By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
City Hall council chambers in Centerville was teeming with residents who came to attend an informational meeting regarding street improvement projects and proposed higher property assessments.
The Centerville City Council on Monday, Aug. 20 approved street construction improvements for 10th Street from West Maple Street to West Washington Street; West State Street from Fifth Street to 10th Street; and East State Street from Haynes Avenue to 18th Street and from 18th Street to the entrance to Oakland Cemetery. The improvements are expected to cost approximately $4 million.
The informational meeting was actually three with residents living along 10th Street set for 6 p.m.; residents living along West State Street set for 7 p.m.; and residents living along East State Street set for 8 p.m.
But it was obvious the 6 p.m. meeting had a mix of property owners. No one who attended the 6 p.m. meeting came out and said they would be happy to pay the additional assessment.
Based on documents taped to council chamber walls, a total of 141 units or lots are in the construction zones with a combined preliminary property assessment valued at more than $828,000.
A total of 44 units are listed in the North 10th Street project area with a preliminary property assessment of $214,885. That represents 21.8 percent of the project's cost allocated to the property owners.
Some of the property owners hit the hardest in the North 10th Street project area: Casey's General Store almost $13,000, Iowa Trust and Savings Bank almost $23,000, Jack B. Stufflebeam and Evelyn Joyce Stufflebeam more than $17,000 and Arnolds Rental more than $14,000 for two lots.
Scott Arnold, the owner of Arnolds Rental, by telephone Tuesday afternoon, said he was more than happy to help make Centerville look better, but didn't think the city made the preliminary assessments properly.
"The council came up with the valuations and then what the dollar amounts to the increase per address and they don't seem like they add up," Arnold said. "It's like they pulled these numbers out of the sky."
Arnold said other property owners on 10th Street he has talked to are opposed to the entire project.
"I'm all for bettering the community and making it better and nice but it seems like it's a big shock," Arnold said. "I don't know how people are going to be able to afford this. I don't know how I'm going to be able to afford it."
Arnold said the preliminary assessments he has seen do not seem to be consistent and the city should explore other alternatives besides new streets like seal coat or asphalt.
The owners of Raymonds Dairy Creme at the corner of North 10th Street and West Maple Street are being assessed more than $9,500 for the street project. Money the owners Thomas and Jene Marts said they don't have now and their business will suffer when the street is shut down.
"Let's just call it what it is, you're getting ready to have a tax on us, that it's going to be almost impossible to recover for years and years and years," Thomas Marts said, adding North 10th Street is in good enough shape that it doesn't need to be redone. "It's just very frustrating. It's just unbelievable."
A total of 57 units are listed in the East State Street project area with a preliminary property assessment of $341,970.72. That represents 23.20 percent of the project's cost allocated to the property owners.
A total of 40 units are listed in the West State Street project area with a preliminary property assessment of $271,345.90. That represents 23.02 percent of the project's cost allocated to the property owners.
Some West State Street properties preliminary assessments include First Baptist Church of Centerville at $27,006.37, Janet M. Willier at $11,213.32 and Shana R. Shannon at $13,510.
Options to pay the preliminary assessments include cash, check, money order, loan or have it added to the property taxes and paid off over a period of time with a low interest rate.
The more than $4 million dollar project is being funded by property assessments not more than 25 percent of the cost of the improvements and the city issuing general obligation bonds to pay the more than 75 percent left over. The West State Street project area includes some federal money.
Improvements for the three project areas includes concrete removal and construction of reinforced pavement with curb, storm sewers and intakes, concrete sidewalks and driveway approaches located in the public right-of-way.
Construction is expected to start in the Fall of 2013.
Some residents at the meeting pointed out Eastridge property owners were not assessed for street improvements.
Councilman Rob Lind said the reason for Eastridge not being assessed was curb and gutter and storm sewers were already in place, no sidewalks were involved and the construction could be done without the use of engineers.
Property owners in the project areas facing a preliminary assessment can file a protest by sending a letter to City Hall.
Tuesday's three meetings at City Hall were informational in nature. During the Centerville City Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 17, property owners and others with an interest in the street improvement project can voice an opinion in regards to the project itself, the boundaries of the project, the cost of the project, the assessments against property owners and the final adoption of resolution of necessity.