Streetlight replacement draws some protest over payment

Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 5:44 PM CDT
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MINOT, N.D (KMOT) - Residents in one neighborhood might be faced with paying off city streetlight repairs over the course of 10 years.

The community of District 65 received a letter from the city saying if they wanted to replace the outdated and hazardous lighting system with a brand new one, they would need to pay 70 percent of the cost.

Jennifer Rockwell and Bonnie Sugiura, residents of District 65, became the unofficial organizers of the group pushing back on the project.

“I’ve never been asked to pay for streetlights, roadwork, sewer previously, so I didn’t understand why my property taxes weren’t paying for this bill,” said Rockwell.

City Engineer Lance Meyer said it’s been common for the districts with similar lighting issues, like downtown Minot, to pay 100 percent of the bill.

“Every city of Minot that pays property taxes, their taxes go towards operation and maintenance of their street lighting system,” said Meyer.

He said District 65 is one of the first residential neighborhoods with this bill structure because it goes beyond basic maintenance.

Rockwell said due to the size of the land her property is on, she’s looking at paying more than $6,000 either upfront or over the course of 10 years.

“I don’t know if anybody else has that in their budget to pay this much up front,” said Sugiura.

Rockwell and Sugiura asked their neighbors about their thoughts on the new expense.

“The neighbors that we talked to a lot of them are retired military or on disability or on social security,” said Rockwell.

Both are sending or emailing a letter of protest to the city auditor to stop the new installation.

Fifty percent of the neighborhood would need to object, according to the North Dakota Century Code, to stop the system replacement.

“Everybody that we spoke to said, ‘Absolutely, we do need lights. It is a safety issue,’” said Sugiura.

Sugiura and Rockwell said the cost of infrastructure should be a city-wide tax burden.

Meyers said his department recommended that the city pay for some of the costs because traffic goes through the neighborhood. The City Council decided on 30 percent via sales tax.

“If counsel wants to do something different, they certainly can do that, but this is the process we’re going through at this time,” said Meyer.

Meyer said water, sewer and storm sewer can’t be protested. Every other type of improvement can be specially assessed.

Meyer said the cost to replace the lighting system will cost $550,000 plus administrative costs. He said 217 residents live in District 65.