Construction project puts focus back on Marshall street assessments

MARSHALL — It wasn’t a question of whether new utilities and streets in a Marshall neighborhood were needed, Marshall City Council members said.

Instead, it was the fact the city was calling for more street construction before trying to find a better way to do special assessments, that led council member James Lozinski to say he couldn’t approve the project. Lozinski ended up casting a lone dissenting vote, as council members approved street and utility reconstruction on parts of both Marguerite Avenue and South Bend Avenue.

At the council’s regular meeting Tuesday, council members received a feasibility report on replacing the streets, water mains, sanitary sewer and storm sewer lines on Marguerite Avenue and South Bend Avenue between Camden Drive and Southview Drive. The water mains along those streets are undersized by current standards, and there are also problems with the sanitary sewer lines, where service lines connect to the main, said Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson.

Construction on the project is planned to begin this spring. The engineer’s estimate for construction is $784,500. Total estimated project costs, including engineering and a 10 percent allowance for contingencies, are about $1 million.

City staff are working on scheduling a public information meeting on the project, tentatively for next week, Olson said.

The next step in the process for council members was to vote on calling for a public hearing on the construction project. However, a lot of the council discussion Tuesday night focused on the potential special assessments the project would mean for homeowners on Marguerite and South Bend. In the past couple of months, council members have been discussing whether Marshall ought to change how it handles special assessments, to be less burdensome to property owners. The topic even made up part of a council work session earlier this month.

Lozinski said he couldn’t personally support the Marguerite/South Bend construction projects — even though he wasn’t opposed to the construction. The city needed an answer to the assessment question first, he said.

“We as a council need to take a grasp on special assessments … and resolve that,” Lozinski said.

Other council members agreed that the city had to address special assessments but said Marshall also shouldn’t wait to maintain its streets and utilities.

“The condition of the water main and sewer is such that it’s in bad shape,” Olson told council members.

Olson also said the special assessment process for city projects is separate from the construction process. The city could still have time to work on changes to the assessment process, he said.

Council members voted 5-1 to officially receive the feasibility report on the construction project, and to call for a public hearing. Lozinski cast the vote against.

The public hearing on the Marguerite Avenue and South Bend Avenue project will be held March 13.