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May 20, 2019

5/6/2019 12:04:00 PM
Chisago City grapples with funding deferred street repairs

Crumbling streets and how to repair them dominated discussion at the April 23 Chisago City Council meeting.

Even before the council could tackle a scheduled agenda item on winter-damaged streets, a resident came forward to voice his neighborhood’s street concerns during the public comment portion of the meeting.

David Bianconi spoke to the council on behalf of the residents of Sharon’s Way near Matthew Drive. He said the patch put on the street 10 years ago has disintegrated. “It’s completely torn up,” said Bianchoni, “Winter did a number on it, and we wanted to see what the options are. Our kids can’t even ride bikes and scooters there. The surface of the street is coming off.”

Mayor Bob Gustafson responded to Bianconi saying, “This is a very bad year. The roads have just gone crazy. We’re going to have to grapple with where we’re going to get the money (for street repairs).”

Bianconi continued to plead his case, suggesting the possibility of holding fundraisers to help repair the streets.

The mayor replied saying, “I don’t know when we’ve ever had this many problems. It’s come to a head this winter. We’re trying to deal with it. We have to figure out where we can get the money and for how many roads.”

Later in the meeting, City Administrator John Pechman brought the street dilemma before the council, sharing photos of some of streets in the worst condition: Lamar Avenue, 276th St, Jason Avenue, Ivywood Trail, and gravel roads Karmel Avenue and 240th. “We have seen a big increase in frost boils, as many as three frost boils on one street in one year,” Pechman said. “Roads have just given way.”

He indicated that the condition of Johnson Lane is so bad the city is struggling to do any kind of maintenance to it. “We have considered dumping loads of asphalt down and trying to tailgate spread it and roll it into place,” said Pechman, “We’ve patched the patches, and there’s nothing to hold the asphalt there any more.”

He reminded the council that Johnson Lane was scheduled for repaving 10 years ago but residents rejected the plan due to cost.

(Because the Lane lies parallel to Highway 8, residential properties run down only one side of the street. That means there is no property on the other side to assess.)

“It’s been our policy not to pave roads where people don’t want it,” explained Pechman. He said Johnson Lane residents would have to petition the city to have the street completely repaved.

The city budgets annually for street work. It has been Chisago City’s policy to allocate about $100,000 a year from the city budget for street maintenance.

“We try to keep the roads that are good good, and to replace the roads that are bad,” Pechman explained.

When a street is paved or repaved, assessments against the adjacent properties range from 40 percent of the total cost for paving of more heavily used connector streets to 90 percent assessed against adjacent properties for paving dead ends and cul de sacs. The city does not assess adjacent properties for seal coating or micropaving.

Contracts for this summer’s planned street projects have already been let. Money to repair/replace the worst of the winter-damaged streets could possibly be squeezed from some surplus dollars available in the city’s general fund, if those projects could be added to the summer contracts already let, Pechman said. Nothing major can be done with any of the streets until road restrictions are lifted.

In response to the seriousness of the situation, the council scheduled a special workshop meeting for 6:30 p.m. May 7 to determine how many of the damaged streets can be saved by maintenance if it’s done this year and to establish a priority list.

“I would like to see us do whatever we can possibly do,” said Mayor Gustafson. “Things are at the point right now where we’ve got to find the money wherever we can possibly find it.”

After months of debate between municipal police and fire officials and Chisago County law enforcement, the Chisago City Council on April 23 voted to enter into an interim cooperative user agreement for continued use of Chisago County’s old 800 mhz radio system. The interim agreement will remain in effect through the end of the year until a new long-term agreement can be reached.

City Administrator Pechman said, “We would like to see more changes in the long-term agreement, but felt comfortable at this point that the interim agreement would suffice for 2019. We will continue to work in good faith with the county to come up with a mutual agreement for all the entities that looks at the entire radio system going forward.”

The brief discussion closed with Mayor Bob Gustafson saying, “We need to get some things hammered out before next year.  If not, it’s going to get contentious. If we can’t work with the county, there must be some other radio system that the cities can get, and the county will be on the outside looking in.”

Lori Reichert, vice president of the Green Lake Association, told the council the Association had received a $1,000 grant from the Chisago Lakes Area Community Foundation (CLACF) to improve the Chisago City dock area on Little Green Lake and to promote its use.  The Association must submit a feedback report to CLACF by June 30, and cannot submit another grant application until the report is submitted.  The dock project is to be completed by March 27, 2020.

Reichert met previously with City Administrator Pechman to discuss the city’s plans for the Little Green Lake dock area at the end of Stinson Ave. Based on that meeting, the $1,000 grant will become part of the amount set aside for landscaping of the location after structural elements are completed. Plantings will filter runoff from Stinson before it enters the lake.

The Association also asks that the city locate the wheelchair access to the sidewalk further up on Stinson where parking is available rather than at the bottom of the hill to prevent direct runoff, and that a permeable path for wheelchairs be provided where it approaches the water.  Again, goals are to prevent erosion and to filter water before it runs into the lake.

The association asks that a path be provided for those coming in from off the lake and that plantings delineate the dock area from adjacent properties.  

The Green Lake Association will do spring and fall cleanup at the site and requested extra fall leaf pickup at that time. The city will maintain the dock, a removable ramp and any permanent structures.

- Dan Lydon, president of the Chisago-Lindstrom Lake Association, reported on current activities, which include  a grant to work with the University of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Center on combatting invasive species.

Lydon was looking for a city council member willing to attend the lake association’s quarterly and annual meetings.  The council appointed Councilmember Marie Rivers with Councilman Mark Anderson as her alternate. The next Lake Association meeting will take place at 10:30 a.m. May 4 at the Chisago Lake Township Hall, Lindstrom.

Annual Financial Report
- Brad Falteysek of the city’s certified public accountants Abdo, Eick & Meyers, LLP, presented the 2018 financial report and audit for council review and approval.  Falteysek said they were issuing no findings and that everything was found to be in accordance.

Chisago City’s Dec.31, 2018 general fund balance, as compared to the 2019 budget, was at 53 percent, which is above the recommended range of 35 to 50 percent of the budget.

“You have about six months cash in reserves,” the accountant said.  The major change last year was a positive increase as revenues exceeded expenditures by $47,000 and expenditures were $34,000 under projections.

The city’s primary source of income is tax dollars, which comprise 83 percent of the general fund budget. The city’s capital fund has grown as proceeds of the sale of the old fire hall went into the capital fund. The city has $6 million in outstanding debt and some of that debt will start to drop off in 2023, Falteysek said.

As in past years, the auditor recommended that cash flow could be improved in the sewer and water fund. The city has been hovering at the “break even” level for several years.


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