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Stoughton neighbors angry over special assessments

Resident thinks city employee was given special treatment

STOUGHTON, Wis. - Randy Ree has lived in his Milwaukee Street home for 35 years. Now living off of his Social Security disability benefits, Ree said he was unpleasantly surprised to be billed for roadside work.

"If my driveway or apron or curb and gutters were bad, I could understand tearing them out and replacing them," Ree said. "But being that they weren't bad and they had to widen the road, and that's the reason that they had to replace this, I think the city should pay for it."

Parts of Milwaukee Street and Fourth Street in Stoughton are torn up for a summer road project, one that should wrap up soon. The city laid down new concrete curbs, gutters, and driveway aprons, but under ordinances, homeowners are responsible for at least part of the bill.

Ree said the curbs, gutters, and sidewalks around him were fine. He added his driveway apron was redone eight years ago and was still in good shape. Regardless, Ree said the city condemned all of it, tore it up, replaced it, and handed him the bill.

Ree's estimate was more than $1,000. He said neighbors down the road got a $2,600 assessment. He went to City Council with a petition signed by him and his neighborhood block with little reception to his concerns.

"I've paid taxes for 35 years and I haven't asked for anything and haven't gotten anything. Why wouldn't my taxes cover this?" Ree said.

City officials did not go on camera Thursday.

For video on this story, visit the video section.

Stoughton Street Superintendent Karl Manthe explained over the phone and e-mail that city ordinances hold residents accountable for half of the cost of curb and gutter work in front of their home and for entire cost of driveway apron replacements.

Manthe said there those "special assessments" are charged at least once a year for different projects.

"Nobody likes them. I know the city doesn't like to do it," Ree said. "Obviously, the homeowners don't like to pay for it, so there's got to be a better way."

Ree said he already pays a monthly utilities fee and would expect that money to at least go toward gutter replacement for road reconstruction like this one.

Manthe explained those payments are made specifically for storm drain utilities. He said that strictly covers retention ponds and piping, and if it did cover other aspects like curbs and gutters, the monthly bill would not be manageable for Stoughton citizens.

In addition, one of the few untouched driveways on Fourth Street belongs to a city utilities employee. Ree believed that resident was given unfair preferential treatment.

"That's special consideration. I mean, he works for the city. Nobody asked us any of that," Ree said.

Manthe said while the two streets share a corner, the work going on is different. He said Milwaukee Street's curbs and gutters were in very poor condition and needed to be replaced. In addition, the grade and slope of the road was changed. The project was made more complicated, Manthe said, by sewer updates.

Manthe said Fourth Street didn't need nearly as much work.

Mayor Donna Olson added the city assesses the need for new infrastructure in a blind fashion, rating sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and aprons without knowing who lives where.

"Nobody likes them. I know the city doesn't like to do it," Ree said. "Obviously, the homeowners don't like to pay for it, so there's got to be a better way."

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