West St. Paul, Mendota Heights pursue elusive water user

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 31, 2012 - 12:00 AM

The cities say a man who lives on their common border appears to be dodging attempts to collect a hookup assessment.

A man city officials suspect is ducking his water assessment has both Mendota Heights and West St. Paul after him.

John Tillmanns, who lives at 1794 Delaware Av. in West St. Paul, last summer asked Mendota Heights to connect his home to a water main under Delaware while the street was dug up for improvements, the city says. Delaware is the border between the two cities.

Tillmanns, who had relied on a private well for water, told Mendota Heights that he would pay the approximately $6,000 assessment, the city says. The city took him at his word and accommodated his request.

Once Tillmanns' home was hooked up, Mendota Heights attempted to assess the money by adding it to his property tax bill through Dakota County. But the county told the city that it could not assess a property outside its boundaries.

Mendota Heights looked to West St. Paul for help.

West St. Paul's public works director, Matt Saam, agreed to take over the assessment, providing there was no cost to West St. Paul.

Saam thought it would be a simple matter to contact Tillmanns, get him to waive the procedural public hearing on the assessment and ask him to pay it or add it to his tax bill.

Saam began trying to contact Tillmanns by phone and e-mail in late 2011 and, when he did not respond, mailed him another letter this month. That too brought no response.

Now the assessment is more than $7,000, with about $1,000 tacked on to pay for the cites' administrative costs.

Hearing about Tillmanns at a study session last week, West St. Paul City Council members kidded Mendota Heights Public Works Director John Mazzitello, who attended the meeting, about the predicament.

Council Member Ed Iago suggested that West St. Paul send someone out to knock on Tillmanns' door.

A cross-boundary problem like this has never come up before, Mazzitello said after the meeting.

Mendota Heights could install a valve that would cut off Tillmanns' connection to the water main, but that would involve digging up the road again, Mazzitello said.

The next step is for West St. Paul to hold a public hearing on the assessment, as it does for all street and water improvements, and then add the assessment to Tillmanns' tax bill.

Tillmanns did not return a phone call from the Star Tribune asking for comment.

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