Property owners object to sidewalk costs tied to reconstruction of major Dubuque roadway

The installation of sidewalks once again is proving controversial in Dubuque.

City Council members this week voted, 7-0, to approve preliminary plans, specifications and the assessment schedule for a nearly $3.2 million project to reconstruct Chavenelle Road from the Northwest Arterial to Radford Road. The project will include new pavement, the replacement of driveways, reconstruction of storm sewer intakes and water main replacement.

While the project received widespread support from council members and the road’s reconstruction had been called for by businesses in the area, multiple owners of property on the south side of that stretch of Chavenelle voiced their frustration over being charged for the installation of sidewalks as part of the project, especially when the property owners on the north side will not be charged.

“In my humble opinion, you all are picking winners and losers,” said Jim Weber, the owner of Weber Paper Co. and its location at 4300 Chavenelle Road. “For me, it is a lot of money.”

When sidewalks are installed as part of road projects, the city historically has charged the adjacent property owners for their portion of sidewalk. With this project, all adjacent property owners are being charged an assessment related to the overall project. For south-side property owners, that includes charges related to the sidewalks.

However, a paved trail will be installed rather than sidewalks on the north side of the road. The trail, which is wider than a typical sidewalk, will connect to trails on the arterial and Radford Road. The trail project, which is scheduled to begin next year, will be paid for with federal grants totaling about $1.2 million, along with some city funds. As a result, property owners on the north side of the street have no charges related to it, nor do they have to pay for sidewalks.

“It’s a trail installation to connect to our other trail systems,” said City Engineer Gus Psihoyos. “It’s a different phase of the road reconstruction project.”

The result is a marked gap in the assessment costs.

While properties located north of Chavenelle will pay an average of $40,965 in assessment costs, south-side properties will pay $64,816 on average. The latter average is pushed up by a total of $136,620 in sidewalk assessment costs to the six properties located south of Chavenelle.

Weber will be charged about $30,000 for sidewalk installation costs. He said he supports the street reconstruction project but ultimately feels the city is treating property owners unfairly.

Dubuque Regional Humane Society, 4242 Chavenelle Road, will be charged a total of $57,683, with $20,944 of that for sidewalk installation costs.

Executive Director Tonya Millard said the assessment would pose a significant cost to the organization and asked for city assistance.

“I just wanted you to know what a struggle this will be for us,” she said. “Honestly, I don’t know quite what I’m going to do.”

City Manager Mike Van Milligen said there are no funds that the city could spare to assist in paying for the project and added that city staff do not know of any potential grants that could be used to offset the costs to property owners.

Council members chose to move forward with the project but insisted that city staff continue to look for alternative funding sources to assist property owners on the south side of Chavenelle.

“I wish we could do this in a way that seems more fair,” said Council Member Brad Cavanagh. “When you put all the pieces together, I don’t see how we can pass this up.”

The city expects to award a contract for the project at the council’s July 19 meeting. The work is expected to be complete by the end of November.