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Residents contest fees for street improvements

October 26, 2010
Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Four Fairmont citizens came before the City Council to contest assessment fees for street improvements Monday night.

Two were granted changes, one was told there was nothing that could be done, and another was reassured her fears were unfounded.

Bruce A. Krahmer told the council he was assessed $4,121.70 on a property on West Interlaken Road valued at $5,400.

He argued that the property is uninhabited, and in fact practicably can't be built on, and thus the street overlay offered no benefit to him - the reason largely given for assessments in the first place.

City administrator Jim Zarling told Krahmer the benefit to the property owner is not the only reason for assessing them - it is how the city raises funds to pay for street improvements.

Krahmer said he paid $500 for the property and had it looked over five years ago by a real estate agent, who estimated Krahmer could get only $1,000 for the land.

He referenced a rule put in place by city council members in the past that indicated a property owner only needed to pay 20 percent of his estimated market value, and told the council he would pay $200 and no more for the assessment.

Councilman Wes Clerc agreed with Krahmer that the property was over-assessed at $4,121. Clerc moved that the council amend the bill to 20 percent of the $5,400 market value, or $1,080.

Russell Rosenau, who lives on Sylvan Drive, was assessed $30 per foot for one foot more than the 89 feet he actually owns. He said he has been paying his assessments at that rate since 1967, when 10 feet of his property was sold to a neighbor to solve a construction setback issue. Council members found he was correct in his measurements and agreed to change his bill.

Jerry Smestad wasn't so lucky in his request. His property on Sylvan Drive was assessed for work done that is not adjacent to his property. Troy Nemmer, city public works director, told the group Smestad was being assessed for work done in front of his property in 2008 that he was not assessed for at the time.

Libby Bloomquist, city attorney, told Smestad that the amount he was being assessed this year is the same he would have been assessed two years ago, so he was going to have to pay it one way or another. She suggested the city could resend him another assessment, labeling it for the 2008 work and hold another public hearing, but the result would be the same.

Lastly, Sue Stevens, a homeowner on Albion Avenue near Budd School, approached the council with concerns that any work done to the street near her home would be ruined by work on the new water plant, and questioned if she would have to pay to fix any damage. Council members assured her that any damage done during construction would be fixed and not assessed to homeowners.

In other business, the council:

o Agreed to sell services to the city of Northrop. Northrop Mayor Tom Wakey requested Fairmont helped them with equipment to clean and maintain their sewer system.

"As we see decreases in local government aid we will see more requests like this one," Zarling said. "It is too expensive for small towns to maintain equipment needed."

o Approved replacing 18 windows at City Hall with money awarded to the city in a Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.

 
 

 

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