Yeager’s vote nixes Wyoming’s street plan

Nearly all in attendance May 7 backed project


Alice Pickering
Wyoming Reporter

Wyoming may get its streets repaired, but the work will not begin this year.

A proposed 10-year street reconstruction plan was defeated by a 4-1 vote at the City Council meeting last Tuesday, May 7. State requirements for this particular action required a unanimous vote from the council members present.

The vote came after an hour-long public hearing during which the proposed fixes and work schedule were reviewed by engineer Mark Erichson. The plan: repair existing streets, replace current sewer infrastructure problems before they become major, and keep existing streets maintained into the future.

The city’s portion of the projects totals much more than the initial bond sale of $2.78 million. The mechanism that allows this to work for the city is that the street reconstruction fund is funded each year by $500,000 built into the city levy.

Councilwoman Linda Yeager has supported either a pay-as-you-go program, funded by the reconstruction fund or some form of assessments to those benefiting from the repairs. In assessment proposals, the reconstruction fund would help reduce assessments to the affected properties.

Bonds would be sold in either case. Yeager reasoned that “bonds backed by assessments do not count against city’s debt.”

City Administrator Craig Mattson provided several financial comparisons between Wyoming and those of cities of similar size in Minnesota. In debt-per-capita, Wyoming has seen a downward trend from $849 to $594 for 2009-2012. The average for similar cities is about $2,750, with the average for 2012 not yet available.

In an appeal before the vote, Mayor Eric Peterson urged Yeager to support the street reconstruction plan. If voters are not happy, he said, they can petition for a reverse referendum for a chance to defeat the plan. Yeager held firm to her position and voted against the proposal. The 80-odd residents who attended were loudly audible in their disappointment of the plan being voted down.

Special election

Based on last Monday’s work session discussion, and in anticipation of the defeated resolution, city staff had ready a resolution to hold a special election as soon as possible.

The question to be decided is whether the city should bond for a maximum amount of $2.78 million to begin the street work, the same amount included in the 10-year street reconstruction plan.

The election requires adequate time for the process. The earliest the election can take place is sometime in July 2013, too late to begin street work this year.

The delay adds special election costs, likely into five-figures; anticipated inflation increases for construction costs; and another winter with poor streets. On the other hand, the fund will be twice as large before the first bond payment is due in 2015. This amounts to $1.25 million.

Residents’ input

Residents had opportunities to speak about the proposal. Of the residents who commented, 16 of 17 favored it.

John Berglund, businessman, supported the bonding because, “taxes will not increase.”

John Neumann, a Railroad Avenue resident, made a similar comment and added everyone should pay because everyone would benefit. Dolores Weide said this is not for new streets, but for upkeep.

Mary Woods and Shirley Toronto, both retirees, said their households could not support even partial assessments; the risk was losing their homes. Kathy Skally and Bill Shepherd both spoke of trusting the council to represent the majority and that its members have proven their fiscal responsibility.

Jerry Owens lives in what was the former township. His roads are in good shape, but he is “more than willing” to support a project that is “best for the city.” Mike Soule urged bonding for financing the repairs, as did Jim Windingstad, so as to spread out the cost.

Andy Stoyke urged bonding for the project, adding assessments would hurt a lot of people. He concluded, “you get what you pay for.”

Fred Seiber called the bonding plan a “no-brainer.”

Don Waller opposed the resolution. He supported payment by way of partial assessments, citing value added to properties through the improvements. His home does not front on city streets, but county roads.

Plan details

Peterson presented financial reasons the plan should work well. The dedicated $500,000 fund would provide a revenue stream to make bond payments without increasing current taxes.

The city proposed sale of general obligation bonds up to $2.78 million with very low interest rates. Payments over 10 years would be about $300,000 per year. The other $200,000 would be saved, added to from future years’ levies, cumulatively financing other street projects and maintenance.

The first payment on the bonds would not come until 2014, by which time the fund would also have an additional $250,000 check from Chisago County for the first half of 2014 taxes.

Peterson presented three scenarios for the road fund portion of the levy, indexed to slightly increase each year. These were for 2, 3 and 4 percent. His figures also compared overall cost savings for projects with these inflation rates. He compared with a pay-as-you-go plan, which would cost more overall.

The plan would have allowed the largest project to be completed in 2013. Streets identified in phase one of street and utility improvements total about six miles. These are sections of 266th through 270th streets, from Forest Boulevard (US 61 & CR 30) east to Fenwick Avenue; Railroad Boulevard, Felton Avenue, Fenwick Avenue, Flintwood Avenue, Flintwood Circle, Forli Avenue, Foxboro Avenue, Foxboro Court, and Freisland Avenue. Also included are some repairs to the sewer line and the lift station on Railroad Avenue.

A second part includes Freeport Avenue south of Wyoming Trail nearly to Galen Drive; 261st Street, Galen Drive; 263rd Street and 264th between Galen Drive and Glen Oak Drive, Glen Oak Drive, and Flint Trail.

The estimated cost of this first stage of the city’s street projects is $3.99 million. Of this, $2.7 million is for the street portion. The balance will come from the city’s sewer fund.

The second project, in 2014, was the reconstruction of Greenway Avenue, from 250th Street to Highway 8. Some of the money to pay for the street work will come from Minnesota State Aid for Streets. The street project will be combined with some drainage and water control projects, for which Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed will contribute funds. Cost of this project is estimated to be $2 million.

Projects planned for 2016 included 263rd Street, 264th Street, 266th Street, and 267th Street from Fenwick Avenue to Finley Avenue; and 263rd from Wyoming Trail to connect with Flint Trail, Fenwick Avenue and Finley Avenue. Repairs on 266th Street would continue east to Forli Avenue. Finally Forli Avenue, Foxboro Lane, and a section of Freeport Avenue extending south of Viking Boulevard and its connection with Galen Drive, are also included. Cost for this project is estimated at $1.2 million, of that $1.1 million for street repairs.

Planned for 2018 was the connection of Fallbrook Avenue to 273rd Street, bridging the Sunrise River, connecting near Stars and Strikes. The estimate for this project is $2 million. Costs will be shared with Chisago County, likely some MSAS funds and the city’s street reconstruction fund.

The 2020 project was mill and overlay work, paid for with funds cumulated in the reconstruction fund; selection of the streets to be based on the pavement management priority list. Erichson estimated this to cost about $1 million.

In some neighborhoods, there may be some mill and overlay completed in 2021, also based on funds available in reconstruction fund.

In 2022, street and utility improvements were planned for the section of the city west of the freeway.  The ultimate plan for this area of the city is to reconstruct 261st Lane, 261st Street, 262nd Street, 263rd Street, 264th Street, and Everton Circle. Erichson has presented maps which identified the specific work. Reconstruction of the streets was to be the last phase of this work. Tied to this is the installation of storm water mains and upgrades in the sizes of some of the sewer mains in the area.

This project is last because the city must cumulate money in the sewer and water funds to cover the cost of repairing the infrastructure. Cost of this project is estimated to be $3.59 million.

No big projects were planned for 2015, 2017, and 2019.