Marshall City Council sets updated street assessment policy

City will now cover part of driveway replacement costs

Photo by Deb Gau Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson explained some of the financial impacts of new street assessment policies.

MARSHALL — Marshall City Council members looking for a way to take some of the sting out of special assessments approved changes to city policies on Tuesday night. Now, the city will step in to help cover more of the cost of replacing driveways torn up by street construction.

City council member James Lozinski said the policy changes were a good start, but in the long run Marshall also needed to re-evaluate assessments for commercial properties.

At the council’s regular meeting Tuesday, Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson and Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson explained that the proposed assessment policy changes would help lower the cost of assessments for residential properties.

“We have been asked, how can the city step up to the plate a little more?” Simpson said.

Under the proposed assessment policy, the city of Marshall would pay half the cost of residential driveway aprons replaced as a part of street construction. Driveway expansions or completely new driveway aprons would still be the responsibility of the property owner.

Minnesota law requires that assessments account for at least 20 percent of costs for a street reconstruction project, Simpson said. Even with the city helping pay for driveway replacement, he said Marshall should still meet that required minimum.

Olson provided some cost breakdown figures for recent city street projects, with and without the city paying for half of driveway apron replacements. Under current city assessment policies, the upcoming Saratoga Street reconstruction project included a total of $109,123 in driveway assessments. Overall, assessments would pay for 25.7 percent of the total project cost.

With the city paying for half the driveway costs, there would only be $76,592 in driveway assessments. Assessments would pay for 24.7 percent of the total project cost.

Simpson and Olson also said residential properties would only be assessed for street construction if they were immediately adjacent to the construction.

Olson said the city would still have a maximum assessment of $5,500 for residential properties. And if a residential property that’s already been assessed for one street project is affected by a second street project, it would get credit for the already-existing assessment. That would lessen the impact of street assessments on properties like corner lots, Olson said.

“I feel like we need more detail there … as to exactly how corner lots are going to be treated,” said council member Glenn Bayerkohler. Bayerkohler said there are other Minnesota cities that spell out in their policies how assessments are calculated for corner lots.

Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson said in some ways those details would be more appropriately covered under finance department procedures, instead of city policies.

“I think this is a good compromise,” Lozinski said, but the city shouldn’t stop there. “I think it’s something we need to continue working on.”

Council member John DeCramer also cautioned that lowering street assessments increases the city’s ad valorem taxes.

In the end, council members voted 5-1 to approve the assessment policy changes. Bayerkohler cast the vote against, saying he wanted more formalized language on how corner lots would be assessed.