Harris keeps property tax levy flat

The final levy that the Harris City Council will send to the Chisago County treasurer for property taxes to be paid in 2014 will be the same amount as council the sent the prior year.

Here’s how the numbers break down: $282,249 for the general fund, $90,000 for the water fund and $95,251 for the sewer fund, for a total of $467,500.

The council also certified delinquent utility bills, mowing charges and fire calls to be added to property taxes. The total amount was $22,520.15. The amount will come back to the city when residents who had not paid their obligation pay their real estate taxes.

The 2014 fee schedule was also adopted. The only changes were the increase in the water and sewer rates and an increase in the cost to purchase a cemetery plot. The cost for residents to purchase a plot will increase to $500; non-residents will have to pay $750.

City Clerk Joanne Dargy also had a comparison of the Water Access Charge and the Sewer Access Charge, showing where Harris compares to other cities in the state. Both cities from across the state as well as nearby cities were included in the comparison chart.  Harris was very competitive to other regional cities.

Turn back discussed

City Engineer Mark Statz also discussed with the council the recent correspondence with Chisago County Engineer Joe Triplett concerning the upcoming county road turn back.

Currently, the county intends to turn over three county roads to the city. It will then become the responsibility of the city to maintain and repair these roads. The three roads are part of County Road 61 totaling 3 miles, County Road 59 for an additional 2 miles, and County Road 58 for another 1 1/4 miles.  Because the city presently has 26 miles of road that it maintains, this will be a substantial increase in the cost of funding the Public Works Department of the city.

Statz reviewed the plan the county had adopted. It shows that County Road 58 has a traffic count of 75 cars per day, County Road 59 has 69 cars today, and the most used of the three, County Road 61, has 141 cars per day. Statz said that a study had been done in South Dakota to determine when it is more cost effective to pave a road rather than grade it. That amount was 200 to 300 cars per day. Statz said this same daily rate could be used to determine when a road should be a county road or a city or township road.

At the present time, it is the county’s plan to turn these roads over to the city in the spring of 2014, after the road restrictions are done. The county will plow them this winter.

Triplett indicated that present needed maintenance will be completed prior to the transition. The signs will be updated to come into compliance. The culverts will be inspected and confirmed in good condition. And the gravel will be at the proper depth.

Councilmember Randy Carlson said he wondered how quickly County Road 61 would reach the rate where it should be paved, since it’s not that far off pace right now. He also wondered if the county should require that road to be paved prior to having it turned over to the city.  Statz said that a review of the historical daily traffic rates could be done and a request made to the county. The historical rates would provide a projection as to when the road should be paved.

The council decided to take three actions, the results of which will be reviewed at the January council meeting. The first action approved contacting the League of Minnesota Cities to see if any other cities in the state had success in opposing county road turn backs. The second action approved contacting other cities and townships in the county to see if their intention is to oppose the transfer. The final action was to get on the agenda of the Chisago County Board to express directly to the commissioners their displeasure with the plan.

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