By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – Improvements planned next year for another section of Evergreen Avenue are drawing opposition from property owners who could face paying special assessments.
Some of them were on hand last month when the Howard village board voted 7-2 to approve a resolution declaring the village’s intent to levy special assessments on Evergreen Avenue.
The road would be reconstructed from a rural section with gravel shoulders and ditch drainage to an urban section with curb and gutter with storm sewer drainage between Glendale Avenue and Linden Lane.
Trustees Craig McAllister and Scott Beyer opposed the board’s preliminary resolution.
Director of Engineering Mike Kaster said the resolution is the first step to direct staff to generate plans to move forward with the project.
“This doesn’t mean the project goes through and special assessments are final,” Kaster said. “There will be other opportunities for residents to speak. Specifically, the final resolution includes a public hearing. That will be at a later date, most likely in winter, once the plans are finally completed and we have bids available.”
The project, which is budgeted in the capital projects for $2.6 million, calls for sanitary sewer and laterals, water main and services, storm sewer and laterals, sidewalks, driveways, curb and gutter, asphalt roadway and stormwater management construction.
McAllister said he objected to charging special assessments to property owners mandated to hook up to municipal sewer and water service when they have functioning wells and septic systems.
“I think that a lot of (special assessments are) a little over-burdensome, and we need to have a conversation about that,” he said.
Village President Burt McIntyre said the village looked at other possibilities three years ago when it formed a temporary special committee, which included McAllister and himself among the four members.
“We have not been able to find a better way to do what we’re doing,” McIntyre said. “We haven’t been able to find a better way, based on what other communities are doing, that makes us outside the realm of normality.”
He said the village will consider being able to “do something to ease the pain, whatever that may be,” for those who face special assessments with the project.
“If there is a better way to do this, we need to find out what it is,” McIntyre said. “We haven’t found it so far.”
Trustee Ray Suennen, who was also on the special committee, said shifting special assessment charges to taxpayers, in general, would be unfair to those who already paid special assessments and would then have to cover the cost for others.
“(Charging special assessments) is something I definitely do not like,” Suennen said. “It is something, though, that I’m not sure there is a better alternative, although I’d like to find it.”
Objections to another road reconstruction project and its related special assessments were recently aired before the board for the work taking place this year on portions of Evergreen Avenue and Pinecrest Road.
Board members suspended the rules to allow affected residents the opportunity to speak.
Jim Cherney, who owns a 5-acre parcel where he lives along Evergreen Avenue, said the village’s plan to charge special assessments to the affected property owners to reconstruct the road “really sucks.”
“We have to pay for the road reconstruction, pay for the storm sewer and have to hook up to sewer and water, and on and on and on,” he said. “I’m mean, (it’s going to cost) thousands and thousands of dollars. Times are a little bit tough right now. How the heck are we supposed to afford this? We’ll be paying for this forever.”
Cherney asked the board to consider delaying the requirement to hook up to municipal sewer and water or grandfathering existing homes so they wouldn’t have to connect.
“We have a perfectly functioning well and septic (system),” he said. “We enjoy our well water. That all works good. We didn’t have to hook up for that.”
Cherney, who attributed that section of Evergreen Avenue being torn up to dump trucks and heavy equipment, said the current road would be in fine condition if only area residents used it.
“The biggest problem is we’re going to spend all this money (and) we’ll never get this money back,” he said. “I know, I’ve talked to realtors. This won’t help our property values at all.”