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City commission OK’s sewer project without special assessment

September 11, 2012
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - The Marquette City Commission on Monday agreed to a project to replace a portion of city sanitary sewer, but felt a special assessment for the work was not necessary.

The commission directed city staff to move ahead with a project to replace the system along East Avenue, which runs south from Wright Street and borders Marquette Township to the west.

Under a special assessment, the owners of the four city properties served by a collection of small sewer laterals - which were installed privately more than 30 years ago - would split some of the cost for the project - about $30,000.

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If a special assessment is opposed by more than 50 percent of affected property owners, it can only be levied by a vote of the city commission. Two of the four property owners along East Avenue supported the assessment.

City Planner Dennis Stachewicz called the East Avenue system, which connects to the city main along Wright Street, "a substandard system; a patchwork of long laterals."

Lowell and Florence Jolin told the commission Monday that their family had constructed the current East Avenue system decades ago and they didn't feel comfortable footing the bill for a replacement.

"We've been paying the city of Marquette and they've taken care of it for all these years," Florence Jolin said. "Why should we have to pay for it?"

Commissioners worried that since the city allowed the residents to hook their systems up to Marquette's years ago and since the landowners had been paying into the water and sewer fund ever since, the city may be culpable for repairs.

"We've got some sewer customers here who have been paying sewer fees for 40 years and provided the infrastructure to bring the sewer to us," Commissioner Robert Niemi said. "They made their commitment."

The commission voted 6-0 to move ahead with the project without the special assessment. The city will also replace the East Avenue water system at the same time. Work will likely begin in the spring of 2013.

The issue first presented itself to city staff when two of the four East Avenue property owners - Andrew Guinn and Garrett Kern - told the city they had suffered sewer backups in recent months.

The commission also approved a planned unit development agreement between the city and Marquette's Veridea Group, related to a major construction project at 857 W. Washington St.

There, Veridea plans to create a $31 million development and officials have said the planned development, a 147,000-square-foot commercial, retail and residential space, will expand the city's downtown area.

The four-building complex will include an underground parking garage and a landscaped north side abutting the city bike path.

In June, Veridea secured city commission approval for a brownfield plan that could allow the group to recapture, over more than two decades, up to $17.6 million in tax revenues on improvements made to the property.

Annual tax revenues for the property - after brownfield obligations are retired - should total more than $1.3 million.

Current plans call for the project to be constructed in four phases and to be fully completed by the summer of 2016.

In other action, the commission:

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.



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