No property assessments required
After listening to residents and reading their responses to a questionnaire, the Scandia City Council has decided what to do with Melanie Trail.
At their Tuesday, July 17 meeting, the council voted to give the road a thin overlay and hand patch, and to reshape the ditches to aid run-off.
Two more-expensive options would have required that affected property owners pay part of the cost. These were full reconstruction (a new road), and a compromise involving grinding up the current pavement and giving it a new surface (“reclaim and replace”).
Scandia has never rebuilt a road and has no policy for assessing owners for reconstruction. But the city would have to borrow money to pay for such a large project, and state law requires that if the city borrows, at least 20 percent of the cost must be assessed to land owners.
The vote was unanimous. Council member Jim Schneider was absent but had noted that this was his first choice.
The repair will cost about $47,000 and is expected to last five or six years. Work will be performed by the city maintenance crew. Twelve of the 29 Melanie Trail residents responding to the survey favored this option.
Fourteen residents preferred the reclaim/replace compromise. This solution would cost about $420,000, with each property owner assessed at least $2,710. The resulting surface would probably last 20 years.
Two homeowners were willing to pay more for a full reconstruction. This option would cost about $784,000, with an assessment of at least $5,060 per homeowner, and might last 25 to 30 years.
No one wanted gravel. “Turning the roadway back to gravel is not an option we would consider,” one resident commented on the questionnaire. “We would rather you do nothing than this.”
One respondent favored doing nothing, saying the project should be delayed until the city could pay 100 percent of the cost.
The work can be done this year.
If a more expensive solution had been chosen, Melanie Trail would have been grouped with other deteriorating roads to make a major project, increasing the total amount borrowed.
Then the major project would have been added to the capital improvements budget and scheduled for at least two years from now.
Half the city’s debt will be paid off in five years, making 2017 a good year for such a project. (Equipment needs may affect that timing.)
The current fix may gain the city five or so years to decide what to do next.
“You might buy so much time with the patch that Melanie might not get done for 10 years,” City Administrator Anne Hurlburt said. “If it works, you may not have support from Melanie residents for assessments.”
On the questionnaire, one resident wrote, “We selected the overlay option primarily because [it] would not require an assessment. We were assured when we paid the first assessment that all further costs would come from the normal budget. If that budget is not adequate, the first priority is to solve that problem and not rely on surprise assessments.”
Another commented, “We are concerned that the city does not have a sufficient budget for maintaining its roads, and yet it continues to spend money to pave additional roads.”
One resident wrote that the city should have raised taxes five years ago, when the new pavement management study found that $600,000 per year was need to keep all roads in good condition. The annual road repair budget is about $300,000.
One favored spending less on fire equipment. “I think replacing a sixth fire truck for $300,000 is unnecessary,” the Melanie Trail resident wrote. “With Forest Lake, Marine and Chisago so close by, do we really need six fire trucks?”
A retired couple appreciated the temporary fix because it gives them time to budget for a more permanent solution. “We are living on Social Security and need to stick to a strict budget, and are now on notice of this future expense,” they wrote.