Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

February 22, 2013

Preliminary special assessments for property owners in street improvement project area

By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — Centerville residents and business owners in the proposed West State Street Project Improvement area collectively are looking at the possibility of owing more than $104,000 in special assessments for the street project.

What started with 32 plaintiffs listed in a petition in equity class action lawsuit filed Oct. 8, 2012 against the city now is down to 12.

According to documents given to the Daily Iowegian, the First Baptist Church board is recommending the church drop out of the lawsuit and focus on God and those who are hit the "hardest by this street assessment." A special church business meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25 to vote on the recommendation.

The city's preliminary special assessment for those in the lawsuit:

First Baptist Church, 603 and 619 W. State St., $33,256.37, Curtis R. Carey and Sherri S. Hayes, 717 E. State St., $875, Lora Hyde and Robert Schwering (listed individually in the suit), 410 N. 10th St., $5,857.66, Jene' H. Marts, 315 W. Maple St., $9,521.18, Rhonda J. Moore and Larry Moore, 625 W. State St., $6,221.54, Jason Sandberg and Stacey Sandberg, 612 W. State St., $10,202.55, Julie Stevens, 611 E. State St., $7,071.33, Mikal T. Stickler, 814 E. State St., $5,463.96, Steve Stufflebeem and Martha Pearl Stufflebeem, 529 W. State St., $3,500, Evelyn Joyce Stufflebeem, 314 W. State St., $17,328.02 and Marge Winkel, 515 W. State St., $5,315.80.

According to the city, each property has a special assessment based on what anonymous realtors they hired said each property was worth. The city cannot assess for more than 25 percent of the council valuation or fair market value for any property in the project area. The higher the council valuation, the higher the preliminary assessments.

Here is what the realtors said the property still  involved in the lawsuit are worth.

First Baptist Church, $275,000, Curtis R. Carey and Sherri S. Hayes, $3,500, Lora Hyde and Robert Schwering, 410 N. 10th St., $25,000, Jene' H. Marts, $50,000, Rhonda J. Moore and Larry Moore, $25,000, Jason Sandberg and Stacey Sandberg, $120,000, Julie Stevens, $60,000, Mikal T. Stickler, $56,000, Steve Stufflebeem and Martha Pearl Stufflebeem, $14,000, Evelyn Joyce Stufflebeem, $125,000 and Marge Winkel, $36,100.

Here is what the Appanoose County assessor says the properties are worth:

First Baptist Church, $561,880, Curtis R. Carey and Sherri S. Hayes, $34,780, Lora Hyde and Robert Schwering, $26,220, Jene' H. Marts, $39,630, Rhonda J. Moore and Larry Moore, $24,350, Jason Sandberg and Stacey Sandberg, $72,960, Julie Stevens, $60,500, Mikal T. Stickler, $55,800, Steve Stufflebeem and Martha Pearl Stufflebeem, $12,060, Evelyn Joyce Stufflebeem, $97,900 and Marge Winkel, $34,700.

According to documents given to the Daily Iowegian, First Baptist Church in September 2012 filed a formal objection to the proposed special assessments. They argued four points: "The Council does not have the factual basis to pass the Resolution of Necessity that the proposed replacement of West State Street is necessary"; "Are the Assessments Just and Equitable"; "Are the Assessments Equal to the Benefit for First Baptist Church?"; and "Not in First Baptist Church's interests."

The plaintiffs challenge the amounts being assessed by the city against their respective properties based on the fact the street project excessively assess each property.  Law allows a special assessment against a property but only if there is a special benefit conferred upon the property owner.

The lawsuit contends the special preliminary assessments imposed by the city of Centerville "exceeds the special benefit conferred to the owners and exceeds any amount allowable" under Iowa law and is illegal, inappropriate and in violation of both the Constitution of Iowa and of the United States.

Streets in the Centerville West State Street Project Improvement area include portions of East and West State streets and North 10th Street.

In summary, the plaintiffs are asking the court to find the city's assessments adopted by Resolution of Necessity excessive, unfair and illegal, the proposed street improvement project confers benefit to the motoring public and other relief as the court deems appropriate.

The city has asked the court to dismiss the petition in equity with costs to the plaintiffs.

A pretrial conference is set for March 12 at 9:30 a.m. in the Appanoose County Courthouse.