Two Harbors residents affected by the 2019 streets and alleys improvement projects had the opportunity to share their feedback and officially object to assessments placed on their properties during a hearing Monday, Nov. 25, at City Hall.

About 10 residents attended the hearing. Prior to a question-and-comment period, city engineer Joe Rhein of Bolton and Menk made a presentation about the assessment process and explained property owners' rights, how the assessments were determined and how the payment deferral process works if a property owner is qualified and has a financial hardship.

The segments involved in this year's project include:

  • Eighth Avenue, from Ninth Street to its west end;
  • Ninth Avenue, from 15th Street to its east end;
  • Alley north of Second Avenue, Second to Fourth streets;
  • Alley north of Seventh Avenue, Eighth to Ninth streets;
  • Alley north of Eighth Avenue, Eighth to Ninth streets.

The total amount to be assessed is $369,366, which represents 31% of the total project costs, $1.17 million. The city is paying the other 69% of the project costs, roughly $806,645.

According to the city's special assessment policy, the share of the project costs are 50% for paving the alleys and east-west avenues and 15% for north-south streets.

Assessments on storm sewer work, drain tile, water mains and sanitary sewer reconstruction costs are fully covered by the city. This means that any improvements at or above ground will be assessed, while underground work costs will be taken on by the city. In this case, these improvements only affected those located along the Eighth Avenue segment, as Ninth Avenue was a repavement-only project and no water or sewer lines run through the alleys.

Assessments were done on a per-lot basis, meaning that the amount assessed for the project was divided equally among houses along the block.

Few objections, more questions

Following the 30-minute presentation, residents presented their comments and questions about the assessment amounts and the construction work.

Resident Rick Hogenson brought up several issues with the construction of the alley north of Second Avenue between Third and Fourth streets. His main complaint regarded the apron of his garage being removed and replaced, despite it being in relatively good condition, and that the assessed costs were not communicated well. Rhein purported the removal was necessary due to the slope of the alley in relation to the driveway.

Hogenson was also unhappy with water pooling in the alley following the reconstruction, something other residents along the same alley were unsatisfied with. Rhein said it was an issue that could see more development in the future when the construction company comes back to follow up on punch list items.

Along the same alley, resident Nik Dallos said the construction had removed his ability to park behind his property as the slope angle is too steep.

"It's kind of a big loss," Dallos said. "I understand the alleys were first designed back in the day when people didn't have two to three cars, but it makes things more difficult for us."

Dallos' item was also added to the list of issues to resolve.

Other residents complained that the project isn't complete because the grass wasn't replaced. Rhein said the construction was completed too late in the year to allow for seeding, but that the construction crew will return in the spring to complete landscaping projects.

Following the hearing, the council voted unanimously to approve the assessments; Councilor Craig Jussila was absent.