Adjacent property owners currently pay 50%
By Scott Bellile
The cost of curb repairs and reconstruction in New London could become the responsibility of taxpayers rather than the impacted property owners.
Currently the property owners along the curb split half the cost with the city for repairs or reconstruction. Curb and gutter are public property just as sidewalks and streets are.
The city recently received complaints from property owners regarding their bills for curb and gutter work along their property lines. The work took place this month on four streets.
For those four projects, the adjacent properties were assessed at $5.45 per foot of curb along Wolf River Avenue, $13.20 per foot along Wisconsin Street and $16.78 per foot on Ridgeway Drive and Wyman Street. For some property owners, this added up to a fee of several hundred dollars.
The proposed amendment to ordinance 8.02 would reduce the financial impact on property owners within work zones by spreading the cost for curb and gutter work among everyone in town, whether or not they live on the street where the work is happening.
The New London City Council will vote on the proposal Oct. 11.
New London Public Works Director Jeff Bodoh said at a Sept. 20 special meeting of the Board of Public Works the proposed amendment would benefit his department. It would cut down on complaints from the property owners who now foot 50 percent of the bill. City workers also wouldn’t have to assess the properties – measure each property owner’s curb and calculate their dollar contribution – before starting every project, and they wouldn’t need to go collect the fees afterward.
“The curb and gutter would be fully on the tax roll or in the bond of a project,” Bodoh said. “We wouldn’t have the individual property owners pay for any of it.”
Board member and First District Alderman Robert Besaw supported amending the ordinance.
“I think it’s fair doing it that way because [currently] everybody uses the stuff, and then you have to pay for it,” Besaw said. “You have to maintain it and you still have to pay for it, but everybody else is using it.”
“And a lot of times we’re replacing curb, most of the time it’s because of settling, and it’s really not the owner’s fault,” Bodoh replied. “It’s basically what’s going on in the ground underneath.”
Some residents may not agree with a tax increase, New London Mayor Gary Henke said, but unlike other towns, New London doesn’t assess property owners for work on streets, sidewalks and sanitary sewers. He said it would make sense to do the same for curb and gutter.
As for the construction of new curb, such as in a new housing subdivision, the cost would remain the developer’s responsibility and not the taxpayers’.
In a related situation in South Dakota, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2010 the city of Pierre’s assessments were unconstitutional.
A July 1, 2010 article from the Capital Journal states curb and gutter assessments are “an unconstitutional taking of property without fair compensation, the justices decided, because replacing a functional curb and gutter doesn’t provide significant benefit to the property owner.”