by Cori Hilsgen
The St. Joseph City council recently voted to hire an independent appraiser for the Park Terrace area improvements project to help determine what future benefits of the project would be.
City Administrator Judy Weyrens said the independent appraiser will conduct a pre-assessment report and will provide an opinion of the amount of probable benefit the properties will receive from the improvement. His opinion will then be used by the city to determine the amount that may be assessed to the property owners.
Park Terrace is one of the last sections of the city where old water pipe is still in service. That area contains about 42 homes.
Deficiencies in the utility system include sewer pipes with root intrusions, cracked and broken pipes, inadequate water mains and other issues which require updating.
Proposed construction is estimated to cost about $1.9 million and includes water main, storm drain, sewer and road improvements.
Past ongoing discussions between the city and area residents have focused on council members wanting to be proactive because the city doesn’t want the system to fail. Many residents agree the project is needed but question the cost and want the benefit to equal the assessment.
In the past, the city has assessed 60 percent of improvement projects. Council member Steve Frank has said he would like the city to develop a financial pool to help residents reduce their contributions and would like to see a lower property-owner contribution. He would like to see the council adopt a 50-percent formula for this and similar future projects.