The 18th Avenue storm sewer project in SW Minot has been under consideration by City Council going back to January. The City moved forward slowly, holding multiple public comment forums to answer questions and explain the project. Of greatest concern to residents were the special assessment and demonstrated need. Basically, some potentially-assessed citizens questioned whether the project was needed.
Last month at Finance Committee, the project was killed. Then, at the full City Council meeting, it was revived and sent back to committee for one more round of discussion. That committee meeting takes place this afternoon.
It’s one of those issues that forces our elected officials to make a difficult decision. The project was approved in the 2017 budget with payment coming from two sources — 50% from special assessments on properties in the storm sewer district (those that shed water into the drainage area) and 50% from the City’s Storm Sewer Development Fund.
Storm sewer development is a fee we all pay. Funding for it comes from our monthly water bills; included in each residential water meter is a charge for $3.75 per month; commercial properties pay per square foot. Here’s the ordinance that outlines how property owners contribute. Currently, there’s over $8 million on in the storm sewer development fund.
Projects that tap into the fund considered by a City Council Ad Hoc Committee that meets every couple years on an as needed basis. The result is a list of priority projects of the City’s storm sewer related projects. As funds become available, projects are moved forward for completion.
And that’s why a ‘no’ decision on the 18th Ave project is so significant. It’s also why the project is worthy of another round of discussion. Allow me to unpack issue in the form of a couple questions.
- If we’re not willing to complete the highest priority projects on the list, what does that say about every other lower priority project? You can view the list here.
- And if we aren’t going to complete these projects, then what about the monthly fee we all pay to help complete them? It’s basically a property tax — shouldn’t we stop assessing it if we’re not going to do the work it’s designed to pay for?
As you can see, a no decision on the 18th Avenue sewer project opens up a can of worms. It will no doubt be interesting to see where today’s discussion takes us.
For more on the project, here’s the original engineer’s report.