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City hopes to not assess property owners for utility extension project

With a public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 17, residents shared their questions and concerns about the sewer and water services headed their way. The extension project will bring services to the new health center and residents on Greenwood Avenue. Residents at the meeting noted they already have sewer and water and do not want the city to assess them for the project costs.

A map highlighting new sewer and water in the city of Wadena.
The sanitary main improvements will run to 3rd Street NW and connect to Greenwood Avenue out to the Tri-County Health Care's new center. The water main will begin on Second Street NW, connect to Greenwood out to the health center, down 11th Street NW and onto Highway 10. There will be a lift station on Greenwood Avenue.
Contributed / Bolton and Menk
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WADENA — The Wadena City Council had a full chamber with about 15-20 Greenwood Avenue neighbors gathering the available information on the utility extension project near Tri-County Health Care’s new center.

With a public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 17, residents shared their questions and concerns about the city sewer and water services headed their way. The extension project will bring services to the hospital facility and residents on Greenwood Avenue. Residents at the meeting noted they already have sewer and water and do not want the city to assess them for the project costs.

The sanitary main improvements will run to 3rd Street NW and connect to Greenwood Avenue out to the new health center. The water main will begin on Second Street NW, connect to Greenwood out to the new center, down 11th Street NW and onto Highway 10. There will be a lift station on Greenwood Avenue.

The total project cost estimates come in at $4.5 million, or $4,503,600, with Tri-County paying $3,997,000. The city portion, which could be property owner assessments, is $506,600. The final assessments would be set in September or October with payments for 2023.

The city’s precedence in this type of project is to assess property owners at 100% of the cost. But this is a “unique project,” said Phil Martin of Bolton & Menk, the city's engineering firm on the project. In this project, the property owners did not initiate the process. Since Tri-County is paying for 89% of the costs, the city does not have to assess property owners at 100%.

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The city plans to assess property owners if they hook up to the services. That could be current or future property owners. Each property will receive sewer and water stubs to allow for future hook-up.

The final assessment might not be 0%, though, as interim city administrator David Evans noted. If property owners are not assessed, the assessment will be levied across the city of Wadena. Martin and Evans emphasized this is a 70 year and more project. Tri-County chief financial officer Kim Aagard was present at the meeting.

“The only reason this is being considered different than a normal city policy is because it wasn’t a project that was instigated by the neighborhood,” Evans said. “But it’s an advantage and there is a value to the residents that live along this road and there is a value to the city, that’s why we’re in favor of this project.”

The services are also cheaper to add now. The utility project will be complete by September 1, 2022 to help meet construction deadlines for the center to open in spring 2023.

“Part of the reason is if we had to go back and do two or three after the project was done we would probably spend what we’re going to spend now to put all of them in,” said Mayor George Deiss.

How will my property be affected?

Property owners asked about their specific lots from assessment costs to shallow well impacts and road changes.

Jim Stoneman, who owns several properties along those roads, wanted to hear from city and county leaders about plans on his properties. He expressed not needing the sewer and water services for the storage units he owns. He said if someone else bought the property the costs for sewer and water would be “their issue.”

“That’s what we’re hoping to come up with is a way to do it so it’s not, right now yours is absolutely no need for sewer and water, but 10 years down the road somebody makes you an offer, 5 years down the road makes you an offer you can’t refuse and they want to build something, they’re going to need sewer and water,” said Councilman Wade Miller. “That’s what we hope to accomplish is how we can come up with this that you’re not paying it.”

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The policy based on precedence would include costs for property owners whether or not they are in need of the service. If this remains, a corner lot would be assessed on both sides with a reduced rate for the second side.

Peter Carneal of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses clarified the possible costs, which would include the water main only based on their location.

“We like infrastructure,” Carneal remarked.

Why might properties be assessed?

The improvements are a benefit and add value to the properties. Minnesota statute 429 requires a certain percentage be assessed based on the benefit added for new construction. Tri-County’s cost coverage meets the percent requirement of 20%. The city can then assess property owners less.

“My thoughts with your plan sounds reasonable, you put in your utilities and when it’s time to tap into them, whoever, it’s all right there,” Paul Hockert said. He added that if you don’t need the services it’s more unnecessary.

Wadena Economic Development director Dean Uselman noted at least two properties plan to hook up to the services.

What is the construction process?

The construction bid process is ongoing but the general process will include excavating along those roads. Martin said multiple crews are likely.

The water services will get hooked in at Second Street. The lift station location will be central as they move out from there towards Tri-County’s new center. Infrastructure work is to be completed by July 31 at the center.

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A map highlighting new sewer and water in the city of Wadena.
The sanitary main improvements will run to 3rd Street NW and connect to Greenwood Avenue out to the Tri-County Health Care's new center. The water main will begin on Second Street NW, connect to Greenwood out to the health center, down 11th Street NW and onto Highway 10. There will be a lift station on Greenwood Avenue.
Contributed / Bolton and Menk

How will dewatering affect my shallow well?

Mark Hockert noted the dewatering process as a “huge concern” for his shallow water well. Kent Schmidt noted his well is only 15 feet deep. A dry year and previous dewatering at the hospital are also impacts, as Councilman Bruce Uselman noted.

“We do have that concern that when they bring the water table down, that if someone has a shallow well it might be impacted,” Martin said. “We’ve put in there measures for contractors to have to provide temporary water if they run into that situation. We’re honestly not certain if they will dewater to the point where it would dry somebody out.”

A contractor would run water to homes as necessary.

Deiss said if owners’ current sewer or water fail, adding to the city services would be a similar cost or less than replacing the system. If there is a well or septic system failure at the properties, hooking up to the city services are required based on location.

The water table typically returns within a few days, as Evans and Miller noted. But if the water does not come back, Evans smentioned possible negotiations between the city and the owner.

How will I be able to access my property during construction?

Martin and Evans assured property owners there will be access to their properties during construction and updates will be shared throughout the process in neighborhood and public meetings and newsletters.

Mark Hockert also noted accessibility concerns across Hwy 10 as people are “hauling” with the speed limit at 60 miles per hour.

Can I add just one of the services?

Yes. The city offers sewer and water services separately.

If you have a property near the project, the city has allowed services in the road right of way. The owner would be responsible for installation and maintenance.

Where will the fire hydrants go?

The fire hydrant placement will follow the water main on the north side. The spacing might be about 600-700 feet between each one with locations on Greenwood, 11th Street, at the health center and Hwy 10.

Owners can let their insurance companies know where the fire hydrants are to help their rate not increase. The hydrants also help the fire department in the event of a fire.

MORE INFRASTRUCTURE NEWS
Wadena Development Authority officials still want to move the project forward noting a major need for housing that is not going to get any cheaper.

How is Greenwood Avenue being changed?

The Greenwood Avenue road changes raised lots of questions. Greenwood Avenue is becoming CSAH 92 , which will be managed by Wadena County. The county will work on water pooling issues and straightening the curve for safety purposes. A small portion of sidewalk will be added near 10th and 11st Street.

The road will be tar instead of gravel, which could also impact future real estate taxes. The road will be widened, but not beyond the right of way. Driveway additions or changes would also be a county question.

“My point is to make sure you track that because it will affect the right of ways of the road, especially up there as they straighten them curves out,” Bruce Uselman said. “It also affects the speed once they pave that and it’s a County State Aid, so just beware of those kind of things as it goes in. It’ll be nice, less dust, they’re talking a trail maybe, walking path if that comes together for recreational purposes.”

Greenwood.JPG
A utility extension project would run along Greenwood Avenue in Wadena to the planned Tri-County Health Care complex west of town. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The road improvements are funded through state aid. The city does maintenance services like mowing and snow plowing.

“I think the county took this road over because they, in part, recognized that if you put the hospital at the end of this road you’re going to change this to serve more than just what it does now. It’s going to be a regionally significant road because ambulances or people coming to the hospital aren’t going to go all the way down to 10 to make their way across. People are going to stop, they’re going to cut back and forth,” Martin said. “This road is going beyond a residential city road, it’s going to turn into something that’s more transient in nature.”

If you have questions about the road changes, you can contact county engineer Darin Fellbaum at 218-631-7636 or darin.fellbaum@co.wadena.mn.us. Uselman encouraged keeping in contact regularly with Felbaum about the changes.

What happens if the property assessment remains?

Typically the city would assess the project at 100% assessment for the benefit added. The infrastructure is considered new construction because properties are not attached to city sewer or water on Greenwood Avenue.

Here are the potential costs, as outlined by Martin: A 100 foot lot would have water and sewer main costs along with water and sanitary service costs. The total assessment would be $10,019.25 paid over a number of years. The city previously used 15 years. The cost would be included in annual property taxes.

The assessed costs could be:

  • Sanitary sewer main upgrade: $18.549 per foot
  • Water main additions: $3.421 per foot
  • 6” sanitary sewer service: $3,682.78 per service
  • 1” water service: $4,139.47 per service

The city could also assess at a lower percentage.
“Nothing’s going to be decided in finality probably until September so there’s a lot of time to figure this out,” Evans said.

The city encourages residents to share their thoughts and concerns. You can contact David Evans at 218-631-7707 or mail a letter to 222 2nd Street SE, PO Box 30, Wadena, MN 56482.

Comments are welcomed through September.

Rebecca Mitchell is a Multimedia Reporter for the Wadena Pioneer Journal and Perham Focus. She loves capturing local stories through words, photos and videos, and providing resources for the community.
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