By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The last several Parsons City Council meetings have produced larger than normal crowds with input from citizens regarding the abandonment and utilization of alleys around the community. At the July 2 meeting, the portion of Sugar Maple Lane that was voted unanimously to be closed was rescinded, with the intentions of voiding their decision and re-opening the alley. Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora, a resident this affects, wrote a letter to the council informing them of the illegal nature of their motion. “I do think that council acted inappropriately,” LaMora addressed the council. He explained in the legal notice to close this alley it stated that immediately following the vote, the property reverts back to the property owners. “Because of that immediacy, the only way to reopen that alley would be to go through the process of re-condemning that alley,” he continued.
Councilman Tim Auvil said, “Now correct me if I’m wrong, according to your document it states that once its abandoned in order to rescind that abandonment, the city would have to go through a process of a unanimous property owner, all property owners affiliated agreeing to sell that property back to the city in order for us to obtain it back again, correct?”
Discussion commenced about the understanding of the law. “We thought we were within our realm, and we did not intentionally bypass any law,” stated Auvil.
Jason Myers, City Administrator, contacted Attorney Pat Nichols who serves as council for the city, who informed Myers the two options the city could take to reopen the alley. “You could go to each property owner and they would have to give you a written right of way, like we do for water lines and sewer lines, and actually have to reestablish that right of way again,” he said, “or you can do condemnation, which is where you have to get it surveyed and we would be purchasing that property, it would be city property at that time,” which results in hiring a surveyor and paying each land owner. Myers continued to explain how other towns operate which lead to an agreement amongst council members that a policy or procedure needs to be established to continue the abandonment process.
Mayor Dorothy Judy also made mention of the concern Connie Collins had regarding the closing of the ally depreciating the value of their land since it would prohibit their access to the backyard via car. However, Judy spoke with a realtor who advised it would actually increase the value because they have an additional seven and a half feet of property. Discussion continued between the council and the Collins family when Teddy Collins said, “The council didn’t know the law and the Mayor and Jason is responsible for that.” Myers replied, “That’s your opinion Mr. Collins, and you know what opinions are like.”
The understanding is the entire process of abandoning the alley was done correctly, however the action of rescinding the closing is the only action the city took that was improper. “Legally our hands are tied right now,” Auvil told the Collins. “Even if we all unanimously wanted to, the precedent and the law says we’re not allowed to do so unless now, since it’s already been passed, we can’t change it unless all property owners are in agreement and obviously that’s not going to happen,” he said. He suggested the Collins receive a deed of easement from the neighbor to access the rear of their property via vehicle if that was their main concern. When the meeting moved into unfinished business, the council voted unanimously with Councilwoman Amy Wagner abstaining, to rescind their previous motion and Sugar Maple Lane will remain abandoned.
The time allotment for this topic expired, turning the council to the next guest, Phil Fansler. He presented a petition from residents of Pennsylvania Avenue to abandon Railroad Alley, which is apparently impassable as it stands due to trees, buildings, and fences. Auvil informed of the issues in the past relating to that alley in regards to access by the park to install lighting.
Fansler said, “Well I have signed documents here from the landowners requesting the alley be closed. The council has closed two others in the city before.” Auvil responded, “And frankly Phil, after this previous issue, as far as abandonments are concerned, I’m done, the rest of the council wants to vote me out, I’m one vote, there’s seven of us here.” Judy asked Fansler the benefits of closing which he explained it’s not being used as an alley and there’s no purpose for it. Again, once the council reached that line item on the agenda, Council members Samuel Blosser, Kenneth Morrison, Auvil, David Greenlief, and Melissa Jones along with Recorder Bruce Kolsun voted to deny the request to abandon Railroad Alley, with Wagner voting for the abandonment. The alley will remain open due to the majority rules.
OEM Director Kevin White along with 911 Director Brett Ware was at the meeting to share information on the new Tucker Emergency Alert System. This is a free alert system for residents to voluntarily sign up for to be made aware of impending weather either via email, text, or voice call on cell phones or landlines. The city agreed this is an invaluable tool and encourages everyone to sign up for this customizable and free service. For more information or to sign up, please visit www.911TEAMS.org. For assistance signing up, you can visit any county office or the local libraries.
This concluded the public comments and special guests, moving the meeting into the approval of the minutes from July 2. Myers then presented the Budget Control Report, noting there is only one area of being over budget within Parks and Recreation, and that is only a little over $200. Judy said, “You never lose money when you do for the kids,” in reference to the overage at the parks. Myers also presented the Coal Severance Tax report, and asked the council to authorize the Finance Committee to approve payment of bills and the first revision of the budget reports due to the timing of the next meeting. All of these items approved.
Estimates and quotes followed with a single quote for a gate to close off original entrance of Mill Race Park and make the new entrance the only one used. The gate will be thirty five feet wide and four feet high, mounted on rollers. The quote for this gate was $4,560, Auvil noting this isn’t in the budget for the Parks and Recreation Board. Myers felt confident the funds are sufficient to purchase, therefore a motion was made to purchase and agreed upon unanimously.
This brought the meeting to committee reports, starting with Chief T.D. Roberts. He noted things have been pretty quiet lately and going smoothly, as well as Patrolman N.C. Gidley has reported to the State Police Academy. Myers also noted a request for stop signs on Spruce Street and Second Street to initiate a four way stop. He also said another item of concern is an undersized drain near Community Care and the need for a larger catch basin. This issue has become prominent during the last couple rainstorms and will be investigated. Myers brought up one more concern that has been brought to his attention regarding Bonners Garage taking in water every time it rains. Wagner added the last several time it rained; her restaurant has flooded as well from the water draining from the field and the ditch behind her facility. Auvil commented the engineering for improvements in Pulp Mill Bottoms has been done and it’s a priority to address the many drainage issues within that community.
Kolsun briefed the council on the coding ordinance system where they previously voted to attempt to get out of the contract with Walter Drane and move onto another company. Only recently has the Drane Company been back in touch with the city after five years and little to no work being conducted. Drane wanted to work out a deal and keep the business of the city, though they received a great partnership opportunity with another company. Kolsun and Myers decided to contact Drane again to find out what kind of deal they could reach before terminating the contract indefinitely.
Auvil provided a brief update from the water and sewage departments, informing one of the new pumps installed has malfunctioned due to a stuck float valve, fortunately though it should be covered under warranty.
Unfinished business followed, stating the plans for the Kingsford Sewer Extension Project have been submitted to the Health Department and they are still insuring the absence of Buffalo Clover along the route due to it being an endangered species. The Parsons Industrial Park Project is moving forward with six of the seven heirs having returned their signed deeds to finalize the sale of the property. Once the last deed is received, a closing date can be set to complete the purchase. Auvil also informed that interviews were conducted of three firms to score those biding for the Wastewater Collection and Treatment Systems Upgrade Project.
The company with the highest score and agreed upon by the committee was The Thrasher Group. He explained how they planned to proceed and the cost effective options of line bursting and the utilization of cameras to work under the surface via digging up the streets to access the pipes.
Moving into new business, the fleet management committee presented a recommendation of purchase of a new vehicle for the Water Department. This was for a 2019 Ford F-250 with necessary equipment in the amount of $40,473.00. The truck currently being used will be sold and the money put towards the new truck. Auvil made the motion, with Kolsun seconding to purchase this vehicle with a unanimous agreement.
This concluded the agenda items for the evening and the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of the Parsons City Council will commence on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. Public and guests are always welcomed and encourage to attend.