City council resolves street dispute

Staff writer

Marion resident Lloyd Meier spoke before the Marion City Council Monday to receive payment for a road right of way on his property. A portion of Grant St. is on his property.

After a debate, the city agreed to pay Meier $1,000 for the right of way for part of Grant St. Meier originally asked for a $2,500 street easement, but it was decided that a right of way would allow the city to have full use and maintenance rights to the roadway

During research completed by city attorney Susan Robson, interim city administrator Roger Holter, and Meier, it was discovered that the property in question was originally owned by the city, but purchased mistakenly by Meier in 2003.

Kansas Department of Transportation took the property under eminent domain to construct Highway 56 in 1959. The road that runs through the property was intended to be a temporary access road for residents of the neighborhood, but was made permanent after the project was completed. Due to some clerical errors, the property was listed as part of Lot 2 and sold to Robert Smith in 1968. Smith later sold the property to Meier in 2003.

“So I bought property I didn’t own, and I’ve been paying taxes on it?” Meier said.

Meier said the city offered him $1 to buy the property in 2012, which he declined. The city made a second offer to pay him $500 for the easement of the street in 2012, which he also declined. Another offer was made to pay Meier $1.75 per square foot for easement, which according to Meier came to about $10,000, which he also declined because it was too much.

“I’ve paid $361.65 in taxes since buying the property and think $2,500 is reasonable to cover my tax costs on the property for the next 10 years,” Meier said. “I made the city an offer to purchase the whole property for $50,000, which they turned down.”

Council members Jerry Dieter and Todd Heitschmidt voiced opinions saying $2,500 was way out of line.

“The way I figure it, the property in question for the right of way comes to .103 of an acre,” Heitschmidt said. “The city sold property this year for $1,600 an acre, so using those calculations we owe you around $160, but I’m willing to give you $1,000 and do whatever we need to do to get this property deeded to you, because the city does not want it, to clear this issue up.

“You’ve had full use of the property since you purchased it and you purchased it knowing it had a street on it,” Heitschmidt said. “We want this issue done. It’s been dragging on for two years.”

Meier was not the only resident to speak at Monday’s meeting. Al Ash asked the council to waive part of his water bill for the months of September and October saying a faulty meter recorded his water usage to be 242,000 gallons of water over the two months. The difference raised his bill from the average $33 a month to $742 in October.

The city agreed to wave a total of $1,242 from the September and October bills as well as removing the late fees added to the bill.

“I don’t have a pool or a water tower in my back yard,” Ash said. “This is over 16 households worth of water. I don’t even know what we could be doing with that much water. I paid for three units, which is the max amount of water we’ve used since purchasing the house two years ago.”

After receiving the first bill, Ash contacted the city, which replaced the meter and sent it back to the manufacture for testing. The manufacture sent the meter back saying it was working properly. During that time, Ash had a plumber check his house for any major leaks. He found none.

“The plumber found a small leak in the main shower that he said had been going on for several months,” Ash said.

The leak was promptly fixed by the plumber.

“When we bought the house we replaced every toilet, fixtures, and multiple bad lines,” Ash said. “If there was a leak of that size we would have noticed it.”

Ash said he usually averages between 2,000 and 3,000 gallons of water used in a month.

“From Aug. 15 to Sept. 15 we were billed for 52 units, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 we were billed for 190 units,” he said. Each “unit” is 1,000 gallons.

Ash has checked and recorded meter readings every day since the first bill. Holter said a pipe as small as ¼ an inch could cause a leak that would account for that much water.

In other news:

  • The city approved a change order for the Main St. project in the amount of $3,375 due to more material than planned being used. Kansas Department of Transportation will cover 75 percent of that cost leaving the city to only cover $844 of the actual cost.
  • Andrew Brunner of EBH Engineering gave the council an update on the Jex Addition project sewer. The project is between 20 and 25 percent complete as of Monday afternoon. He anticipates crews to begin testing the lift station by next week.
  • The council agreed to not audit the Library Board or Housing Authority during the 2013 audit to save $1,000 per audit costs, and because an yearly audit is not required.
  • The council tabled an ordinance to acknowledge a state granted franchise to Eagle Communications. council members had questions on how long the state’s franchise agreement lasted. The ordinance would not change how Eagle operates or raise fees, merely change the franchise agreement from being between the city and Eagle to the state and Eagle.
  • The council set a special meeting for 5 p.m. Monday to discuss the 20 applications received for the city administrator position in executive session.
  • The council approved payments to Kansas Department of Health and Environment for $1,619 for the Jex addition project, and $3,000 to Community Development Block Grant Program.
  • Roger Holter was appointed to take former city administrator Doug Kjellin’s voting position with Kansas Power Pool.

 

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