Road project source of confusion, objection to Dayton homeowners

Upset about proposed assessments

by SEAN COTE

SUN PRESS INTERN

The Dayton City Council met Tuesday, July 9, to discuss the proposed Territorial Road/Rush Creek Road trunk utility improvements as part of a special assessment hearing.

Several owners felt confused or outright objected to assessments on their property for which they would front the cost of development, which is estimated at $23,000 per owner.

The project would extend the sewer/water service system and improve the deteriorating asphalt and ground conditions along those two roads up to Sundance Woods, affecting 15 properties. Temporary easements would also be built and the pipes would be kept away from the nearby creek. The roads would also be widened to 16 feet.

The meeting covered the proposed work involved, current and possible contracting bids, schedule progress, and total cost for the project, which from a low bid by S.R. Weidema would total about $3 million, more than $700,000 more than the feasibility estimate of $2.3 million.

Several property owners spoke in open forum during the hearing, expressing a mix of dismay, confusion, and objection to the proposed changes. Laurie Andres, one of the 15 owners affected by the project, stated that written materials she received — about what her responsibilities regarding payment of her assessment were — did not match conversations she had with the members of the council. She explained that, in letters she received about the assessment she was supposed to pay, she was under the impression that the $23,000 due was an up-front payment rather than an amount that could be paid in installments over time or deferred with accruing interest.

Barbara Fraser spoke similarly, wanting the options for the owners to be specifically outlined in their written materials. Rod Pederson expressed his objection to the Met Council’s ability to force owners to pay assessments, even though they have not once done so in the past. However, Eric Lucero, one of the council members, stated he did not trust the Met Council not to enforce payment.

Other owners wrote to the council, including Daniel and Debora Koehler, Connie Farbert, and LeRoy and Selma Stern. They all object to Tom Dehn’s project and have no intentions of hooking up their properties to the sewer and water service that will be built, nor do they intend to pay any part of their assessments.

Further questions regarding the project outlined why the homeowners must pay equal shares when not all of the properties are the same size. One owner who recently purchased land and was not yet listed with the council’s records as the current owner, pointed out that his property was a vacant field, and that he had no intention of developing because he was going to resell it later. Mayor Tim McNeil suggested that one option would be to assess the 15 properties at $5,000 and nothing else, and wanted to avoid a “leapfrog project.”

Near the end of the meeting, councilor Rick Shermer made a motion to investigate the engineering process, with Scott Salonek seconding, and both criticized Mark Hanson, the city engineer, who presented the Territorial Road/Rush Creek Road project to the rest of the council. Suggestions for Hanson’s removal were voiced based on the manner in which the project was being handled. Hanson responded “I want to keep working for Dayton … it’s not fun to sit here and not get support for what you’re doing. I’m not perfect but I strive to be perfect.” Anne Ziebell, commenting on Shermer and Salonek’s criticism, added that “It’s clear there is a lack of trust.”

The council left the concerns about the Territorial Road/Rush Creek Road project open to the next meeting July 23 at 7 p.m.

Other topics during the meeting included the Brockton Interchange grant brought up by Steve Yager, which was not approved. He suggested labeling the project as a “light rail,” and questioned the council on who currently owns and who would own the land once completed. The council responded that less than 10 percent is owned by the city with the rest private land.

Julie Teese also suggested that the speed limits along Co. Rd. 81 be reduced to 30 mph and more heavily enforced due to dangerous driving near her house.

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