City weighs Newtonville annexation

By Chad Koenen


Several dozen people attended a public hearing at the City Center in New York Mills last week regarding the future of Newtonville.

During its regularly scheduled meeting last Tuesday night, the NY Mills City Council heard from several people about a potential annexation of the land that sits just adjacent to the city limits. 

Last year, the city council hired Ehlers to complete a study to analyze the pros and cons for annexing the 36 properties that currently are located in Newton Township. The study determined that approximately half of the properties would see a decrease in the cost of their utilities and taxes, while the other half would see a slight increase. Since the properties located in Newtonville pay a premium price for their utilities, an increase in taxes would largely be offset by a decrease in the utilities they pay. 

In all, the study by Ehlers determined the City of NY Mills would see an increase in about $5,800 per year after the annexation. That increase takes into account the decrease in the utility premiums paid by residents and the increase in tax base.

One of the biggest questions during the hearing concerned the condition of South Walker. The road will likely need to be replaced in the future. If the city does not annex the properties the township and residents would be on the hook for that cost. If the city annexes the properties the repairs would be split according to city ordinances concerning assessments.

City clerk Julie Roberts said it was true the city would get additional revenue by annexing the properties into the city limits, but there were also risks involved for the city as well.

“The city would be taking on the liability of that road, South Walker, which is in somewhat need of repair,” said Roberts about the potential liability for the city. “It’s really a wash financially for the city, but it is really just taking on the liability of the road and those utilities.”

When asked why NY Mills was looking at annexing the 36 properties, Roberts said it really revolved around looking at the boundaries of the community, while also realizing many people not familiar with Newtonville already assumed it was part of the city limits. 

“It’s just evening out the boundaries of the city. Also, many people don’t realize Newtonville isn’t part of the city. They think you are (in the city limits) and so for services for police overage of things like that it is just assumed you are,” said Roberts. 

Roberts said there were other benefits of being in the city limits as well, which included plowing and maintaining the streets, being included in the hazardous waste clean up day and other opportunities that are exclusive to city residents. In terms of ordinances, the properties would all be grandfathered in for things like animals and use of the property. However, once the property changes hands those grandfather rights would likely go away and the property would need to conform to current building and land use ordinances. 

City councilman Jerry Nesland said annexation would also be a way to increase the population of the city as well, while also providing additional services for the residents. Additional residents could help with future funding for projects and could be a nice additional when the road and utilities need to be replaced in the future. 

The city council said it would like to come to a decision about whether to annex Newtonville in the near future so the residents, the City of NY Mills and Newton Township can get a more clear picture of what the future of that area will look like in the future. 

Several people in attendance asked if there could be another public hearing to discuss the future annexation of the properties. The city council said that could be a possibility as it wanted to make sure annexation made sense for everyone involved before voting in favor of annexation or leaving the properties as part of Newton Township.

“We want to go and move forward with this for whatever is the best option for everybody. Knowing there is some give and take on both sides,” said NY Mills Mayor Marsha Maki.

In other news

• Heard the combined gross sales at Mills Liquors for the month of February was up 5 percent from the prior year, while the cost of goods sold were flat. The net revenues were down 5 percent as a percentage of sales from the prior year.

• Heard the fire department report, which stated the department responded to 20 calls for the month of February. Most of the calls were either rural or city rescue calls, while the department also assisted the Wolf Lake Fire Department with a rural fire. 

• Heard that the NY Mills Police Department responded to 82 calls for service in February, while issuing one citation and making two arrests. The department also began DARE classes at the school. 

• Accepted the retirement request from Dave Delaney as city utility worker. His last day will be April 22 after working for the past 37 years in the community. 

• Approved an engineering and project management proposal from JPK Engineering to replace the boiler at city hall. JPK is the mechanical engineer the city is working with on the new public works building project and will be in the area most of the summer and fall. The design fees will be $19,250 for the work to demolish the old boiler and install a new one at city hall.

• Approved a low bid of $628,945 for the North Boardman Ave. reconstruction project. The city received five bids for the project, which is scheduled to begin this summer. The bids ranged from $628,945 to just over $1 million.

• Approved a general obligation capital improvement plan bond in an amount not to exceed $1.3 million for the 8,000 square foot addition to the city shop. The city received a preliminary A rating at an interest rate of 1.7 percent.

• Heard that a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision determined that certain properties owned and operated by the Perham Hospital District should have been exempt from property taxation. As a result of the court’s decision it became necessary to refund, with interest, payments that had been made from 2015-21 in the City of NY Mills, City of Ottertail, City of Perham, Perham-Dent School District and NY Mills School District. 

Photo by Tucker Henderson

The New York Mills City Council heard from a number of residents last week about a potential annexation of the area commonly referred to as Newtonville.