by Heidi L. Everett
St. Joseph residents asked questions and expressed concern at the June 7 City Council meeting during the public assessment hearing on 2021 street and utility improvements totaling more than $3.5 million.
Proposed assessments include resurfacing roads and making sidewalk ramps compliant with accessibility requirements in the neighborhood around Northland Park, updating water and sewer service via alleys downtown, and widening 20th Avenue to accommodate new apartments.
The City of St. Joseph would be responsible for 65 percent of the costs, and 35 percent would be funded through special assessment.
For the Northland Park neighborhood resurfacing, for example, 138 residential properties would be assessed from $1,090 to $4,000. These assessments are payable over 10 years in equal installments at three percent interest, which is approximately $100 to $400 annually plus interest.
Residents were notified of the public hearing by mail the last week of May and had to submit objections in writing prior to the public hearing.
Nicole Folkerts, who lives on Jasmine Lane near Northland Park, presented a petition with 23 names of residents who “hate” the proposed assessment.
“People are hurting right now, and this is not the time for this,” she said.
Folkerts asked for clarification on why the resurfacing is needed now and was told it would extend the life of the street.
Once a street starts to deteriorate, it degrades quickly and must be rebuilt at a more expensive cost to residents, said Randy Sabart, city engineer.
At the hearing, two residents talked about the amount of traffic on Jasmine Lane as a through street.
Craig Kern asked for clarification on how that through traffic is factored into the wear on the street and if the city is doing its job to maintain the road appropriately.
Jacqueline Hoyhtya asked about signage and other options to make the street safer. “It’s only a matter of time before a child gets hit,” she said.
Finally, at least two Northland Park neighborhood residents submitted emails expressing the proposed assessments would pose economic hardship because they are on fixed incomes.
“Residents are angry,” Folkerts said. “They are trying to get relief from COVID, and this is horrible timing.”
Following the hearing, the council voted unanimously to accept the proposed assessments.
Property owners have 30 days from June 7 to prepay all or any part of their assessment interest-free. After the 30 days, interest will begin to accrue. The first assessment payments are due in 2022.
Assessments may be deferred for military, seniors or those with disabilities. Forms are available from the city.