City OKs special maintenance fee with cap
By GALE PIFER, Contributing Writer
The Madison City Commission on Monday night unanimously passed a resolution setting a special maintenance fee for the annual maintenance and repair of city streets. The fee was set at $1 per frontage foot with a maximum cap of $100.|
The fee will be assessed to all property owners within the city limits, including those living on state highways and non-profit institutions such as churches.
Madison Mayor Roy Lindsey prefaced voting on the matter by saying this is a street issue.
"It makes no difference if a home or a vacant lot fronts the street. Our city streets are in desperate need of repair," he said. "Costs of fuel, therefore the cost of oil to blacktop the streets, has gone up, meaning we can only do a portion of the street resurfacing that we could do in the past.
``Our costs are simply higher than our budget allows," Lindsay said. "While we manage to get a small profit from the city sewer and water systems, we get no income from the streets. It costs some $27,000 per block for an overlay and could cost $97,000 if we have to completely rebuild the street. And that doesn't cover repair of sewer and water lines under the street," Lindsay said.
"But if we don't do something soon, Mother Nature will continue to do her damage and we'll find ourselves with gravel streets once again," he said. "And nobody wants that."
Lindsay said that even with passage of the resolution, it will be two years before any money collected by the special maintenance fee can be used to repair the streets.
The crowd was noticeably smaller than when the issue came before the commission two weeks ago. Many people attending Monday's meeting had questions and suggestions.
Eve Fisher praised the commission for "thinking long-term," but asked if maybe a penny fuel tax might be instituted. "That way everybody would share the burden," she said.
City Attorney David Jencks said the gas tax goes to the state while a wheel tax goes to the county.
George Lee, a resident who circulated a petition after the commission passed a similar resolution for a vote on the matter, asked what the South Dakota Attorney General had ruled regarding an election. There was some confusion about what could be referred and what couldn't.
Jencks said the Attorney General had not made a ruling and Jencks wasn't going to request one.
City Commissioner Dick Ericsson said it was a mute question anyway because, "If the people want to vote on it, we'll have a vote. A referendum is what makes government run."
Contacted after the meeting, Lee said he didn't know if opponents of the resolution would circulate another petition.
Lee, who said Lake County's tax evaluation had doubled in the past 10 years, suggested city commissioners take a close look at municipal equipment upgrades.
"I believe you could find a half-million dollars there and some of it could go toward repairing streets," Lee said.
Commissioner Scott Delzer said money set aside for equipment is necessary, "because if we delay or spend the money for something else, what would we have when the equipment breaks down or needs replacing?"
Delzer said care is taken to make sure the city gets all it can out of its equipment. "We use vehicles to the point their potential useful life is up."
David Pitts said some chip seal work done a year ago has already started to break down.
City Engineer Chad Comes said local aggregate was used in an attempt to keep costs down.
"There wasn't anything wrong with the oil used, but it appears some of the rock has come up," he said.
"The taxpayers really got beat on that," said Pitts.
John Hess thanked commissioners for trying to find a solution to the street repair problems, but he pointed out that it still seemed unfair, especially to "people with property that isn't valued as high as some other property."
"I'll admit there are some inequities in this," said Delzer, "but I've heard from lots of people that they want us to fix the streets. Most people seem satisfied that we've put a $100 cap on it."
Adam Klein said he thinks there should be some accountability in the way money is spent. Several people attending the meeting said many times government tends to spend their entire budgets each year so that they can receive the same or more the following year.
Delzer said the city of Madison doesn't operate that way.
"We sit down and carefully go over each request for funds," he said. "We make sure we are spending only what really needs to be spent. Sure, we can delay buying a truck for a year, but eventually that truck will wear out and need to be replaced.
``We have good people in management positions and employees that really do try to do the best job they can for the taxpayers," Delzer said. "When we budget, we look at what is needed this year, not what we spent last year."
Ericsson added that as commissioners, he and the others investigate expenses.
"Everybody has a wish list, but our supervisors have to justify what they ask for," he said.
Lindsay said that besides the 65 city employees, Madison has a number of volunteers who serve on various committees to assist in making decisions.
"We owe them a debt of gratitude. They serve without pay and represent all of the taxpayers to make sure we get the biggest bang for our buck," Lindsay said.
In other business, commissioners approved a Transfer of Service Territory agreement with Sioux Valley Energy. The area in question is the land on the south edge of town that will eventually house the new Madison Community Hospital. By state law, cities have the right to annex land adjacent to their boundaries and thereby assume the right to provide utilities, including electricity. Because there is no electric service currently in the area, no money changes hands because of the agreement.
Rosie Jamison, executive director of the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, requested permission to have a portion of Egan Avenue closed to vehicle traffic for the July 27 "Madison Discovery Day." The event expands the traditional Crazy Days to include a number of other activities. Some of those include musical entertainment, demonstrations of arts, inflatables, races for various age groups, a car cruise, food vendors and sidewalk shopping opportunities.
The commission granted the request.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013