Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Alex Ross 

Havre pitches street repair levy


October 19, 2017

Havre Daily News/Floyd Brandt

Havre City Council Member Terry Lilletvedt gives a presentation Wednesday in City Hall during a public hearing about a proposed tax levy on the ballots being mailed out Friday. The levy would provide $15 million over 20 years to repair streets in Havre.

A proposed mill levy increase that would pay to repair Havre's streets was discussed at a public hearing Wednesday night at city hall.

Council member Terry Lilletvedt and Havre Public Works Director Dave Peterson gave a presentation detailing the proposal and why it is needed.

Lilletvedt said the need for repairs to the streets is evident to anyone who drives on them.

Some of the streets, she said, are as much as 100 years old, when streets are typically redone every 20 years.

"So we are really past most of the street life in our community," she said.

The proposal on the city election ballots that will be mailed out Friday would generate an estimated $15 million over 20 years, or $750,000 annually to repair city streets.

The levy increase would mean owners of a property with a taxable value of $100,000 would pay an additional $89.50 in property taxes a year while owners of a property valued at $200,000 would pay an additional $179.

Lilletvedt said a larger proposal in 2015 City Council out on the ballot was defeated by voters. The new mill levy, she said, asks for less money in the hopes it will generate more support from the voters.

In addition to streets themselves, Lilletvedt said, the proposal would also fund repairs to sidewalks and waterlines, sewer lines and other infrastructure that runs beneath the street.

Peterson said the waterlines and other infrastructure often are older than the streets themselves and are in need of repair, too.

He said, when the streets were laid, water and sewer lines were put in first. Then streets, curbs and gutters would be put in, then sidewalks and then the workers would pave the streets.

"They had gravel streets for the majority of the time, and they put everything else in prior to that, "Peterson said.

He said water and sewer lines are problems, and so are deteriorating or crumbling street curbs.

When curbs and gutters break down, Peterson said, water gets beneath the streets damaging them .

He said that, years ago, the section of Seventh Avenue had begun alligatoring, or cracking up and that 300 feet of street cost $60,000 to do.

The upkeep of streets is funded through the city's street maintenance, which is about $668,000, Peterson said.

Havre City Clerk and Finance Director Doug Kaercher said state law prevents cities from using money from the street maintenance fund to reconstruct streets.

"So, if we look at a $60,00 project, we can do 10 of those projects if all the money was allocated to just street repairs, but it's not. You have street signs in there that we have to do, there is a lot of different things in that budget."

Most of the streets that were constructed decades ago, Lilletvedt said, were built as a result of special improvement districts, or SIDS.

SIDS are created when a majority of property owners within a neighborhood vote to form a district. Properties within the district are the assessed fees or taxes to pay for bonds taken out to pay for the project.

Peterson said that when he started working for the city, about 20 SIDS were in effect.

Kaercher said there are now three in Havre.

SIDS are expensive, Peterson said, because people have to get bonds and get a bond attorney involved. It takes about $6,000 to hire a bond attorney, he said.

Lilletvedt said that even if the levy increase passes, some neighborhoods may still decide to do SIDS, because the amount of money asked for will not be bale to make all the needed repairs.

She added that while the proposal won't be able to pay for the necessary repairs to all streets, it will at least get the process started.


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