EVART -- Despite the objections from some residents, the Evart City Council voted to approve a special assessment at its meeting Jan. 8 to help pay for the infrastructure improvements on North Oak Street.

"The assessment will help pay for the two blocks that were done on Oak Street," Evart Mayor John Joyce said. "A portion of the cost will be funded by this special assessment that will be based on increased property values."

At a meeting in December, residents expressed their objection to the special assessment saying their property values were artificially inflated as a result of the improvements.

"My curbs were fine, there wasn't anything wrong with them, and you came and ripped them all out and ripped up the sidewalk and put in all new, and now you want to increase my taxes," Oak Street resident Dan Bushroe said. "The property values aren't there in Evart to support those increases just because you put in a couple of pieces of concrete."

Joyce responded that the work had to be done as a complete project, it couldn't be done piecemeal.

"We bid it out as a two block section," he said. "All the curbs had to be replaced, all the cement had to be replaced, and all the storm drains were replaced. We couldn't say 'this section will be done and that section will be left out.' Now we have a two block section of Oak Street that looks really nice."

Bill Bradley, who owns property on Oak Street, said he didn't understand why only some residents have to pay for the work if the whole town uses the street. In addition, he questioned why there needs to be a special assessment when the city already raised water rates to pay for the work.

Evart city manager Sarah Dvoracek explained that the water rate increase provided only part of the necessary funding for the project.

"We did take the majority of it from the water funds, and the increase in water rates helped us pay for that," Dvoracek said. "The special assessment is only for the curbs, gutters and pavement, and will only apply to the homes that were effected."

According to assistant city manager Mark Wilson, the total amount of the special assessment is $ 53,890.02. There are 10 parcels included in the special assessment, seven residential and three commercial, he said.

The infrastructure project is part of the city's capital improvement plan that involves replacing all the lead and galvanized water and sewer lines throughout the city as part of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) passed in 2018.

According to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), the LCR was enacted to "protect the public health by minimizing lead and copper levels in drinking water," which enters the water system through corroded lead and copper service lines.

In addition to replacement of the water and sewer lines, the North Oak Street project included widening the road, adding curbs, improving parking areas and installing new pavement.