By Bruce Dierking – KNDY News
The response was a resounding “no” from a large contingent of eastside Marysville residents meeting Thursday evening, who were asked to consider property tax assessments in order to improve 11th/12th, and Keystone roads.
Citing 15 years of little or no maintenance, broken promises, and increases in usage due to development and residual rural traffic, including agricultural and commercial vehicles, emotions ran high at times as resident after resident reminded the Mayor, City Administrator, and council members in attendance of the significant property tax increases many had seen since annexation, a number of which were brought into the city when a sewer line was extended to the area in 2003-04. Properties at that time were assessed $7,000 per hookup, and the rural water district that had served the area was dissolved, merging with the city, then granting remaining assets including a large amount of cash that was earmarked for road improvements. A plan of chip seal was begun at the time, but was not maintained, and the roads have deteriorated to a current state so bad that the initial alternative proposal included a return to gravel, if the residents were not to consider pavement options through a tax improvement district. That infuriated residents further, who overwhelmingly did not wish to return to that.
Cost estimates for concrete for the nearly 3-mile road project would likely top $3 million dollars, with annual assessments roughly calculated from $2,117 to $2,419 per lot for a 20-year period. That appeared a no starter from the beginning, without so much as a cost share offer. Several examples were cited of other street replacements funded entirely by the city, through the sales tax fund. It was agreed that over the years many of the properties were added without a plan for funding road improvements.
City officials were quick to acknowledge that an annual street budget of just $1.2 million dollars, and over 50 miles of city streets would not allow such a large project to be absorbed. The Mayor had previously petitioned county commissioners for assistance, since some are shared roads that are adjacent to farm ground, and she noted that the City of Marysville contributed 16% of the county valuation yet received nothing in return from a $4 million annual county road and bridge budget. That recent request was received with favor from commissioner Barb Kicheafer but met resistance from Dave Baier and Keith Bramhall. Residents estimated that over half of the traffic passing was through traffic that included large farm equipment, railroad and commercial trucks, and other county residents, particularly on 12th road.
Jake Laur with Hall Bros. Construction rose with an alternative that his firm could offer a plan to rehabilitate the current roads, patching and adding a 1.5” asphalt overlay similar to work completed in recent years on the Herkimer and Bremen roads. At an estimated starting cost of perhaps some $90,000 per mile, he likened the process to repairing the roof, as opposed to building a new home. That brought its own round of questions, but did calm the conversation some, with a continued resistance to pay any additional special assessments. Concerns with pricing residents out of the city, and the potential impact on home resale values with higher taxes were reiterated.
In summary, Mayor Carla Grund said the takeaways were that improvements were needed, that residents had waited long enough, and that next steps include determining how we can afford improvements, and what pockets of money may be available. She noted potential access to state funds that were only available to the county, for cities under 5,000 residents, and urged those in attendance to approach them for participation. It was suggested that another meeting be scheduled soon, asking that the county commissioners attend. She noted that the Thursday meeting was intended only as a conversation starter and was also surprised when first cost estimates for concrete were presented, and were termed a “worst case scenario” as to what residents might expect. The city is to meet Monday with Hall Bros. to consider alternative options.