They ask city to reconsider assessments that have some paying double

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Staff writer

Life’s not fair, at least not when it comes to alley resurfacing in the City of Burlington.

Facing a much-needed – at least according to residents – repaving of the alley in the Elmhurst subdivision, City Council members struggled with how to assess the costs of the project in their Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night.

According to the city’s municipal code, the abutting property owners on the alley will be assessed 100 percent of the cost. That includes owners on Walnut Street to the north, Summit Avenue to the south, North Elmwood Avenue on the east and North Maple Avenue on the west.

However, the split is not equal, with two property owners – Richard and Bonnie Torpy and Gary and Suzanne Jagodzinski – paying double what their neighbors will.

The assessments for those two properties are $4,941.60 each, while the other six property owners are being assessed $2,470.80 each.

The disparity was noticed by the property owners – and not just by the two with the higher assessments. Gary Jagodzinski showed up for the meeting to make the point that not only is the assessment portion unfair (determined by frontage on the alley) but so is the fact that Jagodzinski rarely uses the alley.

“I drive through the alleyway maybe once a month, but I have to bear the brunt of the resurfacing,” he pointed out. Another one of his neighbors – one paying half the bill Jagodzinski will – stood up and said that alley residents generally agreed that the assessment process was unfair.

Exactly what is fair? That was a point of contention among council members, City Administrator Kevin Lahner and Mayor Bob Miller. Both Miller and Lahner went to great lengths to point out that any assessment process would never be 100 percent fair to everyone involved.

“I understand the issue,” Lahner said. “But it’s really hard to take a standard type of assessment procedure and customize it.”

The city has faced the issue before, Miller said, and there are always issues raised with the fairness of assessment practices.

City Attorney John Bjelajac suggested that the city allow itself to change the municipal code to “reasonable basis” rather than stick with a strict frontage size assessment.

“You should give yourself the flexibility,” Bjelajac said. When Miller reiterated that the council would have to customize the process for fairness with each project, one of the council members spoke up and simply said, “That’s our job, Bob.”