City takes steps for street rebuild work in ’14

OPH rockOAK PARK HEIGHTS — Residential property owners in four Oak Park Heights neighborhoods would be assessed nearly $3,500 per homestead unit for street reconstruction projects slated for 2014 and 2015.

The Oak Park Heights City Council took the first steps to submit the projects for bids early next year by passing resolutions Tuesday authorizing the projects and $10,000 in project survey work, and set neighborhood meetings for early next month to explain the projects to residents and business owners.

The council also passed a resolution supporting establishment of street improvement districts in the city funded by a dedicated tax collected on a utility bill. The idea of street improvement districts is to ease the impact of assessments on property owners.

City Administrator Eric Johnson said the city will mail letters today explaining the projects and assessments to property owners in neighborhoods where the city plans street reconstruction over the next two years.

The city also will meet with property owners in project neighborhoods from 6 to 7 p.m. Oct. 7-9 at City Hall.

The planned street reconstructions in 2014 and 2015 are the first in Oak Park Heights in about 20 years. The last street reconstruction was done in 1995 and 1996. Areas of the city scheduled for the work in 2014 are:

l Oren Avenue north of Minnesota 36 and Omaha, Olinda and Olene avenues and part of 59th Street south of MN 36;
l 56th and Upper 55th streets and Ozark Avenue North east of Osgood Avenue North, and
l The Village area in southeast Oak Park Heights just north of Bayport.
Streets north of MN 36 and east of the Washington County Government Center campus will be done in 2015.

Total cost of the projects is slightly more than $4.5 million. More than $3 million will be paid from the city’s street reconstruction fund, with the remaining $1.469 million assessed to commercial and residential property owners.

Johnson said the initial street construction resolution sets city policy regarding the work, including a 10-year assessment repayment plan at an interest rate not more than 2 percent over the city’s latest general obligation bond issued.

Residents with homestead property units in the project areas are assessed for street, curb and a new driveway apron to the street, Johnson said. The city will not assess for water and sewer connections or water and sewer utility improvements, he added.

“The city, in effect, will be paying those costs,” he said about water and sewer costs.

Johnson said assessment payments for the pending projects would not be due from property owners until the year after the work is done.

“In this case, while you do the improvement in 2014, the payment wouldn’t be due until 2015,” he said. “Or, for the northern part of the city, 2016.”

Johnson and City Attorney Mark Vierling said residents and business owners in the project areas will get to speak about the work at two upcoming public hearings: an improvement hearing by the end of this year and a later assessment hearing.
Johnson said the improvement hearing will likely occur this year so the city can seek bids in mid-February.

Passage of the street improvement district resolution was a message from Oak Park Heights to the state legislature to give the city what Mayor Mary McComber called “a tool for our toolbox.”

Johnson said street improvement districts would be funded by a fee on all property owners’ electric or city utility bill, with proceeds transferred to a dedicated fund. He added that St. Louis Park and Elk River have set up street improvement districts.
“All utility users would pay this tax,” he said. “What you’re saying to the legislature is, ‘Please give us this tool to use.’ ”

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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