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40th Street special assessment district passes

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx An undeveloped stretch of 40th Street West is seen May 14. The City Commission created a special assessment district to cover water and sanitary sewer costs along the road, but not all property owners are happy with the agreement.

The city and 40th Street landowners finally overcame an impasse regarding infrastructure improvements along the undeveloped road after months of discussion, but not everyone is pleased with the outcome.

Dickinson City Commission members approved a resolution to create a special assessment district Monday for potable water and sanitary sewer work along what Commission President Dennis Johnson called the “most expensive half-mile street this city’s ever built.”

City Attorney Matt Kolling said that resolution does not commit the city or the 13 landowners to any specific costs, yet. Final payment amounts on the $1.5 million project will be assessed by the special assessment commission, likely based on how much each property benefits from the improvements.

The approved resolution “allows us to move forward with this project,” Kolling said.

A similar resolution had been scheduled for the commission’s July 7 meeting but was removed from the agenda after last-minute talks between some property owners and city officials, pushing back the long-delayed capital improvement project even further.

The more comprehensive special assessment district would have seen the city pay for the full $7 million improvement project — including water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and external street work — but was protested by a majority of property owners in June. No protest period is allowed for the water and sewer special assessment district.

Commissioner Klayton Oltmanns said that even though the new agreement is “flipped the absolute opposite way” from initial discussions over the project, it will provide landowners the services they need on the deadlines they want to meet.

“You can’t say that we haven’t been trying to make this project feasible for everyone,” Oltmanns said. “There’s costs incurred not only by taxpayers, but there’s benefits to it, too.”

But landowners who spoke out at the meeting raised concerns that they were being assessed unfair amounts and wouldn’t see proportional benefits.

Chris Fitterer, co-owner of The Hub truck stop now under construction along the street, said he is concerned that come opening day, he will still be without necessary services.

Fitterer and his partners were not among the majority of landowners to protest against the previous special assessment district, which would have potentially split the costs of construction evenly among landowners. Under it, his business would have been required to pay $167,000. With the new special assessment district, Fitterer could be assessed an estimated $421,000.

“Is this feasible for just water and sewer? That’s a great question,” he said. “And I never voted (the previous assessment) out, I never did any wrong. I worked with the cit, and now my assessments are doubled.”

Melanie Kathrein, whose property is on the edge of the 40th Street project boundary, asked that her property be left out of the special assessment altogether.

Commissioner Gene Jackson said that though he is “personally ready to move forward” on the project, he has concerns with the fairness of the district and the amounts assessed to each landowner.

“I think it’s easier to get consensus on fairness in principle, than it is fairness in dollar amounts,” he said. “But we do have to work through this thing.”

Jackson seconded a motion to approve put forth by Commissioner Carson Steiner. Self-proclaimed “new guy” Scott Decker was the only member to vote against passage.

“For me, the numbers just don’t add up,” Decker said. “I don’t have a warm and fuzzy on it.”

He said some businesses will benefit more than others.

“It is a hard pill for some of the business owners,” he said.

Johnson said that though not all parties will agree fully on the resolution, “it doesn’t seem really to be a very good option to do nothing.”

If the district moves forward, bids will be opened in late August and awarded Sept. 1, with construction set to begin directly after.