East Grand Forks to vote on new assessment policy next week

East Grand Forks City Hall
East Grand Forks City Hall, Brandi Jewett/ Grand Forks Herald

East Grand Forks City Council members are expected to vote Tuesday, Oct. 1, on a proposed change to the city’s assessment policy, which governs who pays for street reconstruction and other improvements.

Currently, property owners who live next to a newly remodeled street pay for the entirety of the project, but city staff and officials have been kicking around an idea that would mean the city pays for a portion.

The problem: Doing so would presumably mean a citywide tax hike because the city would need to come up with the money to pay for its share. And, at least in some council members’ estimation, the change would be unfair to property owners who would presumably be on the hook for projects across town when they received no taxpayer help for a recent project on their street.

“I feel like just in conversation there’s some consensus to leave it alone, to leave the policy alone,” said Mayor Steve Gander at a council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

The plan, then, is to bring a resolution that would call for the city to pay for about 40% of a given street project. But Gander said the “vibe” he got from other council members indicated that they were opposed to changing the policy. Council members Tim Riopelle and Tim Johnson nodded in agreement.


“The only reason I want to bring it is so we can put it to bed,” Gander said.

But, he said after the meeting, council members could still approve the new policy if they put together a majority.

City leaders did not ask for an analysis of how much a dedicated city tax for street improvements might cost -- or save -- taxpayers in the long-term.

The city reconsidered the policy governing who pays for how much after settling for $100,000 in a lawsuit brought by a property owner who felt charged too much for the work in front completed in front of the property.

Nearby cities have fiddled with assessment policies, as well.

East Grand Forks staff presented assessment policies from Thief River Falls, Grand Forks, Crookston at a late August discussion. At Tuesday’s meeting, city staff provided to council members the assessment policy of Warren, Minn., where property owners are asked to pay for 100 percent of a new road or utility project but only 30% of a reconstruction, which can be more expensive because it includes demolishing existing infrastructure.

East Grand Forks Council members’ next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 1.


Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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