Homeowners speak to Lennox Council regarding special assessments

There were two public hearings at Monday night’s Lennox City Council meeting, one for Resolution 2021-3-22-04 Boynton Avenue Clean Water Funding Application and Resolution 2021-3-22-05 Boynton Avenue Drinking Water Funding Application. No one from the public was there to address the council. Council approved.

The second public hearing was for Resolution 2021-3-22-01 regarding the Ash Street Improvement Project. Affected homeowners were in attendance and several addressed the council.

South Ash Street is currently gravel, the proposed project will pave the street and includes curb, gutter and sidewalk. Lennox City Administrator Nathan Vander Plaats said he met with residents on this street on March 1 to discuss the likelihood of a Special Assessment to pay for the improvement.

The resolution in front of Council Monday stated that the City Council finds this project necessary, that plans and specifications will be available for public review, establishes the prices of the assessment, sets the terms for the payment of the special assessments, and that they intend to use sales tax loans against the 2nd Penny fund to pay for the improvements.

Vander Plaats explained the project cost is estimated at $205,000, of which the City would be responsible for approximately $100,000 and the property owners would be responsible for $105,000.

One homeowner said he and his neighbors are for the most part for it, but said there is concern about the cost.

“The pricing was unexpected,” he said.

Another homeowner said the price is just “way too high” and the interest was listed at 7%. She said her estimated Special Assessment was $321 every month for 10 years. She questioned the need for sidewalks on a dead-end street.

Council discussed lowering the interest rate, and a motion was made to amend the resolution to a 4% interest rate.

The resolution was approved as amended.

Council approved the consent agenda, consisting of minutes of previous meetings, claims and reports.

Under old business Stockwell Engineers brought a more detailed outline for the 2021 Street Improvements proposal and a 2022 Boynton Avenue Improvements proposal.

City Engineer Mitch Mergen said he modified the document to reflect an hourly contract and an overall schedule was included. Mayor Stacy DuChene brought up the idea to get another engineering quote for the Boynton project entirety to compare numbers.

Ultimately Council approved both proposals.

Under new business, Vander Plaats explained that the City of Lennox would like to change the use of Stockwell Engineers for water and wastewater operations assistance.

In a memo to the Council he wrote that they anticipate the Lennox Utility Superintendent will be granted the appropriate level of licensure for water distribution, wastewater collection, and wastewater treatment. As of that date, the City will no longer be required to contract with another operator (Stockwell) for these services to stay compliant with state and federal requirements.

City Engineer Mergen will be drafting an amended agreement for the City’s review.

Also under new business Council heard a request from the Lennox School District for a new no-parking zone on Elm Street. The new Lennox Elementary School project included a bus loading zone on the east side of Elm Street at the intersection with 5th Avenue. In order to safety and effectively move buses in and out of this loading zone, the District has requested two no parking zones along Elm Street.

Council amended the Resolution 2022-3-22-02 - No Parking Zones to include a time of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday per Police Chief Erickson’s recommendation.

Council approved Resolution 2021-03-22-03 Sales Tax Revenue Bond to be used for South Main and Ash Street.

In the past, the City of Lennox has used cash from Fund 212 (2nd Penny) to fund street improvements and large maintenance projects such as slurry seal/chip seal projects. Vander Plaats proposed a shift in how the City uses that fund.

“Rather than using cash as it accumulates, I am asking that the City instead leverage that cash for debt service,” explained Vander Plaats.

He continued to say that doing so is well within the City’s constitutional borrowing capacity, and said it reduces the time it will take to complete projects by several years, as the City will no longer build up the fund balance to pay cash for projects.

Vander Plaats said the resolution is the first step by establishing up to approximately $825,000 in sales tax revenue bonds.