Citizens object to assessments

FAIRMONT – Major street and utility improvements along North Elm Street aren’t likely to boost low property values in the area, but they could hurt residents who cannot afford the costly assessments, residents told the Fairmont City Council on Monday.

Three property owners have filed written objections to assessments they received for reconstruction of North Elm Street. They now have 30 days to take their cases to district court to file a lawsuit against the city.

Assessments for reconstruction projects are $75 per front footage. The actual cost of the improvements is $545 per lineal foot, according to Public Works Director Troy Nemmers.

“How do you arrive at the amount of the assessment being equal to what I gained in value?” asked Preston Anderson, referring to the city’s assessment policy.

Near the property Anderson owns are two blighted lots and a vacant, dilapidated elevator.

“It’s starting to look more like Detroit than Fairmont, Minnesota,” he said, and the reconstruction project alone is “not going to raise values for that part of town.”

The relief Anderson and others requested Monday has already been coming from the city through its efforts to tear down blighted houses, said Fairmont City Administrator Mike Humpal. As for the value of the reconstruction, those improvements provide “sustainability to the neighborhood.”

Ben Hoppe shared concerns similar to those of Anderson’s. He passed out pictures of the elevator and rundown houses to the council, eyesores he can see from his property. In his estimate, some of the homes in the neighborhood are worth less than the assessments their owners face.

Seventy-five dollars a foot is “too much based on the property value in that area,” he said.

Hoppe also noted the footage for which he was billed is more than what he actually owns. The council approved the assessments Monday, but did not include Hoppe’s assessment, as city staff will be researching the accurate footage.

Written objections to the assessments had to be turned in Monday to City Hall. In addition to Anderson and Hoppe, James Kelly also submitted an objection.

Assessments for reconstruction projects can be paid off over a 15-year period, at a 4 percent interest rate.

Other street improvement assessments approved Monday night were for resurfacing portions of Cardinal Street, Cedar Park Road, Roland Avenue and Southwood Drive, and sealcoating numerous streets throughout town.