Wadena City Council members unanimously approved special assessments for property owners directly benefiting from the city’s portion of CSAH 4 improvements at their regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 10.

The CSAH project was mentioned as one that didn’t go exactly as planned, as the project was extended an extra year. But the work that was completed this summer included the realignment of County State Aid Highway 4 as well as new water main and sanitary sewer under that roadway. Also included was the addition of a bike path along the portion of new road from Sunnybrook Park to Hwy 10.

The project costs totaled $1,644,091.12. Of that amount the city’s portion for utility improvements was worth $511,363 and of that amount, benefiting property owners will be assessed $131,009.31. Wadena County pays for the full amount of the roadway. The assessment can be paid in annual installments for up to 10 years.

During a public hearing before adoption of the resolution, council members heard from Wadena resident Ryan McQuiston who said that he’s not benefiting greatly after the reconstruction considering he lost about 10 feet of his frontage to a bike path that he feels is seeing minimal use. He added that his mailbox was moved to Harry Rich Drive, both an inconvenience and security concern in his opinion. He feels he may have to rent a box at the post office instead, adding more expenses to his budget. His special assessment was over $9,000. He asked council members to reconsider as this nearly doubles his taxes.

"It keeps pushing my pockets harder and harder," McQuiston said. "I hope the council considers the little guys that are struggling now."

McQuiston and council members shared no thoughts on other options for paying for the cost. Council member Jessie Gibbs was not present. Putting 100% of the cost of new construction and service pipes on benefiting property owners has been the standard council members followed in this case.

This assessment cost was derived from the cost per foot of the utility improvements including $22.126 per foot of sanitary sewer and $16.020 of water main. Additional costs were based on the size of water service and the sewer service to the property.

City engineer Phil Martin said that the costs fluctuated from the original estimate in that water main costs increased, while sanitary sewer costs decreased. Martin shared an example of costs. A 100-foot lot along with a 1-inch water service and 6-inch sewer came to a cost of $8,714.77.

Final tax levy, budget adopted

With no further discussion, only comments of rejoicing, council members unanimously approved adopting the final tax levy for 2020, which saw a decrease of 5.6% ($58,739.10) over 2019. The property tax levy totaled $992,809.69.

The council also adopted the 2020 budget for the city of Wadena with total revenues and expenditures planned for $3,957,578.