Talk hits gutters: Wapak councilor wants project savings to help assessed residents

Estimated cost savings on a city road project prompted one Wapakoneta City Council member to request the money be set aside to help defray some costs  to be paid by residents along the project’s route.

1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier inquired if the estimated savings from a bid under the engineer’s estimate for the East Benton Street reconstruction project could be used to help pay for the curbs and gutters, a cost assessed to affected property owners.

“I still believe the curbs and gutters are part of the street — we are not going to reconstruct the street without the curbs and gutters and they benefit everyone who uses that street,” Neumeier told fellow councilors at Monday’s council meeting. “I also would like to see the costs of the sidewalks separated from the costs of the curbs and gutters.”

Neumeier also continued his argument that he is bothered by the fact residents along a city street are assessed for curbs, gutters and sidewalks, but those residents along a city street that is also a state route are not assessed for the improvements.

Safety-Service Director Bill Rains said when final assessments are completed and an ordinance is presented to council to levy the assessments on property owners along the East Benton Street project that he would separate the costs of curbs and gutters from the sidewalks.

The East Benton Street reconstruction project, which was estimated at $900,000, received a construction bid of $779,680 from Shinn Brothers, of Celina. The city will pay approximately $450,000 for the project after receiving $330,485 through a state Issue 1 capital improvement grant.

Residents between Water Street and the CSX railroad crossing — the length of the reconstruction project — are to be assessed for curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

2nd Ward Dan Lee said he would like to see the issue argued and discussed during a committee meeting with a formal proposal brought to council for consideration.

He advised Neumeier to make a proposal during the next Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee meeting explaining what he would like to see done.

Councilor-at-large Dan Graf, who chairs the Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee, said the initial purchaser of the property paid for the development of the street, curbs, gutters and sidewalks when they bought the home. Residents are now paying to replace the curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

“When a person buys the lot, that purchase is not just for the property, not just for the building, but the buyer pays for the streets, curbs, gutters and sidewalks and that cost is passed on with each sale of the home,” Graf said. “Our policy is that everybody pays for curbs, gutters and sidewalks, but when state or federal regulations come into play those override us and we can’t assess those costs.”

Neumeier found some support for his proposal in Councilor-at-large Steve Walter.

“I support the concept if it has the support of the Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee or the Finance Committee, who have to evaluate the cost of curbs, gutters and sidewalks in relation to the entire cost of the project,” Walter said, estimating the cost savings to be approximately 5 percent of the total cost of the project. “I would support it as a policy as long the two committees sign off on the effect it will have on the street program. We need to know if it shortens a project by one block or more before we decide what to do.”

Mayor Rodney Metz told councilors he would order the assessments separated into curbs, gutters and sidewalk assessments, but he warned councilors may be surprised to learn the savings in the overall project may not be in curbs, gutters and sidewalks because concrete costs and labor have remained fairly constant the past few years.

“I have no problem looking at the costs broken out, but I really don’t know what kind of dollars we are looking at at this time,” Metz told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “I do know anything that is paid for will affect the capabilities of the city to do more work and more projects in the city in the future.

“We have to remember this is not property owners against the city in paying for the project,” the mayor said, “all city projects benefit the entire community and in the end it all ends up being the citizens money, it is a project benefitting the city, and it benefits all the residents and the entire community in the end.”