Concrete utility wants fee hikes

Posted 11/6/08

Dale Hamlin doesn’t like the idea of paying a higher concrete utility fee, even though he understands the reason for the increase. “I have read …

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Concrete utility wants fee hikes


Dale Hamlin doesn’t like the idea of paying a higher concrete utility fee, even though he understands the reason for the increase.

“I have read about the big jumps in cost of concrete repairs so I guess I can see why the fees have to go up,” the Englewood resident said. “But, like everyone else, I’d rather not pay more to keep my concrete in good shape.”

Hamlin is among owners of about 10,800 Englewood properties who voluntarily joined the concrete utility and will see a 25 percent fee hike in 2009 and another 25 percent fee hike in 2010.

The city council approved the request to change the ordinance to allow the raise on first reading Oct. 20. The plan is to present the resolution to enact the proposed fee increases for council approval as part of the Nov. 3 meeting. If the request is approved, the increase for 2009 will be effective Jan. 1, 2009.

For decades, residents paid the total cost of keeping the concrete in front of their property in good repair. In 1997, the city offered owners the opportunity to join the newly formed concrete utility. Rick Kahm, public works director, said the concrete utility is like an insurance policy paying an annual fee so the utility covers the cost when it is necessary to replace damaged concrete in front of utility members’ property. The owners of 11,290 properties are eligible to join the utility. Kahm said about 96 percent — owners of about 10,800 properties — pay the fee to be part of the utility.

The owner of a 50-foot-wide lot bordered by a 4-foot-wide sidewalk now pays about $25 a year. The owner of a 50-foot lot will see a fee increase to $31.85 a year. A second 25 percent fee increase is scheduled in 2010, so the property owner’s annual cost will be $39.81.

Kahm said the ever-rising material and construction costs are the reason for the proposed changes.

“We established the fee of 7.8 cents per square foot of concrete when the utility was established in 1997,” Kahm told the city council at the Aug. 18 budget discussion. “While there has been no increase in the fee, the cost of concrete construction has climbed steadily. In order to continue to do the amount of work needed to keep up with repairs to most of the worst concrete in the city, we need to increase fees. We are recommending about a 50-percent increase.”

The city council reviewed the proposal at the Aug. 25 study session and members agreed they will discuss it further during the Sept. 20 council budget workshop.

The utility fee is included on the city’s water bill. To make it easier, the annual utility cost is billed in four equal quarterly installments.

Repairing sidewalks, curbs and gutters in front of homes and businesses has always been the responsibility of the property owner. However, the city does maintain the concrete associated with areas like corners, alley entrances and drainage cross pans as well as curbs, gutters and sidewalks in front of city-owned property.

The majority of the approximate 7.3 million square feet of concrete in the city was built from 1950-80. Weather and use causes concrete to crack or to settle so it is displaced and can become a tripping hazard. It is estimated it would take more than $54 million to replace all the concrete in the city.

Generally, the process is to remove the concrete in poor condition and replace it. A large portion of the sidewalks in the city is 4-feet wide and the costs of repairs continue to rise. The cost to remove and replace a square foot of concrete in 1997 was $4 and the estimate for 2009 is costs will increase to $5.71 to replace that same square foot of concrete, a 43 percent increase.

“Each year, a fund is created using concrete utility fees plus money from the general fund because the city owns and maintains about a third of the concrete in Englewood,” said Dave Henderson, capital project administrator.

Public works maintains the concrete in front of city-owned property and locations such as the police-fire building, fire stations and the recreation center. The city also maintains the concrete “pans” at the entrance to alleys and other common concrete.

“The city also pays 70 percent of the cost of repairs on the avenue sides of corner lots,” Kahm said. “A standard corner lot is 50-feet wide on the street side and 125-feet long on the avenue side. The council added the requirement for the city to pay part of the cost of the avenue side of the lot to ease the financial burdens on corner lot owners.”

Each year, personnel from the concrete utility use an established criteria to rate all the concrete in the city. The personnel also evaluate property-owner complaints about the condition of the concrete in front of that property.

The evaluations are used to establish a priority and the worst concrete gets attention first. Repairs continue until the money from that year’s utility fees is exhausted.

The concrete utility annually contracts for about $442,000 in repairs on private property. In addition, Englewood has about $178,000 of city-owned concrete removed and replaced.

Because the amount available for the work remains constant and the cost of removal and replacement climbs steadily, the result is the utility can afford less concrete work each year. Kahm said the city was able to remove and replace about one-half the concrete last year that it did for the same cost in 1997.

Concrete utility fee increase proposed to keep pace with rising costs

Fee hasn’t changed since utility established in 1997

Cost for concrete work has almost doubled since 1997


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