NEW RICHMOND --NEW RICHMOND -- New Richmond City Council has finally had enough of property on Sixth Street that has received several complaints. On Monday, July 13, members approved having 707 E. Sixth St. cleaned up by the city, with the cost assessed to the property owner.

The property has been the source of complaints since 2019 about garbage, debris and vehicles.

City Attorney Nick Vivian said the city should be aware there is some risk with these efforts, and the city may or may not get repaid.

The cost will be charged to the owner, who could pay it back voluntarily. If not, the cost will be assessed to the tax roll. If the parcel goes into foreclosure, Vivian said the assessment would not go away, and would have to be paid by a future property owner or at closing. If the property tax is not paid, the county has a process it goes through, but still the city may or may not be paid.

Alderperson Mike Montello said it’s important to understand the city isn’t guaranteed to be paid, but that does not diminish the need for the property to get attention. Montello said he does own a property near the place in question and abstained from the vote.

The property owner will now receive a letter giving 30 days to get the property in order or the city will step in.

The council also approved enforcing its weed ordinance on a handful of lots that have not been mowed even after reminders from city staff. The city will have the grass of these properties mown and the cost charged to the owners.

In other business:

Trail bid

The council approved going to bid construction for a trail connecting the Nature Center to Doar Prairie Restoration.

The cost will be funded in part by a stewardship grant the city received from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The total cost is estimated to be $485,500. The grant will cover half of that, and the city will finance the other half through bonding.

A contract for design services was awarded to SEH in December. Bids will be brought back to the council in August.

Property revaluation

The city is scheduled to have revaluation of properties this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has altered some of that timeline.

Finance Director Rae Ann Ailts said typically fieldwork by the city’s assessor starts in the fall, but that is now recommended to be pushed back to the spring for the safety of staff and residents. New value property notices are not set to be mailed in July 2021 and board of review would be in September 2021. Ailts said city staff will continue to monitor the spread of coronavirus in the area in case additional cautionary measures are needed.

Utility late fees

During the safer-at-home order and ongoing pandemic, the Public Service Commission ordered that public utilities could not be disconnected and late fees could not be assessed. Beginning July 15, utilities may begin assessing late fees again, but only on the amount incurred after that date, not on previous balances.

Finance Director Rae Ann Ailts said this causes some logistical issues, as the accounting software is set up to assess penalties based on past fee balance. Following this would require staff to manually adjust every account that would have a late fee.

Instead, Ailts asked the council to delay late fees through the end of the year so staff can bring accounts into current status as part of the tax roll process that finalizes in November. This is something many other utilities are doing, Ailts said. For New Richmond, it applies to all utilities, including electric, water, sewer and stormwater.

The delay was approved by the council.