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Ecolab challenges city road assessment

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE
  • Star Tribune
  • October 16, 2012 - 11:47 AM

Ecolab, a global corporation with a campus in Eagan, has filed a rare objection to a city street assessment, saying the company doesn't benefit from a new road built next to its campus and shouldn't have to pay for it.

For a 3/4-mile extension of Ames Crossing Road with a storm sewer and water main underneath, Ecolab was charged $110,172 by the city. The company has asked the city to reduce that -- to zero.

"The proposed assessment is for the general benefit of the city of Eagan and others who will use the project and therefore there is no special benefit to the Ecolab property," company attorney Howard Roston said in a letter.

St. Paul-based Ecolab specializes in water, hygiene and energy technologies that cater to hospitals, hotels, restaurants, schools, car washes and laundries. With a combined 40,000 employees in 160 countries, it has $11 billion in sales.

Ecolab spoke with the city last week.

"The city and Ecolab representatives discussed the constructed improvements, the proposed assessment and the objection in further detail and agreed to continue discussions to see if an acceptable resolution can be reached," said Public Works Director Russ Matthys.

"In order to deviate from the levied assessment, a formal appeal to district court is necessary. After the appeal is filed by Ecolab's legal representative, the city and Ecolab representatives will meet again to further discuss a possible resolution."

Ecolab said it intends to go ahead with the court filing, Matthys said.

The city completed the $1 million extension of Ames Crossing Road in northeast Eagan in 2011.

By extending the "commercial industrial collector road" from O'Neill Road to Lone Oak Road, the city's stated goal was to provide access to current and future development as prescribed by the city's northeast-area traffic study.

Ecolab did not see the benefit.

"We disagree with the City of Eagan's proposed assessment due to the location of Ames Crossing Road in relation to our Schuman Campus," said Ecolab spokesman Roman Blahoski.

"Ames Crossing Road is not used by Ecolab or by our employees and visitors who drive onto our campus."

City engineer John Gorder said the road improvement, which runs past Boulder Lakes Business Park, passes directly adjacent to Ecolab's property. He said that future development there would benefit from the improvements.

Attorney Roston lodged 10 objections to the assessment, including that the proposed assessments "constitute an unconstitutional taking of Ecolab property without just compensation" and that they "exceed any purported increase in value to Ecolab property."

"The assessment formula used is not legal," the objections continue. "Other properties that should have been assessed were not assessed," and "the proposed assessments violate relevant provisions of the Eagan city codes," as well as "other Minnesota law and statutes."

It's rare for an assessment to be challenged, but not unheard of, said City Attorney Michael Dougherty. "We have defended a number of them over the years."

Ecolab has 30 days from Sept. 19, when its letter was presented to the City Council, to decide whether to pursue the matter in court, Dougherty said.

If the issue goes to court, the focus of the case will be on whether the improvements had increased the value of Ecolab's property in an amount equal to the assessment, Dougherty said.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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