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New Richmond City Council considers alley repair ordinance

At a busy work session Monday night, Oct. 23, New Richmond City council members previewed an alley reconstruction program, approved a proposed budget for 2018, initiated the hiring process for a police officer and public works position, approved the penning of a letter of credit and approved the purchase of new digital radios for the police and fire departments.

Public Works Director Jeremiah Wendt walked council members through the results of a survey conducted amongst residents who have property adjacent to an alley. The object of the survey was to measure support for a proposed paving program, which would address reconditioning alleys throughout the city that are in poor condition.

"The Public Works Department did an inventory and assessment of all of the alleys in the city. We also did a survey of the property owners to get their feedback on a number of different things," said Wendt.

The inventory determined there are 29 alleys to be considered within the city.

Wendt's proposal calls for a new ordinance to be drafted to address 1) paving of existing gravel alleys, 2) a 50/50 split of costs between the city and residents whose property borders an alley, 3) establishment of weight restrictions on reconditioned alleys and 4) establishment of a system to rank the condition of an alley.

For residents whose property borders an alley, their cost would be assessed based on the lineal footage of their frontage and could be paid off over a five-year period.

According to Wendt, the cost to reconstruct a typical alley is roughly $15,000 of which half is the cost is for that actual pavement itself.

Estimating typical frontage at 60-80 feet, and paving costs at $20-$25 per foot, a 50/50 assessment would run a resident around $750.

If the City handled everything in house except for the actual paving, Wendt estimated the cost could drop to $10,000 lowering the resident's portion closer to $500.

Council members had a number of questions for Wendt including how would the number of alleys to be reconditioned each year be determined? Also, what kinds of measures could be taken to insure safety and control speed in the alleys once they have been reconditioned?

Wendt speculated that three to five alleys might be reconditioned each year but that would depend on available funding and how many alleys actually required work. Speed limit signs could be posted and traffic delineators and speed bumps deployed in conjunction with law enforcement to insure safety in the alleys. Public hearings would be required to precede each batch of alleys scheduled for reconditioning.

The council elected to take more time to study the survey results and collect public input while instructing Wendt to begin preparation of a new ordinance.

City Finance Director Rae Ann Ailts updated council members on the progress of her office's community engagement campaign to present the budget to residents directly and solicit their input.

"Over the last couple weeks we started our community engagement process. To date we've done seven of those presentations including the Rotary today. We have eight more left over the next few weeks. By the Nov. 13 council meeting, we expect to have all of those (sessions) completed and have a summary available for the council to review," said Ailts.

Ailts explained that residents attending the engagement sessions have been asked to directly weigh in on two specific questions. The first question asks them to prioritize which capital improvement projects they would like to see the city invest in. The second question ask to what degree would they support an increase in the tax levy to be able to set aside or save money to be used to pay up front for capital improvement projects in the future.

Ailts reported back to the council on the matter of police overtime. After reviewing the department's history with Chief Craig Yehlik and taking into consideration the addition of a new deputy in 2018, Ailts recommended increasing the overtime budget by $10,000 to $85,000 for 2018.

"Based upon trend and also with the potential of the additional officer, we feel that this year, in 2018, that an $85,000 budget would be more in line with what charges and operational needs would be in 2018," said Ailts.

Alits reported the budget would include a 3 percent wage increase split to take effect 1.5 percent Jan. 1 and 1.5 percent July 1, 2018.

The budget will also get a $53,000 boost from the state's transportation fee reflecting the City's investment in street and utility improvements over the last few years.

Council members approved a 2018 proposed budget of $5,422,853 for publication plus an additional $100,000 added to the Capital Replacement Levy bringing the total to $5,522,853.00. Additional discussion is anticipated.

The council requested Ailts to further refine the 2018-2022 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) document to incorporate funding sources into the same document that color codes projects by spending priority. They also require more time to consider the impact of feedback about the CIP gathered from the community engagement sessions once they are completed.

Yehlik, reported that Westfields Hospital & Clinic might be able to provide funding for the first year of a School Resource Officer through a hospital funding pilot project. Approval of the funding may in some part depend on a commitment from the City and the School District to continue funding the position after the first year.

Other business

• The council approved beginning the hiring process for one full time police officer with a start date of April 1, 2018.

• The council approved beginning the hiring process for one full time public works position with a start date of Jan. 2, 2018.

• The council approved obtaining a draft letter of credit to be reviewed by legal counsel and auditors. Upon acceptable review staff will request authorization from the council to proceed with switching the instrument for the collateralization of public funds from a securities sweep account to a letter of credit.

• Council members approved the purchase of new digital radios manufactured by Motorola for the police and fire departments pending further testing of microphone options.

• The next Community Action Plan (CAP) Committee meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25 at The Centre.