Dinsmoor Acres residents hopeful

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 5, 2001

Some residents remember two years ago when a headline read "County commissioners give Dinsmoor Acres project the green light.

Saturday, May 05, 2001

Some residents remember two years ago when a headline read "County commissioners give Dinsmoor Acres project the green light."

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Unfortunately construction traffic stalled to make major infrastructure improvements to the residential subdivision in Austin Township and the project never moved forward.

Now, residents are hopeful there will be movement this summer and when the work is done, they can expect it to cost $200,000 less than originally thought.

"We have a good feeling for the direction that the residents want us to go with this project," said David Hillier, Third District county commissioner and chairman of the board.

It appears the project will include curb and guttering.

At an improvements hearing last week, Hillier asked for a show of hands from the 18 or more property owners present: 12 voted for curb and guttering along 23rd and 24th streets, while only four voted for a rural section-style project that would include roadside ditches instead of curb and guttering.

Ray Tucker, Second District county commissioner, pointed out to the residents the "pay now or pay more later" situation. According to Tucker, to make the street, sanitary sewer and water improvements now without curb and guttering would drive costs upwards to years from now in an attempt to install curb and guttering along the streets.

Tucker’s words changed everything. Moments before he spoke, an informal show-of-hands poll revealed only six residents wanted the project done with curb and guttering while 13 others opposed it.

The results were reversed after Tucker spoke.

Much of Thursday night’s improvement hearing offered a sense of "deja vu" for Mees and the other residents who may have felt they had been there and heard that before.

Located just south of the Austin city limits, the residential subdivision has about 43 parcels of land in Austin Township, where individual sewage treatment systems do not meet minimum standards. In addition, their private wells are suspect.

Both the Mower County environmental health department and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have verified the noncompliance.

The city of Austin is willing to annex the property, but not before the infrastructure improvements are made and without the city’s financial participation.

When bids were taken , only one was received and it was deemed too high – $825,000 to do everything – and the project was delayed. In the meantime, the county asked the city of Austin if the project could be modified to be satisfactorily accomplished for less money and still allow the property to be annexed into the city limits.

That was also done and a second round of bidding produced four bids earlier this week to do the work.

County Engineer Michael Hanson explained what can be done.

For $662,800, street construction, including curb and pavement, waster main and water service line construction, sanitary sewer and service line construction and storm sewer construction can be done.

Individual property owners would have to pay the costs of abandonment of their septic systems and water wells as well as the costs of service line construction and street restoration from the street right of way to their residences.

For $527,300, essentially the same work can be done but without curb and gutter. Property owners would have to pay to abandon their septic systems and wells and to connect to the water/sanitary sewer service lines.

According to Hanson, the apparent low bidder among the four contractors is Crane Creek Asphalt of Owatonna.

Also unchanged from the project’s inception, according to Hanson, is the city’s refusal to participate financially in the project. Neither is Mower County a financial participant.

Also unchanged is the county’s assessment policy.

Property owners face paying $51 per frontage foot for street construction, $2,433 for each parcel of land for sanitary sewer and service line construction and $15.86 per frontage foot for storm sewer construction as well as the Austin Utilities’ formula for water main and service line construction.

All of the original estimates placed the cost to individual property owners anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 per individual parcel. No detailed figures of the new costs estimates were released Thursday night.

Senior citizens and other retired or disabled residents will be allowed deferrals, which also will be granted for undeveloped parcels of land.

Hanson emphasized. "These cost estimates are not final. This project could cost more and it could cost less."

Several property owners had questions for Hanson and the county commissioners. Don Durben, Greg Sodeberg, Craig Jackel, Jerry Wilde and others, but they were just that – questions – and not objections as residents appear today to be resigned to the fact the price-tag for the improvements will not be cheap.

According to Hillier, the county board will act on the project, when the issue comes before the commissioners at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

If the Dinsmoor Acres improvements are approved this week by the county board, construction could begin in late June with sewer and water, storm sewer and street grading work done by fall and the bituminous paving and curb and gutter done a year from now.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at lee.bonorden@austindailyherald.com.