MARSHALL - A proposal to delete a pair of deferred special assessments for street and utility improvements created a division among Marshall City Council members on Tuesday night. The motion failed on a tied 3-3 vote, and the council had no alternative suggestions.
The council's actions wouldn't have severe consequences for the city, although it could open the possibility of paying court costs for property owners' appeals of the assessments.
City Attorney Dennis Simpson addressed the city council at its regular meeting Tuesday, regarding the assessments. When the city made street and utility improvements on Windstar Street and Clarice Avenue in 2010, special assessments were made and then deferred on two properties outside city limits. Neither of the properties are currently subject to paying the assessments, unless the land becomes part of the city or receives benefits from the utility lines built in the improvement projects.
However, Simpson said, the owners of those properties had appealed the assessments in court, saying the deferred assessments counted as liens against their property. Simpson said he recommended the council delete both of the deferred assessments as part of a settlement of the dispute.
Deleting the assessments wouldn't have an impact on city finances, Simpson said. The assessments were deferred for at least 20 years and no payments are currently owed to the city. State statutes would also allow the city to start the assessment process on the properties again in the future. If either of the properties were ever to be annexed into Marshall or be benefited by the utilities, the city could go ahead with the special assessment.
In discussion, city council member Mike Boedigheimer had some criticism for the proposal, and questioned why the city passed and deferred the assessments in the first place. Boedigheimer also objected to Simpson's entering into a settlement without consulting with council members first.
"That's a decision for the council to make," he said of the offer to delete the assessments.
Council member Larry Doom moved to delete the deferred assessments, but the motion failed on a 3-3 vote. Doom, Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes and council member John DeCramer voted in favor of deleting the assessments, and council members Boedigheimer, Charlie Sanow and Jennie Hulsizer voted against deleting the assessments.
No alternative actions were proposed by the council on Tuesday.
Simpson said Wednesday that there is a motion for summary judgement on the deferred assessments in Lyon County District Court. Without action from the city council to delete the assessments, there are two possible alternatives, he said. One would be to ask for the ruling to be delayed and see if the council would reconsider. The other would be to let the judge issue a ruling.
A ruling on the assessments "could possibly have some negative effects," like costs assessed against the city, Simpson said. However, he said, a judge's ruling would not affect the finances of the improvement projects, or prevent the city from assessing the properties if they become part of Marshall in the future.