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Residents express concerns about special assessments for streetlights

Dickinson residents aired questions and concerns about special assessments being proposed for streetlights in the northern part of the city Monday during a regular City Commission meeting at City Hall.

Dickinson residents aired questions and concerns about special assessments being proposed for streetlights in the northern part of the city Monday during a regular City Commission meeting at City Hall.

The city is looking to install streetlights in the Koch Meadow Hills subdivision and partially in the Prairie Hills area.

Based off of its current received bids, the city’s special assessment committee has estimated the project’s cost at 28 cents per square foot.

A 30-day protest period is in effect, concerning the project as a whole. If more than 50 percent of people in a special assessment district voice their opposition to the project, then it is taken off the map.

Resident Jim Sullivan proposed his own alternative to the special assessments in his section.

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Sullivan, who said he’s with Sullivan Construction, said his company has done similar projects in Bismarck and charged around 10 cents per square foot. He proposed he take his own section of the district off the map and have his company do that part itself, lifting the special assessments of his neighbors.

“Seriously, I can do it for half the price that you’re asking it as,” Sullivan said.

City engineer Craig Kubas explained that, prior to the city’s approved lighting standard and during its period of rapid growth in the past few years, utility companies were responsible for erecting streetlights in developing areas. These often consisted of a wooden poles with the light fixture affixed.

As construction in the area became busier, Kubas said utility companies decided to strictly provide utilities and left the responsibility of the streetlights to the city. It then paid for them on a lease basis.

Seeking its own system for installing streetlights in developing lots, Kubas said the city turned to special assessments, as North Dakota law and the Century Code allows.

One resident said he had a large lot in the assessment district, which he said he figured would be around $4,000. He asked why assessments were being done by the square foot, rather than the length of curb on a landowner’s property.

“Due to the varying sizes of the lots, we felt that a square footage basis was as fair as anything,” Kubas said, adding that assessment techniques are “never perfect.”

Commissioner Carson Steiner said, at some point, if the commission didn’t like the bids it had received, it could throw them out and keep looking for lower bids.

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“It’s not a done deal, as far as the costs at this point,” he said. “Hopefully we will get someone to come in at 10, 15 cents.”

Commission President Gene Jackson reminded the public that the protest period, for now, is only about whether or not people want streetlights in general.

“I want to make sure everybody understands, though, that at the time the assessment commission spreads the precise assessments, then there’s another opportunity where everybody can protest each individual assessment,” he said.

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