estimated at about $231,000. However, several communities are involved with the company and are in a similar position.

Mattson estimates that the city may recoup only about five to seven percent of that amount, between $11,000 and $16,000. While it is unlikely that the city will get the total amount back, it may be able to recover some of its engineering and legal fees.

Joel and John Schweiters have taken over the balance of the development.  They must negotiate a new development agreement with the city. Most of the engineering work has been completed.

There are 80 single-family lots in the development.

Capital Funds

Richard Harris, who lives on Everton Circle, asked about dedication of the cable television revenues to the street capital fund.

City Administrator Mattson said the revenues amount to about $30,000 a year.

When the 2012 tax levy was set in December, establishment of a streets reconstruction fund, in the amount of $500,000, was cut to keep property taxes from increasing.

Mayor Eric Peterson explained that next year the city hopes to include a fund dedicated to street repair and reconstruction in the levy.

911 System

An emergency notification system is being formatted in Chisago County — a state of the art reverse 911 emergency communication system called CodeRED. Ben Montzka, County Commissioner, brought the news to the city council last week.

This will allow public safety and public health officials to send thousands of telephone calls to specific areas in minutes. This is a more rapid and comprehensive system than emergency sirens or speaker systems to make announcements.  This could be used for natural disaster warnings and important public notices.

Chisago County is partnering with area police departments in updating and improving its records management system. Reports from the Wyoming Police Department have been made to the council about city participation.

The new system facilitates real-time access to critical information allowing for public safety officers at the city and county level to access a common data base.  It allows for shared information at city, county, state, and federal levels.

Council Questions

Sandy Standridge, a former council member, had questions about storm water drainage as it relates to street repairs. She lives in the northeast area of the original city.

Water drains off the road onto the sandy soil in her neighborhood. The street is about 32 or 37 years old. She asked about the plan for ripping up the old street.

Standridge was concerned about wear on the streets and very thin asphalt.  Mayor Eric Peterson told Standridge that it would have been good for her to have been at the Truth in Taxation meeting  in December.

Jason Windingstad, public works supervisor, told Standridge that for streets with no sewer and stormwater mains when street work is done in those areas, there are no plans to add curb and gutter.

Mark Erichson, city engineer, told Standridge that there are plans to mill and overlay streets as part of the street maintenance plan. Every property has run-off and the storm water utility fees cover drainage and street sweeping.

Standridge also had concerns about the several lots in the city which seem to have excess outside storage. This includes vehicles which do not appear to run or be licensed. Her concern was for the impression this creates for people driving through the city. She believes there are ordinances on the books to address this.  She would like to see these enforced.

Fred Weck, building inspector, said it takes a community effort. The city has a process which it must go through for these kinds of complaints.  The city also tries to follow through on complaints.

Finally, Standridge mentioned banners she had seen while visiting family in the western part of the state. They provided a welcoming visual image and caught her attention right away. The notices also identified the businesses, large and small which sponsored the banners.

She would like to see something similar in Wyoming, as a welcoming gesture.  She volunteered to contact local businesses to get information about them and see what their reactions and support would be to such a project.

At the most recent work session which council members held before the council meeting, one discussion topic was studying the possibility of purchase of the The RiverBank building.

The discussion is in the exploratory stages with the idea of possibly converting the building into a city government center, with the current building becoming public safety, and the former town hall into a public works facility.

City News

Council member Roger Elmore announced the WABA-city sponsored Easter Egg Hunt is set for 9:30 a.m., Saturday, April 7 at Tolzmann Park.

A presentation about the proposed Skate and Bike Park is to be an agenda item at the city council meeting, Tuesday, April 3.

He also announced two open seats on the park board. There is also one vacancy on the EDA committee.

In council reports, Linda Yeager and Eric Peterson both attended the recent Wyoming EDA meeting.  The group is trying to contact businesses to evaluate/ and retention for the businesses. They will be reviewing the survey and have WABA to review it before it is used with the businesses.

Yeager said that discussions at the Rush Line Task Force meeting indicate the number of riders on bus Route 285 into St. Paul, continue to increase. There is the possibility that Route 275 may be combined with Route 285.

If and when MnPass or managed lanes are designated along I-35E, the task force is taking the position that excess dollars should remain in the corridor instead of being income for the Met Council.

She commented on a revival or celebration of old US-61, the highway north from New Orleans. The old route officially ends in Wyoming, at Viking Blvd., before heading west to join with and become part of I-35. If there are celebratory events scheduled, she would like to see Wyoming have some part. This could be a collaborative effort with Chisago County.

Council authorized the public works department to dispose of surplus property by sale at on-line auction (www.publicsurplus.com) or sale as scrap. Windingstad identified an older plow and trench box for open digging as surplus. The 1992 Ford F250 will be a surplus vehicle once the new truck arrives.  The crane and tools will be removed before sale. The council approved the action by a vote of 4-0.

Other Business

In other business, the council:

•Learned that the Chisago County Assessor is completing another cycle of property and market assessments and that overall property values continue to decline. Residents with questions about county taxes can call the Chisago County Assessor’s office (651-213-8550) or e-mail (assessor@co.chisago.mn.us).

•Learned from Attorney Vierling the final hearings regarding the Peterson Annexation petition are scheduled for April 3-4, 2012, at City Hall.

•Authorized payment of the recommended bills, payroll and journal entries for the period of March 7-20.

•Approved the appointment of Travis Parsons as a probationary firefighter with the Wyoming Volunteer Fire Department. The vote was 4-0.

•Approved a gambling permit for the North Branch Area Hockey Association at the Stars and Strikes Entertainment Center.

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