Paying for streets – two examples to ponder

On Tuesday, the Council passed a resolution calling for the assessment hearing for the reclamation project on Jefferson Road (here’s the packet and the Patch story).  The assessment is lower than the street reconstruction rate – 75% of the special benefit analysis amount with a 100′ cap on the number of feet of frontage to compensate for the wider than usual lots on this stretch of roadway.  I voted against it because the assessment on a collector street – a vital link to our southern shopping area plus access to several clinics and other residential streets – seems unfair.  Rather, Jefferson Road is part of the city wide transportation network of collector streets and, as such, should be financed by the city as a whole.

I was still pondering my vote tonight when driving back from Target on Jefferson Road.  I didn’t like my vote because it was counter to adopted policy and, as readers should know by now, I like to see good policies adopted and then followed rather than attempting to legislate on a decision by decision basis.

But then I reached the intersection of Woodley and Division where “Road closed ahead” signs are accumulating in advance of MNDoT‘s mill and overlay of TH (that’s trunk highway) 246 which is Woodley Street from TH3 to Division Street, then Division Street south out of Northfield to Nerstrand.   TH246 is classified as a minor arterial – a step up in volume/speed from a collector like Jefferson Road – another major link in the Northfield street network.  However, as a state highway, the residents along this route will not be assessed for the project, but their tax dollars will (indirectly, to be sure) pay for the project through state government funding.

My difficulty with assessments is something like this:  Infrastructure (streets, water, wastewater, streetlights, green infrastructure like parks) benefits the entire community and the entire community should finance the repair and replacement of these important parts of our city.  In addition, adjusting tax rates and capital planning to account for not using special assessments would eliminate the surprise of getting a letter saying you owe the city thousands of dollars and, I’d think, make taxes more predictable, transparent, and fair.