Published: Nov 29, 2011 07:00 PM
Modified: Nov 29, 2011 07:03 PM
MORRISVILLE - In Huntington Park the roads are falling apart, but those who live along the neglected private streets could see some relief in the next few years.
The subdivision is the first of six to get upgrades under the town's new municipal service district, which converts about two miles of road from private to public.
Starting in July, property owners in Huntington Park, The Gables, Carpenter Park Condominiums, Carpenter Park Townhomes, Kelton II and Kelton Square will pay an additional 10 cents per $100 of assessed value - $200 on a $200,000 home - until the project is complete.
Morrisville estimates it could take about 15 years to finish all the work , said Town Manager John Whitson.
Converting private streets into public roads is a project that has been in the making for about two years and only became possible after a change to state law.
Residents of Kelton II and Gables at Town Hall approached the town for help in 2010 because the cost of maintaining and bringing roads up to standard was becoming cost-prohibitive.
Of the town's 14 subdivisions, six agreed to participate in the municipal service district. At least 60 percent of the residents in each subdivision had to agree to the extra tax.
The special district was necessary, because state law prevents towns from spending public dollars on private properties.Cost questions
Despite agreeing to fund the project, homeowners wanted specifics on the scope and cost of the repairs.
"Now that we've established how many communities or how many roads are going to be converted, it should be possible to determine just how much it would cost and therefore how long the tax is going to last," said Kelton Square homeowner Barry Moore, during a public hearing Nov. 11. "I think it's imperative that the council let us know what kind of timeframe we are talking about."
Whitson said he was unable to give a definite end date on the tax because until Nov. 22 - when the council voted to approve the special district - the town was not allowed to get a professional estimate on the project."The sunset date is when we have recovered the costs," Whitson told the town council. "We've taken the approach that we cannot do extensive evaluation of these projects until you make it the MSD. We (couldn't) spend town's resources on private property."
The Town Council approved spending $150,000 on professional services to determine the scope, cost and timeframe for the project. That outlay from the general fund will be paid back once the tax is collected.
Because town employees will take on the street projects in addition to their other duties, staff estimated the project could take about 15 years to finish.Patience needed
Upgrades in the six subdivisions in the MSD will be done one by one. Huntington Park will be the first, Whitson said.
"Their streets are basically dust. They have just fallen apart totally," Whitson said. "It will take us probably five to six years to get all these (Huntington Park) upgrades made and that is with loans from general fund."
The town also wants to use the remaining life still left on the existing roads.
"It makes sense not to tear up a street that is functional," Whitson said. "I hope people in MSD will be patient."Scope of project
Kelton Square resident Louis Travers was concerned about the town upgrading two private driveways in addition to the streets in his subdivisions.
"I hear I'm about to lose my private street and I'm not happy about it," Travers said during the hearing. "The community had a chance to vote on whether they wanted to go from a private street and they said 'yes.' But, I don't think they realized it (included) taking those two driveways, which are the responsibilities of the owners of two cottages."
Travers pushed for having residents vote on the inclusion of the two driveways.
Whitson said some residents who signed the petition for the special district added a caveat about the driveways.
"The reason we agreed to include the driveways is that one of the driveways is used by our garbage trucks to turn around and it was causing considerable damage to it; we agreed to include that in the street so we could keep it in good repair and not to pass it on to the property owners," he said.