At the city council meeting Tuesday, discussion was spirited regarding payment for a new city water line on the north side of North Platte. The water line was recently built, starting at the intersection of 15th Street and Bryan Ave. and extending about 300 feet north to 16th St.
Property owners along the route have been sent notice of assessments for the costs of the new line, and some are not happy.
Mitch Fagan, 1501 No. Bryan, owns three lots there. He told the council he was being assessed $10,429.51 for his share of the cost of the line, and said, “Quite honestly, I am not prepared for this, I cannot afford it and I am maxed out at the bank.”
Fagan wondered why one person in the neighborhood could ask the city to extend water to their property, causing the city to install a water line and assessing all the properties for the costs.
“This one person has hurt several families a lot,” Fagan said. “I feel especially terrible for Viola Roberts who is being assessed nearly $17,000 for her share. Viola is living on retirement; has been a widow for years and I don’t see how she can possibly afford this.”
Fagan told the council he recently re-worked his private well and the pipes into his home, so he has no need to connect to city water. He said the other property owners also have wells and the only one owner petitioned for the new line owns a vacant lot where they tried to put a camper, but were stopped by city officials because there is no water or power on the lot.
Fagan said that it would have been better if he had been made aware of the assessment some time ago instead of being hit with it after the work was done.
The city’s contracted engineer, Tom Werblow, said his department sent notices to property owners a year ago of the coming extension and no one called or complained. Werblow said he is not required to send notices but he does.
Fagan said that it would have been nice to have more sayso on the issue, instead of one person being able to petition the city and all the neighbors being required to go along.
Werblow read a letter to the council from Viola Roberts, asking for relief from part or all of the assessment. Roberts could not attend the meeting and Werblow read the letter as a favor to her. Roberts lives in Omaha and owns land that stretches the entire west side of the block on Bryan between 15th and 16th.
Roberts’ share of the assessment is $16,755.61. In her letter she said the property is not easily sold because people that want it use it want to keep their livestock close to town.
According to Fagan, Roberts has been trying to sell her property for at least three years.
The total cost of the assessment is $36,303.26.
Councilman Glenn Petersen asked if there was the possibility of getting grant money to help the property owners out. No one knew if that was possible.
Councilman Tim Barrett asked why the water line wasn’t installed when the street was paved. City Administrator Jim Hawks said it was installed before his time with the city, so he did not know.
Barrett asked if a majority of property owners must agree to form a water extension district. Hawks said the majority is not required for a water line, but a majority is required for paving.
State law requires that private properties be assessed based on the benefits received as a result of public works improvement projects, City Attorney Doug Stack said during the meeting.
Councilman Brook Baker moved to table the issue for 30-50 days to allow time to consider more information and explore possible avenues of relief for the owners. There was a general sense of compassion from the council and they voted 6-0 to table the issue.
Councilmen Andrew Lee and Jim Carman were absent.
Sale barn flood
The council approved a claim by North Platte Livestock and Auction of $7,500 for flood damage that occurred in June 2011 when the North Platte River flooded.
The sale barn originally asked for $104,000 in October 2011, claiming the city allegedly neglected to control water to a drainage ditch that runs on the south side of the barn and office.
The claim said the ditch flooded because a dam placed there by the city was not monitored properly, allowing flood water to spill over the banks onto sale barn property.
The company submitted a detailed list of damages at the time, which included electrical and heating systems, building frame and interior, computers and cabinetry. At that time, the council referred the claim to City Attorney Doug Stack and the auction barn’s attorney, Jim Nisley.
The city had six months to act on the claim. If denied, the livestock company had the right to file suit in district court.
The livestock company has not exercised that right.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Stack told the council that along the way the city’s insurance company bowed out, leaving the city responsible for any of the costs of defending the suit.
Stack also said the livestock company discovered during proceedings that they would have a hard time proving their total claim of damages and offered to settle for $7,500.
Stack said the city agreed to settle because it would cost more to continue defending the suit in court.
In other action, the council:
• Approved the assessment schedule for Sanitary Sewer Extension District #345 along West 19th, starting just west of Miles Ave. and running along 19th for approximately 375 feet. The total cost of this sewer extension is $11,284.46.
• Accepted certificate of completion and assessment schedule for Street Improvement District #296 -- improvements along 18th from Hayes to Buffalo Bill and on Cody Avenue from 17th to 18th streets.
• Approved a collective bargaining wage agreement with the International Association of Firefighters Local #831. No major changes were made from the last agreement. Only some management controlled uses of compensatory time and sick leave were changed slightly.
• Approved a collective bargaining wage agreement with the Nebraska Public Employees Local #251, the public service department. The agreement includes a 1.8% cost-of-living raise that was given to all non-union city employees. The public service director with 8 years or more of experience makes $91,075 a year, according to the agreement. On the other end of the scale, a new janitor starts at $11.26 an hour.
• Authorized renewal of a maintenance agreement with the Nebraska Department of Roads for routine street maintenance and snow removal.
• Approved the final payment to Olsson Associates in the amount of $6,531.66 for engineering services for construction phase of the South Buffalo Bill Extension Project.
• Accepted Certificate of Completion for the $15.8 million street improvement district #204 - South Buffalo Bill Extension Project.
• Sent an application by Bailey’s American Cuisine, which is establishing a restaurant in the new Nebraskaland National Bank building, for a class C liquor license to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission with no recommendation, which is standard practice.
• Sent an application by The Red Zone for a class C liquor license to the Liquor Control Commission with no recommendation. The Red Zone owner recently bought The Pocket at Ninth and Jeffers. Nikolas Seevers will be the manager, according to council documents.