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City council splits 3-2 on plan for sewer service in subdivision
Jan 31, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
A new agreement approved by the city of Riverton and property owners may help expand sanitary sewer service in the future to more than 50 residents off of Riverview Road.
The split vote on the Regal Estates Subdivision agreement, however, cost property owners Wedge and Chelsi Fike their fair share of money and headaches.
Wedge Fike told the Riverton City Council that the loss came while waiting for the city to confirm out a spoken agreement made more than a year ago.
He owns five lots south of Riverview Road, between Augusta Drive and Hill Street. A few residents in the subdivision north of this area on Henry Road and Mary Drive already had come forward and asked to hook up to the sewer because of failures to their septic systems. There are several leach fields in the area, and city staff said these residents eventually would have to tie into a sewer main that running through their neighborhood.
"The only way to serve these residents is going south through Fikes' property," city administrator Steven Weaver said. "The sewer cannot go east or west because of grades."
A grade is the degree of inclination of the surface. The city's utility division manager, Dawn Willhelm, said that determination was made by Sage Civil Engineering when they surveyed the area.
The city is participating with the county in the reconstruction of the Riverview Road and Hill Street intersection as part of the Wyoming Department of Transportation Urban Systems program. With that project, the city is also reconstructing the water and sewer lines running along Riverview Road.
The Fikes were approached for sewer easements across their property, meaning he would allow the lines to be installed on his property without losing ownership.
Fike became aware of the 56 residents who have water but not sewer service and could benefit from the new line. During WyDOT project planning, Fike was planning the septic systems and wells on his subdivision.
In a spoken agreement described by Fike with then-public services director Bill Urbigkit, Fike would not have to pay for the sanitary sewer across his property in an exchange for the easements.
Aware of the money the city could save, Fike said he gave the OK for the sewer to be built by the city before he went ahead with his road construction on the lots. Fike said the city agreed it would be less expensive to do the project now rather than later after the land has been developed, because clients have scheduled to build on the Fike's property.
"Looking back in retrospect, with finance charges alone on the property that I own, (in) postponing that, I have lots of investment into this project," Wedge said. "I wasn't able to collect from sales or development of my property because of the verbal agreement that I did with Urbigkit. It has cost me significant amounts of money because I agreed to that."
Weaver said city officials have discussed sharing the costs, but Fike prefers the original agreement. Weaver said the sanitary sewer line is not budgeted and would cost the city about $150,000.
"Staff has proposed paying for this through the budget amendment," Weaver said, adding that the council would approve that in the first council meeting in February.
Fike has proposed paying for the project and being reimbursed in the next fiscal year.
"In an auditing and financial perspective, we don't feel this is a good idea," Weaver told the council.
Bids were presented to the council last year but were denied by the council because they were too high. Staff members were unaware of the agreement between Fike and Urbigkit but were still interested in the project.
"They felt I was kind of misrepresented because of the tragedy that happened and nobody was here to defend it and explain it," Wedge said referring to Urbigkit's leave from the position with the city after undergoing surgery for a brain tumor last year.
"If the agreement is signed, the city will be releasing the project for bid to allow construction to begin in the spring," Weaver told the council before the voted. "If it's not signed, Mr. Fike will put septic systems in and people north of Riverview will not have a whole lot of options."
Residents from the subdivision north of Fike's property attended the meeting and described their septic system failures and the need for a tie-in to a sewer main.
Homeowners said the costs for them to upgrade their systems individually would be too high.
"Putting pipe or water line up there would be a significant challenge," Main Street resident Eugene Grasmick said.
Weaver suggested the subdivision north of Riverview form an "improvement district" to make it cheaper to install pipes as a group and later connect to Fike's property.
Another Main Street property owner, Charles Starks, urged the council that no restrictions be made to prevent developing property and improving it.
"I, for one, would like to see the whole area developed, if not now, eventually," Starks said.
Robert Heuermann, who lives on Mary Drive, agreed that doing any work individually as a homeowner was an "impossibility."
Council member Todd Smith suggested the council table the vote and better determine if it could be paid for.
"It's hard for me to vote in favor of something when we don't know where (funding) is coming from," Smith said. "Whether it's $150,000 today that we don't have, or whether it's 300 or $450,000 tomorrow or next year."
Council member Richard Gard said staff should reassess the land and instead pursue other options rather than go through Fike's property.
Mayor Ron Warpness, and council members Jonathan Faubion and Mary Ellen Christensen voted yes to the agreement, while Smith and Gard voted no.