By BILL SHEA
Money from a monthly fee paid by all property owners will be used to finance a new storm sewer that will serve 22 homes on 10th Avenue North, following a decision by the Fort Dodge City Council Monday.
Mayor Matt Bemrich, who was critical of the decision, said the move would consume 5 percent of the annual stormwater utility revenue and could result in other projects being delayed.
He added that the decision amounted to ''making the rest of the community pay for their improvement.''
As originally conceived two years ago, most of the cost of the 10th Avenue North job would have been paid for with assessments added to the property tax bills of the people whose land would be served by the new storm sewer.
In 2010, the city government borrowed $150,000 via a general obligation bond issue to pay for the work. The proposed assessments were to pay off that debt.
However, Richard Higgins, a former City Council candidate, circulated a petition among the property owners there which triggered a state law requiring six of the seven council members to vote in favor of levying the assessments. The assessments were not approved, and the project was put on hold.
This year, the council revived the project and directed the city staff to proceed without levying assessments. On Aug. 27, the council hired Hovey Construction of Fort Dodge to do the work at a cost of $166,936.80.
The project site is on 10th Avenue North east of 32nd Street and south of the aquatic center.
The council held a workshop discussion Monday to come to a consensus on how to finance the debt. The options were getting the money through the debt service levy that is part of every resident's property tax bill or taking the money from the stormwater utility account.
''I don't want to see it paid through the taxes,'' Councilman Don Wilson said.
He and councilmen Kim Alstott, Dean Hill and Mark Taylor all said they wanted to use the stormwater utility money.
Councilman Dave Flattery has always favored the use of assessments to pay for the work, and on Monday he said he could not support anything other than assessments.
''I think we're setting a precedence that will cause a lot of problems going forward,'' he said.
Councilman Andy Fritz was absent.
About $22,000 will have to be taken from the stormwater utility account every year for eight years to pay off the debt for the project, according to City Manager David Fierke.
The city collects about $500,000 a year for the stormwater utility. The amount a property owner pays each month in stormwater utility fees depends on how much impervious surface, such as roofs, driveways and parking lots, exists on their land. Most homeowners pay $3 a month.
In response to a question from Wilson, Scott Meinders, a civil engineer for the city, said about $15,000 may be trimmed from the project's cost by using smaller pipes. Meinders is to meet with representatives of Hovey Construction today to discuss the project.