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City street and sewer infrastructure addressed

By Grace Lovins

Street, water and sewer infrastructure was the topic of discussion in Birmingham at a city commission workshop meeting on Monday, October 2, where city staff presented information about special assessment districts, how they select sewer and water projects, and the costs of these projects.

City engineer Melissa Coatta talked to the commission about the city’s special assessment district policy that was last revised in October of 2021. Per the revised policy, special assessments can either be initiated by the city commission or petitioned by property owners as long as 50 percent of the homeowners agree to the petition.

A special assessment can cover the cape seal treatment for unimproved roads, which 26 miles of unimproved road in the city are already doing. In residential areas, front-foot properties would be assessed for 85 percent of the cost while side-foot properties would be assessed for 25 percent of the cost.

For commercial areas, improved business properties are assessed for 85 percent of the cost for cape seal whereas vacant business properties are assessed for 25 percent. When it comes to unimproved roads versus improved roads, the assessment is slightly different.

According to Coatta, 85 percent of the front-foot costs are assessed on all properties fronting the improvement. The city has a different scale for corner lots in which the city will pay two-thirds of the cost if the property has the longer side facing the street. If the shorter side of the property is facing the street, the owner will be charged 100 percent of the cost.

Part of the workshop session also touched on the selection of sewer and water projects. Coatta stated the city uses a scoring system that scores the roads, sewer and water separately. The maximum score possible is 300 points, and the higher the points then the higher the priority.

Roads are given a score through a pavement surface evaluation and rating, otherwise called PASER. Water mains are scored by looking at the age, size, reinforcement and frequency of breaks. Sewers are scored by looking at the structural condition, operation and maintenance, capacity deficiency and relief sewer, Coatta said.

The city’s engineering department also receives input from other departments, like the fire department and department of public services, on top of utility and street phasing to see which projects should be selected, per Coatta.

On top of the criteria, Coatta also broke down the cost to residents for cape seal treatment and improved roads. For cape seal projects, the city says the 10-year cost to residents typically will amount to about $3,017.50. Improved roads carry a heavier price tag, with the 10-year resident costs amounting to roughly $16,173.38.

Since the session was a workshop, no formal action was taken by the commission.


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