City’s next budget nears completion; council hears more about B Street NE

Rob Sole, a Quincy business owner, speaks to city officials Nov. 15 during a city council meeting.

Money matters were a large part of the Nov. 15 meeting of the Quincy City Council, with the city’s 2023 preliminary budget given its final hearing.

One member of the public spoke during the hearing, Rob Sole, who focused his comments on revisiting the B Street NE project in 2023, asking the city to change the controversial design.

City Administrator Pat Haley wrote in an email to the Post-Register he expects the 2023 budget will be on the agenda at the next council meeting for its final approval.

“Now that we’ve had a couple of workshops and obtained public comment, it should be ready for adoption,” Haley wrote.

According to the minutes of a council budget workshop, there has been some discussion of increasing the fees residents pay for water and sewer.

Finance Officer-City Clerk Nancy Schanze wrote in an email she expects rates to rise 10%. That would be a larger increase than the previous time the city raised its rates.

The fees for water went up 5% in 2020. The last time sewer fees were raised was in 2012, by 5%.

The 2023 rate increases are expected to be approved at the Dec. 20 meeting, Schanze wrote.

The council also passed a motion to contribute funds to Grant County Health District at a rate of $4 per city resident. The city regularly contributes to GCHD. The agenda item stated GCHD requested $3 per resident from all the cities within Grant County, but since 2020, Quincy City Council has given more than that – $4 per resident. The difference amounts to about $8,000.

The council also OK’d an ad valorem tax, a “1% increase over the highest regular levy,” which is also a regular feature of year-end city business. Agenda documents show the amount added to overall taxes in 2023 will be about $50,000. After some discussion coming from questions by council members Dave Dormier and Jeff Spence, the council approved it.

The council approved an extension of the city’s interlocal agreement with Grant County Fire District 3 for one year with a 4% increase. The two would negotiate a new contract in 2023. The cost of the increase was estimated to be about $22,000. There was one “nay” vote on the motion, by council member Dylan Kling.

During the public hearing on the preliminary city budget for 2023, Rob Sole thanked the mayor and council for including money in the budget for studying what needs to be done to fix B Street NE.

During the summer 2022, the city started a major rebuilding of the entire width of the street along six blocks. Its unusual design, particularly along the eastern length of the street, quickly became controversial, stirring numerous complaints from people who have property there, both residents and business owners.

Some of them have said during past council meetings they had not been informed about the project and thus had no opportunity to express their opinion about it before construction began.

Sole said the narrowing of B Street NE to 20 feet wide along the eastern blocks has affected his business there, Blue Sky Self Storage.

The city continued with construction of the project and tried to respond to the public’s concerns.

Below are excerpts of Sole’s prepared remarks expressing his views to the council.

“If I’d had the opportunity to see what was being planned and comment on it, I would have strongly objected to the 20’ street in front of my RV storage business,” he said.

In his remarks, Sole also again took up the cause of neighboring property owners, whom he says are also affected by the city’s project.

“The three large lots west of my property have been completely land-locked with no access provided, short of an alley that really doesn’t exist. These land owners are being deprived of their property rights,” Sole said, before continuing with an appeal that everybody follow the rules, including those making them.

“We all need to follow the rules as they exist today, not as they might be in the future, including the City of Quincy.”

Sole concluded by criticizing the way the project came about, calling it “poorly conceived” and “based on a problem that can’t be substantiated by hard facts, and that has negatively affected the residents and commercial properties on B st. NE between 3rd and 6th Ave.”

Sole also urged council members to make the decisions needed to what he considered wrongs that need to be righted.

Municipal Services Director Carl Worley replied to the Post-Register’s request for response and information on the B Street NE project in an email Thursday.

He wrote that the project is nearly done and the 2023 budget includes money “in the event council chooses to modify the project.”

“The project is substantially complete. There are small items such as, no parking signs and some curb painting to identify no parking areas. … It was completed as designed to avoid unfinished streets throughout the winter.”

The city had one of its bilingual employees speak with truckers who park their rigs on property on the south side of the eastern end of B Street NE, several of whom had spoken at a council meeting about the new narrow street width and the curb and landscaping that blocked their access to B Street NE.

The city employee “contacted the spokesperson for the group of truck drivers and scheduled a meeting. The meeting was held on September 13, 2022, with five attendees,” Worley wrote. The discussion was explaining the development code process for permitting and connecting to the water and sewer, and the city has not received any further comments or responses from those attendees.

“We are sending out a letter to provide pertinent forms to allow the property owners to complete and submit the necessary applications,” Worley wrote, adding that “the comments regarding denying access or landlocking the property owners is misleading (sic). Without the appropriate development applications which include site plans and infrastructure location the City of Quincy has no idea where to put an ingress/egress to the property for access.”