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UPDATE: Special assessment public hearing set for Feb. 17

Actual assessments are to be determined. Actions following the meeting may be to award bids for the estimated $4.8 million project.

Map showing new water and sewer lines.png
This map shows the proposed path of new water lines extending and looping beyond the new Tri-County Health Care facility.
Image contributed by City of Wadena
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EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous article stated the special assessment public hearing would be Tuesday, Feb. 15. That date has been changed to Thursday, Feb. 17.

WADENA — A public hearing has been set for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 17, at the Wadena City Council chambers in regards to possible assessments related to the utility extension project that will serve Tri-County Health Care and could serve those along the extension project.

This meeting will let the public hear about the project details, learn estimated costs and what amount or if the city intends to assess property owners. Those attending can also be heard and ask questions. The city council uses this hearing as a chance to hear the public’s thoughts on the issue.

The issue at hand is the extension project estimated to cost $4.8 million. Of that cost, Tri-County Health Care is responsible for $4.3 million. The extension is being installed to service the new hospital facility. The other $500,000 comes from the addition of utility connections along the route that could serve properties along this extension should they wish to connect to the water and sewer lines now or in the future.

An earlier estimate suggested this project would cost closer to $3.2 million.

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It’s already been determined that TCHC is paying their portion of the cost, which is about 89% of the whole cost. With these bonds used to pay for the project, the city must assess at least 20% of the project. They are already well over that amount.

The difficult decision ahead is whether the city council deems the city’s portion to be assessed to the benefiting property owners or any number of scenarios. The extension would allow for 114 future connections, according to the engineering report.

“None of the parcels want necessarily to hook up, but we know it makes sense to at least provide services along the way,” said Phil Martin with Bolton & Menk, the city's engineering firm on the project. Attempting to tap into these lines after installation would be a significant cost to those seeking it at that time.

One element more recently adding to the cost to this project was a plan to increase the size of the sanitary sewer from a 10-inch to a 12-inch pipe. Martin said a 10-inch would work for the hospital needs, but would be undersized if other developments should tap in.

Martin further explained that the city’s previous precedence has been to assess benefiting property owners 100% for those brand new infrastructure pieces. But he suggested, “this is a different animal.” While it is new infrastructure and could be a benefit to select property owners, it’s new at the direction of development.

With no concrete plans, Mayor George Deiss shared one thought that the city not assess until someone hooks up to the utility or at the time of the property sale. Even if the city delays assessment, there needs to be a deadline in writing, Evans said.

“This one’s gonna fall into, you’re just gonna have to make the best decision you can,” Martin said. He understood that the city did not wish to assess much or any of this to property owners.

Martin said they could have bids in hand at the time of the public hearing, but they cannot award any until after the public hearing. Having bids at that time would allow the city to have the best cost estimate to share with the public.

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The public may hear various assessment scenarios come public hearing time next month. Councilman Jessie Gibbs said that this assessment, in his eyes, would be his hardest assessment decision in his time with the council.

He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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