Street and sewer repair project remains obstructed

Luke Reiter

Isanti City Council

The street and sewer repairs planned for this summer hit a dead end Tuesday when they failed to get the approval of a super majority for the second time.

In the regular meeting on April 5, newly elected Councilor Steve Lundeen paired with Councilor Sue Larson to block the project in a 3-2 vote. The project was previously debated and came to the same vote in the March 16 meeting.

The 3-2 simple majority was not sufficient to move the repairs forward because all city projects that involve special assessments for homeowners require a 4-1 majority.

Mayor George Wimmer and Councilor Ross Lorinser spoke in favor of the project, saying that while the lagging economy made the assessments seem daunting, it also gave the city the most affordable opportunity to undertake the project.

“We’re trying to get the best possible deal we can find,” Wimmer said, pointing out that the estimated cost is 30 percent lower now than it was in 2008.

Wimmer also said the decision to delay this portion of project once already had allowed for recent damaging sewer backups on 4th Avenue that the city has had to pay to fix.

“We need to get this thing done before we have other major issues,” Wimmer said.

Larson countered that it would be imprudent to undertake the $1.29 million project now given the financially-strapped state of the city and many residents.

“There’s a portion of it that needs to be done on 4th Avenue,” Larson said. “But I really feel with everything the way it is right now the only right thing to do is to not move forward with the full project.”

Larson made a motion to direct city staff to provide estimates for an alternative project limited to 4th Avenue, but it failed in a 2-3 vote.

Lorinser and Wimmer responded that further segmenting the street repairs would be inefficient and would lead to a higher overall cost for taxpayers, and delaying the project would almost certainly bring the estimates at odds with inflation.

“We need to make the fiscally responsible decision, and granted the fiscally responsible decision to me seems like spending money, but spending it at a good time with good reason,” Lorinser said.

Having failed to overcome the minority obstruction, the project will be shelved unless a councilor opts to pursue the repairs yet again.

In other action

• The council accepted the resignation of assistant city administrator/city clerk Irene Bauer, who will retire this September. Bauer has worked for the City of Isanti in various capacities for the past 23 years. Members of the council expressed their appreciation for her service and dedication before approving the item.