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030918-hn-nws-county-six-1

La Crescent Mayor Mike Poellinger (standing, left) speaks at the special city council meeting on the County Road 6 infrastructure project last week.

Property owners who live along County Road 6 are facing a stark choice.

They can either choose to petition the city to have their property annexed at a cost of $27,960 or wait 10 years, when their property will likely be forcibly annexed at a considerably higher cost.

About 47 property owners must make the decision and many showed up at a special city council meeting last Thursday to express anger about the plans.

The city wants to annex the properties as its running city water and sewer along County Road 6 to connect to the racetrack property, where a developer plans to build 75 homes.

The $27,960 price tag covers the $12,720 to connect to city water, the $13,440 to connect to city sewer and $1,800 to contribute to the cost of a new lift station.

Excluded from the total is the estimated $3,000 each property owner will have to pay to connect the city and water sewer from the property line to their homes.

Any property owner that accepts annexation must also accept city services, according to city officials.

“You want me to give you $30,000 to connect to city water and sewer that I don’t want so that some developer can build 75 homes across the street,” said Jeff Laska, one of the residents who spoke at last week’s meeting.

The city has given property owners living outside the city limits the chance to voluntarily petition for annexation before, including when it annexed properties at Crescent Valley. Mayor Mike Poellinger noted that 13 properties in that area had originally petitioned to be annexed but that number has since increased to 40, without any forcible annexations.

Laska was among about 50 people who attended last Thursday’s meeting at the La Crescent Community Center. He said that once annexed, property owners will have to pay water and sewer fees, which they don’t have to now.

However, Laska added that he sees little choice but to ask to be annexed. One of the reasons for that is because property owners who don’t ask to be annexed will see the cost of doing so increase by an estimated 4 percent a year. The city will issue a bond to pay for the overall cost of running infrastructure along County Road 6, which city engineer Tim Hruska expects to come in at $1.5 million. The interest on the bond, which city officials are estimating at 4 percent, will be added each year to the cost for property owners who choose not to annex over the 10 years before they are forced to do so, Hruska explained.

“Every year you don’t hook up, the cost is going up,” added Poellinger.

The city council that’s in place in 10 years will have to give the green light to any forcible annexation, city administrator Bill Waller said. A majority of the current council supports the policy.

Some residents at last week’s meeting asked if there would be a vote to see if there was support for the annexation plan. City officials said residents would not get a vote but would have the opportunity to give their input at public hearings. The city can use state law to forcibly annex the properties on County Road 6 because much of the surrounding area already is part of the city, Waller said.

Home values for annexed properties could increase because of the connection to city water and sewer and properties would be easier to sell, the mayor noted.

One of the issues for property owners outside the city limits is that they use septic systems, some of which are not in compliance with state regulations and would be costly to upgrade while also making it difficult to sell.

City council members who spoke at Thursday’s meeting said the infrastructure project, when tied to the racetrack development, offered an opportunity to grow the city’s population and tax base, which would aid the school district and the city.

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Coulee Courier and Houston County News editor

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