Mark Taylor
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The Gardner City Council directed staff to begin work on an annexation agreement that outlines the city’s and school district’s financial responsibilities in extending infrastructure to serve a proposed 40-acre elementary and middle school campus between Center Street and Moonlight Road.
The new schools are among several projects included in a $72.8 million bond issue that will go before voters in January, 2012.
After about an hour of discussion on Oct. 10, the council instructed staff to develop an annexation agreement that would “commit the school district and city to funding 50 percent of the new infrastructure needed to develop the site (Grand Street, water and sewer connections).”
The city would also pay 100 percent of a $1.3 million sewer upgrade that was already in the city’s capital improvement plan, but would be bumped up to 2014-15 to accommodate the school construction.
The annexation agreement is expected to be voted on at the council’s Oct. 17 or Nov. 7 meeting.
David Greene, director of public works, said staff recommended against the city’s participation in the Grand Street, water and sewer connections.
He said the city was “neither obligated nor can it afford” $254,000 in debt service for its proposed share of the Grand Street improvements.
That project would likely require an annual tax increase of 2 mills.
Waterline extension is “a cost that the developer of land is expected to bear per city code,” Greene said.
Likewise, staff recommended against cost sharing in sewer connections to serve the campus.
“The cost of this type of sanitary sewer extension is typically borne by the developer,” Greene said.
Greene suggested that benefit districts be formed for the water and sewer extensions with the school district property as the “sole beneficiary.”
Gardner Electric would be responsible for negotiating electric service for the site.
However, Greene recommended moving the sewer capacity improvements forward to 2012-13.
He said moving the sewer upgrade forward would likely result in rate increases.
“At this time, the amount of rate increase cannot be fully predicted,” Greene told the council. “However, a 1 percent increase in sewer rates represents approximately $35,000 in annual revenue.  Advancing the construction schedule for this project forward is equivalent to an additional 5 percent rate increase in 2014 and 2015.”
Council members were divided 3-2 on whether the city should cost share in the projects.
Brian Boxterman, Kristina Harrison and Dennis Pugh indicated support, so long as citizens were made aware of the corresponding increase in the city’s mill levy if the bond issue passes.
“The city will use those facilities,” Pugh said. “No kids will be bussed in from Edgerton. I believe we need to share what we can in costs.”
Larry Fotovich and Chris Morrow disagreed.
“I am not in favor of (cost) participation,” Fotovich said. “I wish we had the ability to hand out money so that my own kids could benefit and so my wife wouldn’t have to have larger classes, but the reality is that these are tough economic times.”