Plans to connect 52 properties to La Crescent’s sewer and water systems at a cost that could reach about $1.5 million were discussed at special meeting of the city council on Monday.

The council affirmed that it won’t move forward on the plans that involve properties on County Road 6 and North Fourth Street without first seeking input from the affected homeowners. The properties on North Fourth Street have already been annexed by the city.

On County Road 6, the city is planning to connect 39 properties to municipal water and 30 to the sewer system that have yet to be annexed by the city. However, the County Road 6 homes may be annexed soon, especially if the plans to connect them to city services are finalized.

Both projects are still at an early stage and bids have not been collected, but city engineer Tim Hruska estimated the total cost of the projects at over $1.5 million.

Property owners will have to pay some of that total through special assessments that would be added to their real estate taxes

The cost to connect the water main to the 39 homes is estimated at $12,820 per lot, while the cost for the sanitary sewer to 30 homes would run to an estimated $17,400, according to Hruska. A further $1,800 per lot to pay for a lift station would likely be added to that total.

The special assessments could be paid in full by property owners or over a 10 year period, said Mayor Mike Poellinger after Monday’s meeting.

Council members motioned to seek input by sending out notices for an informational meeting to the affected property owners before the city takes further steps on the project. Further detail on the meeting will be discussed at the next city council meeting, said city administrator Bill Waller, but it has been tentatively scheduled for early March.

Hruska said if work on the project started this fall it would not be complete until 2019. At Monday’s meeting, he also presented the estimates for the cost of connecting seven homes to the sewer system on North Fourth Street and new curbs and gutters on the street along 13 properties.

The cost for the street repair portion of the project would result in an estimated $19,000 assessment against the 13 properties, while connecting the seven homes to the sewer system would cost around $216,000. The connection cost to the city sewer system could run as high as $16,000 each for the seven properties affected.

Again, the council decided to seek public input by sending out letters to the affected homeowners but the mayor said that given the high potential cost to those homeowners, the city would come up with a plan to shoulder more of the financial burden. Hruska will likely return to the council in the coming weeks with numbers that are more amenable to property owners.

He noted to the council that homeowners can challenge special assessments through the courts. City attorney Skip Wieser said that in the case of street improvements, such as the planned work on North Fourth Street, the city must be able to prove a direct benefit to homeowners, which can be difficult.

Wieser added that the “district court process is property owner friendly,” meaning that the city would need to be able to document the benefits of the improvement project to homeowners.