A controversial plan to create a Special Improvement District for improving the streets of Baker was approved Wednesday evening at Baker High School by a narrow 3-2 margin.

It was the second night in a row the City Council was discussing the creation of Special Improvement District #36. The meeting Tuesday night had drawn an overflow crowd in the council chamber, forcing the meeting to be moved to the school the following night.

The council approved the creation of the district, with Mayor JoDee Pratt, Steve Zachmann and Brittany Hoversland voting to pass. Pat Ehret and Tracey Goerndt voted no to the resolution.

According to Kevin Dukart, the city’s clerk/treasurer, passage will allow the proposed project to be put out for bid in several weeks.

At the same time, the city may contact Fallon County officials in an effort to bring down the assessments within the newly created Special Assessment District #36.

“There have been some instances where the Fallon County commissioners have given to city funds to spend on projects. It is my guess there will be some discussion between the city officials and county officials on whether they will be able to help with this project to reduce the burden on the property owners,” Dukart explained. “That’s my understanding. That was part of the discussion (Wednesday at the school). That’s a decision left to the county commission.”

“The mayor and/or city elected officials will probably approach them officially and go through that with them,” Dukart explained.

Previously, the county has been involved in several local projects with city, he added. “The previous ones, to my recollection, were mostly water and sewer projects that the city completed and the county had given funds to help defray some of the costs of those projects.

“When we were redoing our sewer lines, the county paid about $2 million, I believe, and that project ran about $3.8 million. That was some years ago, about 2012. I don’t have the exact figures on that. It was a rather substantial amount they had given us,” he said.

“Most of the sewer lines in the city of Baker were completed during that project,” he added. In addition, the county also provided approximately $1.75 million we put into our capital projects. We had a fund for that and from that fund, we drilled a new water well. The reason we had to drill that well was because of the anticipation of the TransCanada pipeline coming. We are going to provide them water, so we felt we needed another well just to provide that volume of water to the pipeline,” Dukart explained.

In addition, part of the funding was used to repair the water lines after the tornado hit Baker in June 2016, he added. “The street repairs were paid for by a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grant, but the water lines, they (FEMA) wouldn’t pay for that.”

Those were the main projects in the last eight years that the county has helped the city, Dukart added.

The new Special Improvement District #36 is primarily for maintenance, according to Dukart. “There will be some new construction but not very much in the city.

“It will not be a reconstruction by any means. It is mostly where they put down the oil and the chips,” he said. “Some areas of town will be getting a little bit more maintenance than other areas because of the condition of the streets. There will be some hot mix going into some of the really bad areas.”

There will be several areas where concrete will be used, he said. “Down by Cenex, where those trucks tore that street up, and down by the post office where we have ground water underneath. Those two areas, it will probably use concrete when this thing is approved and it is completed.”

Where the concrete will be used, the water pipes will be replaced before the concrete is applied, according to Dukart.

One of the reasons for the short timeline to get the Special Improvement District approved was to meet the time frame for it to start this summer, Dukart said. “In order to get some competitive bids, we had to get the bids out now or else we are going to lose. People are going to get their jobs lined up. Hopefully, we are going to get some competitive bids on this project, the earlier we get this project out.”

“The property owners have gotten an assessment of 28.4 cents per square foot. There is an interest factor in there if we have to borrow funds. We still have to be approved for a loan to go ahead with the project.

“The taxpayers are well aware of what the potential costs could be, but that depends on the final project cost,” he said. “If the county is going to financially assist, it will go down.”

City crews will be doing some minor patching on some streets to help prepare for them to be sealed and chipped, Dukart added.

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