Photo by Jay Huff
Mitch Fagan addresses the council.
After protesting to the city council, North Platte resident Mitch Fagan got his part of the cost of a city water main line reduced by 10 percent, but he didn't need the water in the first place.
Fagan, who lives near 15th and Bryan, will pay about $9,500 for a water main near his property. He first appeared before the council on Oct. 15 and after listening to him, the council tabled the issue, giving Fagan time to prepare for the next round of debate.
The water main extension runs along N. Bryan, starting at 15th and Bryan and running north to 16th.
Fagan owns three lots there. He was initially assessed $10,429 for his share of the line. He told the council he was unprepared to pay the cost. He also said he recently re-worked his private well and the pipes into his home, so he had no need at all for city water.
“The other property owners also have wells,” he said then, “and the only one that petitioned for the new line owns a vacant lot where they tried to put a camper and were stopped by the city because there is no water or power on the lot.”
Fagan wondered how one person could ask the city to extend water into the neighborhood, causing the city to do so and then assess all the property owners for the costs.
He said he had no prior notification that the line would be installed, and the expense stunned him.
On the other hand, the city’s contracted engineer, Tom Werblow, told the council in October that he notified property owners a year ago and no one called or complained.
After a long discussion at that meeting, Councilman Brook Baker moved to table the issue for 30-50 days and there was a general sense of compassion from the council toward Fagan.
Again Tuesday, Fagan told the council he had never received any advance letter from Werblow.
Fagan also showed the council a copy of the petition that was filed by the property owner who wanted city water to her property. Fagan pointed out that only her name was on the petition. He said has always believed that in a petition drive, the majority rules. He claimed the petition was never shown or circulated to the other property owners.
Fagan also noted that the petition itself states that all those affected would be notified by certified letter of any decisions made by the city, but he never received a certified letter.
Werblow told the council that line on the petition is from policies long ago, and has not been the way his office has done it. Werblow said the line was overlooked, and the assurance would be deleted from the petition in the future.
Since the October meeting, Werblow and Fagan met on the property and found an existing city water line on the north side of Fagan’s property, which is connected to a fire hydrant that stands on Fagan’s property.
Fagan said Werblow allowed him credit for some of the length of the line at the north end of his property and refigured his assessment, but only lowered the assessment 10%.
Fagan said he and his neighbors have been unfairly treated, but they agreed to abide by the council’s decision. The council voted and the amended assessment passed 6-1, with Baker voting no. Councilwoman Michelle McNea was absent.
After the vote and other council business, Councilman Tim Barrett talked more about the issue. He told his fellow council members that paving on that street cost the owners nothing, because it was paid with grant money.
In Barrett’s words, “They made out pretty good. They could have also been charged for the paving district.”
Barrett said the city needs to make better policies and notify property owners before such districts are created, so residents have a chance to comment before the work is done.
Barrett suggested that it should be city policy to send certified letters, so the city would be able to verify that the notices were sent and received.
Councilman Jim Carman agreed something like that needs to be done.
“We need to be able to verify,” he said.
“We need to do this the same for everybody, every time,” Barrett said.
The council made no official changes in policy Tuesday, but generally agreed that prior notification is necessary.
Drink tasting ruse?
In other action, the council was divided on an application by the Cigarette Store Corporation, doing business as Smoker Friendly on Jeffers St., for a special designated license for a drink product tasting on Friday, Dec. 13, with an alternate date of Dec. 20.
Carman and Andrew Lee voted no.
Carman said this company has obtained such permits before and he worries that the permit, which only costs $25, is a shortcut to selling liquor by the drink, even though the business is only licensed to sell packages.
“I worry that not just the new products are being tasted, but stuff from all over the store,” Carman said.
“How do we know it’s not becoming a free-for-all, with stuff from all their inventory being sold,” Lee asked, agreeing with Carman.
The vote was 5-2 in favor.
Also, the council:
• Authorized Maly Marketing of Lincoln to begin development on option 2 for the new city website – the one that had the photo of Buffalo Bill’s Scout’s Rest Ranch at the top of its front page.
• Approved appointment of councilman Petersen to the Wellness & Recreation Needs and Assessment committee to represent the council.
• Sent an application by Luigi’s Italian Restaurant at 502 South Jeffers St. for a class I liquor license to the Liquor Control Commission with no recommendation, as is the council’s custom.
• Voted 6-1 to elect Glenn Petersen as council president for 2014. Baker voted no, but made no comment.
• Accepted and authorized the mayor to vacate a portion of a drainage and utility easement on the north side of Lot 1, Lead Plaza, Second Replat.