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Nymore streets to stay unpaved for now

Nancy Erickson set out to fight for her ward. She just didn't know that her ward didn't want her help.

An overwhelming majority of Nymore residents who live on dirt roads attended Monday's City Council meeting to speak out against a proposal to pave their roads.

"If you want to put me out of my house, just ask me to leave," said George Edwards, who lives on Fourth Street Southeast. "I can't afford it."

Due to the amount of opposition, the City Council voted unanimously to cancel the project.

The council had been considering the paving of the following gravel roads: Wilson Avenue (between Third and Fourth streets), Kay Avenue (Second to Third streets), Gould Avenue (Second to Fifth streets), Richards Avenue (First to Fifth streets), Stoner Avenue (Fourth to Fifth streets), Fifth Street (Gould to Lake avenues), Miles Avenue (Fourth Street to Roosevelt Avenue) and McKinley Avenue (Third to Fourth streets).

But, residents of six of the above projects presented the City Council with petitions stating their opposition to the work:

E Wilson Avenue, 83 percent opposed

E Kay Avenue, 50 percent opposed

E Gould Avenue, 100 percent opposed

E Richards Avenue, 71 percent opposed

E Stoner Avenue, 67 percent opposed

E Fifth Street, 100 percent opposed

E Miles Avenue, 88 percent opposed

"I think the petitions speak very vividly," Mayor Richard Lehmann said.

Erickson originally approached City Engineer Craig Gray in the fall about why Nymore residents were not on the schedule in 2008 for street improvements, and Gray responded with a plan to pave some of the streets in the area.

Erickson said the Nymore area has a "shabby appearance" and she set out to see that the council offered some improvements in the area, she explained.

But, after hearing from concerned residents during a Dec. 18 neighborhood meeting and being presented with the petitions, Erickson said she has learned differently.

"It is not by neglect but rather by choice," she said.

Erickson added that residents should consider that the assessment cost, $48 per lineal foot, is only likely to rise in the future.

According to Erickson, there are 81 miles of paved roads in the city of Bemidji, of which 5.5 miles are not paved. Of those, 2.5 are in Nymore. She told those in attendance that she would honor their wishes and cancel the project, but reminded them that they live in an urban area, which is expected to have paved roads.

"That's part of city living," she said. "I'm disappointed."

The total cost was expected to be $370,449 with $4,562 coming from the storm water utility fund and the remainder coming from assessments to benefiting properties at a cost of $48 per lineal foot, according to a staff report from Gray.

Residents who spoke against the work Monday said they simply could not afford the assessments.

Deborah Nelson, who lives on Fifth Street Southeast, said she has thought in the past that having paved roads in Nymore certainly would be beneficial.

"I would love to say, "Yes, let's do it,'" she said. "But there are a lot of people who can't afford it."

Nelson said property owners still are recovering from costs associated with sewer and water improvements that came along with annexation several years ago, and others were affected by assessments for the paving of Fourth Street Southeast.

"At least give us a break right now," she said.

Scott LaCoursiere, of Bemidji Ambulance Service at 512 Kay Avenue Southeast, spoke in support of the project, saying that unpaved roads are uncomfortable for patients who are being transported. He suggested that perhaps the council could obtain grants or other funding sources to ease the financial requirements of area residents.

"I just think it's inevitable," he said. "It should happen."

Although no one who lives along McKinley Avenue addressed the council, Erickson said residents on that street will be disappointed that their road will not be paved. Those people actually came to the city and asked that the road be paved, she explained.