Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

City government wants to educate public on SIDs for street work

 


During a lengthy meeting of the Streets and Sidewalk Committee of Havre’s City Council, city officials agreed to try to work to educate the public on special improvement districts — SIDs — that could be used to repair streets in the city.

“We’ve obviously had two ballot measures that didn’t pass, much to my chagrin,” council member Terry Lilletvedt said, “but it didn’t pass two times so I think we need to look at other options.”

Havre tried twice to have voters approve a mill levy to use to rehabilitate the streets.

In 2015 voters denied the first attempted levy, and in 2017 narrowly voted down a smaller levy that would have raised $15 over 20 years, 1,090 to 1,199.

The city has repeatedly said the aging streets in Havre need major work, at a significant cost. Simply patching the streets as they wear out is a losing proposition, they say.

Committee chair Denise Brewer said Monday that the committee conducted a survey of communities around the state and received responses from 47 different communities on questions about funding street maintenance and repair.

The responses showed a variety of ways communities try to fund their street work, and the committee is still working on collating the results — but it also showed that all communities struggle with finding money to work on their streets.

“One of the main things that did come up through repairing the streets was SIDs,” Brewer said, adding that the committee thinks it should bring someone in to educate the public about that process.

“That’s our next step I think,” she said.

Havre Public Works Director Dave Peterson said he would contact the Local Government Center at Montana State University in Bozeman to try to schedule a time someone could come to make presentations.

Special improvement districts are when residents of a region or neighborhood contact their city government about creating a district to do repairs such as on streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, lighting and so on.

If the majority of the property owners approve the creation, the city creates the district and planning for improvements, which must meet regulations and codes, begins.

Generally, the city then sells bonds to pay for the project, and assesses a fee on the properties to pay for the bonds. In this way, the property owners can spread payments on the improvements over a 20-year to 30-year period instead of paying up front.

Monday, the group talked about targeting groups to start the education process, such as the landlord tenant association.

Council member Eric Meis said he contacted the association and it did show interest — he added that four members at the meeting didn’t know what an SID is.

Bear Paw Development Corp. Executive Director Paul Tuss said finding funding such as through grants for streets is very difficult.

“You’ve got to do it the old-fashioned way,” he said. “Roads are tough. … You guys are in the same boat as everybody else. It’s not like were not finding stuff, its that the stuff isn’t there. There isn’t a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

City clerk and finance director Doug Kaercher said when he was on the city council in 1988, SIDs still were common in Havre.

“I think there were 22. Now there are two,” he said.

He also stressed that SIDs have to come from the community members — they request the creation of an SID and to have the improvements made.

“The city can’t be the driver of the SID,” he said.

He said people have to be educated about the process.

“This is actually the standard public funding way of doing streets,” he said, adding that the city has done a good enough job maintaining the streets since their construction was completed and the SIDs paid off that people forgot that SIDs are the primary way to pay for streets.

“That is the standard way,” he said. It’s not the taxes you are currently paying because they have a purpose.“

Tuss said educating the public may show the benefit to residents of SIDs.

“This is not a cost. It’s an investment in our community,” Tuss said.

 

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