Bayport OKs first major street project in years, over objections

In a 4-0 vote, with one abstention, the Bayport City Council approved the city’s first major street and sewer infrastructure project in years June 5.

The project includes street reconstruction, water main installation, sewer and drainage improvements and more. Work will take place in several areas of the city.

Including engineering and other services, the total project will cost about $708,000.

The city is assessing $277,580 — about half the construction cost — to adjacent properties, as outlined in its assessment policy adopted in 1991. Two dozen homeowners will be charged special assessments — most around $8,000.

Several residents objected to the assessments June 5, some making emotional appeals and saying the payments will create a financial hardship.

One resident said paying the $8,000 over 10 years will increase her mortgage to the point where she can’t make the payments, even though she already works a full-time and part-time job.

Although the city has known for years it would need to begin updating its aging infrastructure, this year’s project was triggered by the fact that Engineered Supply — a new business in town on Second Avenue South — would be connecting to city water and sewer. Because that would require the road to be torn up, city staff said it made sense to make infrastructure and utility improvements to the immediate area.

Another street reconstruction project and three drainage projects were bundled with the Second Avenue work, because doing one larger project should lower the cost per unit, compared to doing each project separately, according to city engineer John Parotti.

Planned work includes:

1. Second Avenue South (100-200 block): water main installation, sanitary sewer extension, storm water improvements and street reconstruction.

2. Third Avenue South (from Highway 95 to Fifth Street): road reconstruction with curb and gutter; storm water improvements; sanitary sewer improvements.

3. Alley (between Third Avenue South and Fourth Avenue South): road reconstruction, sanitary sewer improvements.

4. Fourth Avenue South (east of intersection with Third Street South): pave gravel street and correct drainage issues.

5. Drainage swale (on the 600 block of Third Avenue South): storm water improvements.

6. Sixth Avenue North (200 block): storm water drainage improvements (ease flooding conditions).

The council struggled with the decision to move forward but ultimately concluded the project was in the best interest of the city and was the best long-term solution.

“You can’t just keep putting these projects off, because it’s always going to be some families that come to us and say, ‘This is really hard on us,’” Councilmember Michele Hanson said.

“We have pretty much exhausted just about every idea that we have to try to make this more manageable,” Mayor Susan St. Ores said, adding that the decisions weren’t made behind closed doors.

She said the city reviewed various possible changes to the project scope, called a special meeting to review the city’s assessment policy, and more.

St. Ores asked public works director Matt Kline and city engineer John Parotti if they believed the proposed project was “the very best solution to address these issues.”

Both said yes.

“We don’t take any of this lightly,” City Administrator Adam Bell said, adding that city staff members went into public service to help people. “We understand this is a painful process, maintaining a city.”

The council voted 4-0 to approve the special assessments and the project, with Hanson abstaining because her property will see an $8,010 assessment. The city attorney said the law wouldn’t require Hanson to abstain but that she has the ability to do so.

St. Ores was taken aback by Hanson’s abstention.

“I am puzzled in the participation in the past conversations up to this point, now to abstain,” St. Ores said.

Hanson said she had questions she needed answered and felt residents had questions she needed to hear answered, but it didn’t feel right to vote on a special assessment to her own property.

This year’s project is the first in what is expected to be a series of infrastructure projects in the coming years. Currently the city is working on a citywide infrastructure plan, evaluating the needs and laying out a timeline for improvements so residents know what to expect. The plan is expected to be complete next year.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]