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Property owners miffed over unexpected Woodbury Drive costs

Woodbury City Council was set to approve about $285,000 worth of special assessment fees last week, when it received objections to those final costs at the Wednesday, Oct. 9 public hearing and decided to table the vote.

Woodbury partnered with Washington County to reconstruct Woodbury Drive this year. The city’s share of the project is $3.1 million, with 8 percent coming from special assessments and the rest from other funding sources.

The city had previously sent benefiting property owners estimates of how much they should expect to pay once the project is done, but two who spoke at last week’s meeting said their final bills came in 40 percent higher than anticipated.

“We live on a budget as well,” said Bill Harper, owner of a law firm located on Woodbury Drive. “Something has gone awry with the numbers on the project.”

Calling it a “fundamental unfairness,” Harper said he’s already paid the original estimate, so he filed a written complaint following the public hearing to dispute the increase.

Kelly Monkman expressed his frustration at the meeting as well and said the city had told him original estimates are always conservative so when the final numbers come in lower, property owners aren’t disappointed.

He said after going through the construction process that caused a dozen power outages, the loss of two tenants and confusion to clients, assessments came in more than 30 percent higher than original amounts.

“If it is going to be coming in higher, or somewhat higher, I think someone should stop, let us know what’s going on instead of waiting until the assessment process comes up and then blindsiding us,” he said. “It’s poor communication, the whole process was poor … I’m not happy.”

Woodbury Public Works Director Klayton Eckles said the total $12 million project is a Washington County-led project that includes hundreds of components on pages of spreadsheets dividing up who pays for what.

The county had an agreement with the city and when it came time to finalize the agreement, costs for that portion of the project came in higher than originally anticipated, he said.

“Certainly we don’t like to give bad news to our residents,” Eckles said, but using the same assessment policy the city uses for all street projects, yielded 30 to 40 percent higher costs.

He told the council it has authority to steer from the policy in unique situations like these.

“We need a little more discussion on this because it seems to be a unique situation,” Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said.

The rest of the council agreed and decided to table the decision and re-open the public hearing at a later date when staff members will likely come back with new assessment numbers.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.