Rochester council asked to approve new approach to sidewalk repairs

Nov. 12—ROCHESTER — A final plan to spread public sidewalk repair costs more evenly across property owners will be considered Monday.

The Rochester City Council will review a proposed Sidewalk Improvement District Program that seeks to spread assessment costs of annual sidewalk repairs among property owners in defined districts, rather than requiring individuals pay for specific work in front of their homes and businesses.

"The cost (per property owner) can be a bit unpredictable," Tyler Niemeyer, Rochester's assistant city engineer, told council members in May.

The current program ended up with individual assessments ranging from $134 to $29,777 for individual property owners in a portion of Northeast Rochester. The average assessment was $854.

While sidewalk access is public, the walkways are considered the responsibility of property owners, and required repairs can range from grinding down edges on elevated sections of a sidewalk to replacing the entire sidewalk for pedestrian safety.

Prior to discussing the potential program change, the City Council will hold a public hearing to allow property owners to address any recent assessments for repairs, which are due and could be added to property owners' tax bills for payment over a five-year period.

Council members and Public Works staff have long discussed changing the program, with some pointing to concerns faced by homeowners who unexpectedly receive assessments that can come as a financial shock.

The proposed change would divide the city into six districts. A downtown district and five districts surrounding the city's core. Districts would be subdivided into project areas to focus annual review for repairs in a specific portion of the city.

Every year, Rochester Public Works staff would identify the needs in the scheduled project area, select a contractor and determine the overall cost, which would be spread among the district's property owners on a five-year basis.

The annual rates for the new program, which are expected to be added to tax bills, would be adjusted, with non-residential properties paying six times the rate paid for residential properties, but all property owners without existing sidewalks would see their costs cut in half.

The average annual fee for homeowners is expected to be $36, with non-residential property owners seeing an average annual cost of $207, according to estimates provided to the City Council in advance of Monday's discussion.

Property owners who have been assessed for sidewalk repairs in the past five years would not pay the new fees for at least five years under the proposed plan.

The projected rates assume the council will approve full funding for annual upgrades to pedestrian ramps at crossings, which are part of the city's Americans with Disabilities Act transition plan.

If some of those costs are shifted into the sidewalk improvement district expenses, property owners' rates would increase.

If approved, the Public Works staff expects to start with a project area east of downtown Rochester.

A bid for the work would be sought in January and the overall cost would be used to determine property owner rates in Southeast Rochester for the following five years.

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of Nov. 14 include:


* City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday In council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The meeting will livestream at

and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

* City Council, 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the Government Center. The meeting will livestream at

and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

* Heritage Preservation Commission training session, 5 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers of the Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

* Library Board, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in meeting room C of the Rochester Public Library, 101 Second St. SE.

* Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers of the Government Center.

Olmsted County

* Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, 11 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 for the city-county Government Center.

* Administrative Committee, 2 p.m. Tuesday in board chambers of the Government Center.

* Board of County Commissioners, 3 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the Government Center.

* Parks Commission, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Public Works, 2122 Campus Drive SE in Rochester.

* Environmental Commission, 6 p.m. Wednesday in conference room A at 2122 Campus Drive SE.

* Planning Advisory Commission, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, board chambers of the Government Center.

Rochester Public Schools

* School Board study session, 5 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Edison Building, 615 Seventh St. SW.