City announces new street resurfacing fees

Due to financial constraints and deteriorating roads, the city of Minneapolis is changing the way it assesses residents for resurfacing their streets. Homeowners will now pay a bigger percentage of the overall cost of a much cheaper project.

Normally, residents would pay 25 percent of the expense for a complete renovation — or 36 cents for every square foot of property — and no fee for seal-coating. But street conditions are declining rapidly, said Mike Kennedy, the city’s director of Transportation, Maintenance and Repair, and Public Works doesn’t have the time or money to dig out foundations and repair curbs and gutters.

Instead, they’ve decided to use a technique that falls somewhere in between seal-coating and renovation: resurfacing.

Under the new Asphalt Pavement Resurfacing Program, which the City Council approved Feb. 15, residents will pay 75 percent of the project’s cost at 16 cents per square foot of property, or half the rate of a full renovation.

In other words, homeowners whose streets are resurfaced in 2008 will end up footing $3 million of a nearly $4.8 million project.

“While it’s much cheaper to the property owner, it covers more of the cost [of the whole project],” explained Kennedy. “[During renovation], for every 32 cents [residents] kick in, the city kicks in 96 cents, so there’s that 25–75 percent split. [During] resurfacing, for every 16 cents from residents, the city’s kicking in about a nickel.”

Under the new program, the owner of a 5,000-square-foot lot would pay an assessment of $800 over five years and the city would contribute $250.

The southern half of Whittier and approximately six blocks in Windom are the first stretch of streets that will be affected in Southwest this year. In total, Public Works hopes to resurface 15–20 miles of city roads and Municipal State Aid streets, which are wider and accommodate more traffic. Before the resurfacing program was approved, the city only expected to renovate 4.6 miles, and the seal-coating program has been all but eliminated.

“I’d rather they left me alone this year,” said Barbara Lickness, who lives on 27th & Grand — one of the affected streets — and owns a 7,515-square-foot lot. “My husband and I just got hit with $4,500 worth of medical expenses […] I would rather not be on this year, but I guess I don’t get to pick that.”

A new plan

Streets selected for resurfacing will be in average to poor conditions, Kennedy said. Those that are in very poor condition would likely need a full renovation and could fall apart again if they only receive a new coat of pavement.

Resurfacing a road is a two-day process that involves milling down the surface 2 inches, then laying down a new coat of asphalt. Curbs and gutters would get minimal repair, if any at all.

“What we’re trying to do is resurface the ones that are in a condition that we can prevent them from falling into the next category,” Kennedy explained. “What we hope to do is use the resurfacing to target and do the right thing at the right time to the different streets to keep the overall condition of the network up.”

Public Works estimates that resurfacing extends the life of a street by 10 years, as opposed to 20 years with renovation. Residents shouldn’t worry about paying assessment fees every decade, however, because with roughly 700 asphalt roads in Minneapolis resurfaced at 10–15 miles each year, it would take up to 70 years to finish the whole city.

Kennedy hopes that Public Works is back to its old method of sealing- coating and renovating streets sooner rather than later.

“We want to use [the resurfacing program] to be able to extend the life of our streets overall to kind of to buy time until our other programs come back up to speed,” he said. “And when those others come back up to speed, we’ll continue with the old assessment rates, the old model.”

Some residents writing on the Minneapolis Issues List, an online forum, are upset that the city didn’t hold a public hearing before the Council passed the measure. According to Kennedy, Public Works didn’t see a need for homeowner input to create the program, but they plan to hold a neighborhood meeting and public hearing for each project.

“It is different, but it is still reasonable, we believe,” he said. “This first year will be very much a learning year.”

Reach Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.