The Isanti City Council passed a much-debated street and sewer repair project in a surprising vote on Tuesday after members failed to reach an agreement on the issue in two previous meetings.
The project was left to an uncertain future after it failed to garner the necessary super-majority vote in the last meeting, but was revived in the regular meeting on April 19 when Councilor Sue Larson proposed a partial version of the project that would repair the problematic 4th Avenue portion.
Larson had voted against the complete project twice before, citing the burden that the $1.29 million price tag would place on the city and residents already facing challenges from the economy.
According to City Engineer Brad DeWolf, the 4th Avenue repairs alone would cost approximately $250,000, but he cautioned that undertaking the repairs street by street would lead to a higher overall cost.
Mayor George Wimmer and Councilor Ross Lorinser also objected to the scaled-down plan, saying it would be shortsighted and unfair to taxpayers if the city only performed repairs after problems arose.
Lorinser said postponing the rest of the repairs was a gamble, since the city had no way of knowing if there would be major failures with the clay sewers.
“But fixing it—just one portion of it when we’re going to have issues in other areas—isn’t a solution either,” Lorinser said.
Lorinser then made a motion to move forward with the complete version of the project, which includes portions of SW 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th avenues as well as Broadway Street and Elizabeth Street.
After the council passed Lorinser’s motion 5-0, the project will next be advertised for bids. A proposed schedule for the project anticipates the bid being awarded in June with construction to begin soon thereafter.
Council approves increased
The council also voted to increase sewer charges after hearing a report that projected the sewer fund would be depleted by 2012 if charges were left at current levels.
The base rate will increase from $4.07 to $20.28 this year, and will increase with inflation by 3 percent from 2012-2015. The usage charge, which is currently $6.20 per 1,000 gallons, will increase by 4 percent this year and will increase 3 percent over the next three years.
Sewer charges are based on water usage in the first three months of the year, which shows water use without outdoor activities like watering lawns and washing cars.
The council voted against inflationary increases in water charges as the fund is projected to remain healthy.
According to the study, the city maintains a healthy general fund balance relative to its expenses. Debt per capita and taxes per capita decreased from 2009 to 2010.
The study also showed that Isanti also spends 30 percent less on administration costs compared to peer cities in Minnesota, for which Wimmer praised city staff.
“It’s something that I think should not be lost on anybody, especially as we go through another budget cycle here,” Wimmer said.