The Watertown City Council’s Public Works, Safety, and Finance committee wrestled with a request from property owners in downtown Watertown who approached the committee with a request to pave the downtown alley between first and second Street West between Kemp and First Avenue North paved. Speaking for the property owners was Mike Lantsberger who has improved business properties in that area. Lantsberger said property owners want to be treated the same as others in the downtown who, he said, had their alleys improved with utilities underground and concrete paving. He said those areas were fixed without any special assessment and they would like to treated the same. Lantsberger said their alley still looks like it did in the 1920’s. The city council has been making alley improvements a priority in recent years and they have repaved a number of them, however the catch is that under the current arrangement only alleys that had been previously paved, not gravel, were slated for repairs by the city without assessment. Most of those alleys that are repaired were originally asphalt and have since been upgraded to concrete. What makes this a unique request is that the alley in question wasn’t paved previously. Mayor Caron said there are many, many gravel alleys in residential areas of Watertown where the property owners are responsible for the upkeep and repairs. She said they are not reimbursed for their costs. Lantsberger replied stating that he and other business property owners feel like they were being “back doored” when the city lumped their request alongside residential. That brought an exchange between himself and Mayor Sarah Caron.
The cost to do the alley has been pegged at about 60,000 dollars. There are 12 alleys in all that need repairs. Mayor Caron said she and the council appreciated all that Lantsberger has done downtown to improve the business district but that what he was asking for is a subsidy for something that isn’t normally subsidized by the city.
Mayor Caron said some people see paving downtown alleys as more of a priority for a subsidy than regular streets that are graveled throughout the community, which brought some give and take between her and alderman Jon Solum.
In the meantime Mayor Caron said city staff would dig into the records to see who paid for previous paving work in the alleys where it occurred to determine if there is precedence for the city to pay for the work.