Council to hold workshop on assessments

Questions on special assessments concerning street work prompted the New Prague City Council to set up a Monday, March 18, workshop on the subject. The council approved the recommendation 3-1 with council member Shawn Ryan voting against. Council member Dave Bruzek was absent.

City Administrator Mike Johnson explained questions have been raised about the validity of special assessments. These were raised at last fall’s special assessment public hearing (October 22, 2012). Also, council member Pat Scripture raised them at the previous council meeting and whether the work leads to increased market value to residents’ property.

Johnson said city staff, City Attorney Scott Riggs of the firm Kennedy & Graven, and City Engineer Chris Cavett of Short Elliott Hendrickson (S.E.H.) Inc. all believe New Prague is compliant with state statutes. Johnson said the workshop would allow the council a walk through the process of special assessments.

"It would be a good educational overview," he said.

Since the city has been undertaking an annual capital improvement project for street and utility reconstruction for approximately the last 10 years and is projected to continue such work for the next seven years, city staff wants to ensure that legal compliance is continued.

It was noted the city does the special assessments on the streets, stopping short of doing a blanket appraisal of the properties, which would be an added expense.

The workshop would be held from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., before the council’s regular meeting. Cavett, Riggs and an appraiser from Patchin Messner & Dodd would be in attendance. The cost for the workshop is estimated between $1,200 to $1,500.

"I think this would be money well spent," said Mayor Chuck Nickolay. Since it was issue brought upbefore they should address it.

Ryan said that he thought Riggs had already said such special assessments were a settled law. He was fine with spending the money if it would put the matter to bed.

Scripture said she had specific questions she wanted answered. She noted the city hasn’t done an appraisal of properties since 2003. She also wanted it proved it brings increased market value.

Council member Mark Bartusek thought it was pretty apparent that it brought increased value with improved streets, curb and gutter and landscaping. He said there would be certain people who are going to question increased value. "You could provide them with 40 documents and they still won’t believe it."

Nickolay said doing an appraisal would be very expensive. He hoped the workshop would answer questions.

City staff was unaware of legal actions or validity questions being raised concerning the special assessments. Under state law, should there be any special assessments that residents did not believe were appropriate, or objected to, or felt aggrieved, they have the option of appealing to district court. Johnson said there have been no appeals by city residents for the past five years and was uncertain of the history prior to that. Johnson would tell the council if they needed to do appraisals if there had been continued filing by residents.

Scripture believed people didn’t file them because of court and attorney costs.

Scripture did vote yes to hold the workshop. Ryan voted no because of the cost of the workshop, it wouldn’t put the issue to rest and he believed that special assessments were already a settled law.