Ninth Ave. project irks taxpayers

Some protest was heard over the impending Ninth Avenue Northwest reconstruction project Monday night, and the Valley City City Commission vowed to do what they could to make it right.

“I think the assessment is unfair,” Ninth Avenue homeowner Mike Bresnahan told the commission. “In my case, the amount being assessed is about $21,000. The amounts are ridiculous relative to the values of the homes.”

Bresnahan cited several reasons for his protest of how the project is being assessed to taxpayers. He said Ninth Avenue constitutes a major truck route that is being paved above normal specifications, and the tax assessment should be spread out over a larger portion of the city, not just to homeowners in the immediate area.

Tax assessments for city projects are calculated by the linear footage of property bordering the project area, and Ninth Avenue costs are currently estimated at $116 per linear foot. Those who came up to protest cited the small number of owners being assessed compared to the Fifth Avenue Northeast project, where properties stretching several blocks out from the road were assessed, bringing the pool to roughly 350 homeowners.

“Even though there’s fewer property owners, it’s not like that linear foot wasn’t calculated,” said City Auditor Avis Richter, explaining that the equation was the best way to keep the taxes fair.

The total cost of the project is $4.8 million, with $800,000 of the project being paid for through the city, either with general obligation or infrastructure funds, and $600,000 being split among property owners.
“”There are less than 26 homeowners. This seems a very unfair burden to people who are lower to middle class,” said Gail Bresnahan. “The city has got to consider this. They cannot just slam this on us.”

“We have really attempted to be consistent in the way we have billed the special assessments out,” said Commissioner Jon Wagar. “As these things have gotten to be more and more expensive, we’ve gotten more calls for alternatives. We can’t just willy-nilly cut off the way we’ve done things for generations, because that is unfair.”

Some options were put on the table for alleviating the total cost of the project. The commission discussed the possibility of not assessing the cost of the retaining wall and bike path and paying for it from the city’s infrastructure fund. Mayor Bob Werkhoven also mentioned that because Ninth is a “farm to market” connection between the city and the county, he has asked Barnes County for $125,000. The money would roughly help pay for the retaining wall, “so that’s still in the works,” Werkhoven said, pending approval from the county.

Still, property owners in the Ninth Avenue area think whatever funds the city may drum up would be a drop in the bucket of their financial burden.
“The commission talked about enhancing the city, but we’re not feeling particularly enhanced right now,” said Mike Bresnahan.