Preston residents will be seeing their city taxes increase on an annual basis starting in 2014 as a result of the city's planned street and utility improvement projects that year. An estimated 20 percent of residents will also see their property taxes assessed for street repairs. Residents who will have work done on their streets will be able to voice concerns and ask questions at a public hearing set for Sept. 3 during the regular city council.

Project details

Brett Grabau, project engineer for Stantec Consulting Services, Inc, detailed the project for the Preston City Council during its regular Aug. 5 meeting on exactly what streets and utilities would be improved during the summer of 2014.

Proposed improvements will take place in two areas in Preston. The designated area known as the "Fire Hall" area will include streets west of St. Paul Street: River, Main, Houston, Franklin, Preston, and Washington streets, including the one-way street heading north to Chatfield Street. The second designated improvement area is known as the "South Hill" area and includes Judy Lane and Matthew and Russell Streets off of Ridge Road.

The Fire Hall Area roadway improvement will be extensive. The project will improve roughly 8,000 lineal feet of roadway, which includes curb and gutter work. According to a feasibility report produced by Stantec, the existing pavement is "beyond rehabilitation and in need of reconstruction." All streets will be reconstructed to a width of 32 feet, curb-to-curb. Current street widths vary from 20 feet to 44 feet. Grabau said 32 feet would allow for two-way traffic and parking on one side.

Along with street, curb and gutter reconstruction, pedestrian curb ramps will be replaced to meet ADA standards. Grabau said sidewalk is very expensive and will be assessed to property owners. For that reason, he suggested the city find spots that are poor and need replacement. Grabau also estimated the life of the streets to be roughly 45 years if the city keeps up with applying seal coats, overlays and reclamations.

Certain streets in the Fire Hall area will also see major utility work. Current sanitary sewer lines are mainly vitrified clay pipe (VCP), 4 to 6 inches in diameter.

In the report, it also stated most properties are connected to manholes via private service pipes. This forces the city to excavate the roadway in the event of a line obstruction. The 2014 project would replace the sewer main with 8-inch PVC, 4-foot diameter precast concrete structures and 4 to 6 inch service pipe to the right-of-way.

Grabau said the sewer lines had not been televised yet and recommended the city staff get a contractor to complete that study. Currently, sanitary sewer lines will be replaced on Washington Street, Main Street to the intersection with Houston, Houston Street from North Street to Fillmore Street to Main Street, River Street to roughly 80 feet from St. Paul Street, Preston Street, North Street, Winona Street, Spring Street, Franklin Street from Spring Street to North Street, and a small section of Washington Street by North Street and Winona Street.

It was noted in the report that the water utility in the Fire Hall area was undersized. Four-inch piping will be replaced with a six-inch looping water main and eight-inch DIP trunk from Fillmore Street to Winona Street.

Storm sewer catch basins and leads will be replaced. Water main work will be done on Washington Street, Main Street, and Houston Street south of the intersection with Main Street. Water main pipes will be put in on Main Street, Houston Street from North Street to Fillmore Street and Main Street to River Street, Washington Street from Fillmore Street to Main Street and Preston Street to Spring Street, Preston Street to intersection with Houston Street, North Street from Washington Street to Houston Street and part of Winona Street.

The South Hill area has roughly 1,250 lineal feet of roadway which will be reconstructed. Grabau said 50 percent of the bituminous in the area is missing and much of it has turned into gravel.

Concrete curb and gutter will only be replaced as needed. Drain tile will be installed to help drain portions of Judy Lane which have had standing water.

Due to multiple excavations and repair, the water main in Judy Lane, Matthew Street and Russell Street will be replaced with a six-inch DIP below the frost line. Storm sewers with two catch basins will be installed in Judy Lane.

Project costs

Cost estimates which accounted for construction, engineering, construction services, and a 10 percent contingency placed the street costs at approximately $1.98 million, water main costs at $455,377, storm sewer at $134,618, sanitary sewer at $388,848, utility service at $340,783. Total cost for the 2014 Street and Utility Improvement projects was approximately $3.29 million.

The city is planning on financing the project through general obligation improvement bonds which would be paid back by special assessments, utility enterprise funds, and the general tax levy.

Those parts of the projects which would be eligible for partial property tax assessment would be the streets and sanitary sewer. City policy provides when an urban street is reconstructed, 40 percent of the project costs will be assessed to abutting property owners based on a standard. Currently, the per linear foot cost assessment is $62.04.

Sanitary sewer costs can be assessed 80 percent to the property owner receiving services. The remaining 20 percent is picked up by the Public Utilities. Cost per sanitary service is $1,119.61. With both street and sewer costs, the city would receive approximately $885,617 to go toward the final project cost. This is approximately 26.9 percent of the total project cost. Normally, the city assesses for 25 percent of project costs. Other costs of the project will be levied for through city utilities.

City Administrator Joe Hoffman went through the numbers. The city will make an annual bond payment every year for 15 years. A tentative tax increase rate was suggested, which would increase tax rate by five percent each year for six years and by 3.86 percent in 2020.

According to Hoffman, this would place Preston as having the highest city taxes in the county. "There is no hiding the fact that this will have an impact on the city's finances in the future," he stated. "It is incredibly costly to do these projects."

Councilmember Robert Maust pointed out that inflation accounts for 2.5 percent of the annual tax rate increase, placing the actual tax rate increase at 2.5 percent.

Hoffman indicated a silver lining in that the city would still have the lowest utility rates in water, sewer and electricity.

Grabau interjected, mentioning that other cities would likely be bonding for large projects within the same time frame, so Preston wouldn't be alone in raising taxes.

The council approved the feasibility report and called for a public hearing for the 2014 project. Notices were mailed out to those who would have their property taxes assessed.