Uniontown moving one step at a time with water project

Thursday, January 16, 2014
Loretta George/Tribune photo Uniontown City Council took a break in their monthly meeting to sign papers for the resolution and ordinances that will move the city's water improvement project forward. From left: Councilman Dustin Goalden, Uniontown Treasurer Larry Neville, Attorney Garth Herrmann, City Clerk Sally Johnson and Mayor Larry Jurgensen.

Uniontown City Council signed formal papers to move to the next step of improving the city's aging water supply system Tuesday evening during its monthly meeting at City Hall.

Work on Uniontown's water supply system improvement project will begin Jan. 27, according to City Superintendent Bobby Rich. The contractor for the project is Lathrop Construction of Nevada, Mo.

Garth Herrmann, an attorney from Wichita who is the bond council for the city, delivered the documents, explained the needed steps and fielded questions from the council. The city had accepted the U.S. Department of Agriculture's $111,000 grant and $489,000 loan through the Rural Development program last year. In addition, the city also received a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $500,000 from the Kansas Department of Commerce for water improvements.

The project will replace more than 30,000 linear feet of the city's water distribution system, which is 50 years old and has been an ongoing maintenance problem for the small town, 15 miles west of Fort Scott.

The council signed off on a resolution to adopt tax and securities compliance procedures relating to the obligations issued. Additionally, council members signed an ordinance authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds, which provide for levying and collecting an annual tax for the purpose of paying the principal of interest on the bonds as they become due.

Each Feb. 12 will be the payment date, the anniversary of when Rural Development will deposit $489,000 in the city's bank account this year, Herrmann told the council. Then for the next 40 years, the city will pay $18,000 to $19,000 annually back on the loan.

The council took a 10-minute break in its agenda to sign all the legal documents.

Also in regards to the water project, Frank Young, project engineer, has reworked the right-of-way easement for Herschel George and still doesn't have the right-of-way easement from Bill Griffith, City Clerk Sally Johnson reported.

Another stumbling block to the water project is property on which the current water tank sits, which is approximately 0.9 acres.

The clerk said there has been "a glitch" in that portion of the project. The property owner, Johnny Johnson, had sold the property the water tank sits on when he sold the surrounding property.

"When we went to the title company, they said he sold that on contract. Johnny said he thought that tank property was taken out of the rest of the property, but it wasn't," Sally Johnson said." He can't sell and will not allow the contractees to sell it. He won't release the loan on it for them to sell it. So we have to get easements from Johnny and Sheri Johnson, Larry and Shirley Tinsley, and Michael Wood and spouse if he has one,or do eminent domain," she said.

Eminent domain law is a right of a government to take private property for public use.

In 2013, Johnny Johnson had requested a survey be done on the water tank property, which the city had accomplished, Mayor Larry Jurgensen said. The bill for the survey was $584.20.

"He was adamant that we have that survey done," Sally Johnson said.

The council agreed to send Johnny Johnson the bill for the survey, since he requested it be done and did not own the property.

Sally Johnson had talked to current City Attorney Geoffrey Clark about options the city had in this situation, and was given three: get easements from all parties, make a contract with contractees to buy it from them or eminent domain. Geoff Clark had asked the council to seek another attorney to give legal counsel to the city.

The council will seek legal counsel from the newly appointed attorney, Robert Johnson of Iola, about proceeding with eminent domain, because of the amount of time already spent in securing this property and the water project about to begin.

Robert Johnson came to the meeting at the council's request to see if he would be available to take on the city's legal issues. Clark, the previous city attorney, had recommended Robert Johnson. The council approved hiring Johnson and asking Clark to send information he had compiled about the city's issues to the new attorney. Johnson's rate per hour is $140, and travel time is charged, but doesn't require a retainer fee, he told the council.

In other business, the council:

* Approved sending the city superintendent to classes and conferences on water in February and March, if they don't conflict with work on the water system improvement project.

* Had received a check from UPS insurance for the culvert head wall. Marbery Concrete had been contacted to do the work, and will begin when time allows, said the clerk.

* Learned of a water leak at 305 Fulton. The clerk will look at how rates have been charged in the past for leaks.

* Heard from Sally Johnson that she will order a flag and plaque for a Honor and Remember Flag display box.

* Will send a letter to Nikki Davis about a nuisance dog.

* Heard from Sally Johnson that Wilkinson Drywall would like a list of items left to be finished on the city hall renovation project. She will send a letter with the list of unfinished work, with a date for the work to be finished.

* Will send property owner Henry Homan a letter to get an easement on his property to straighten the creek path, near the Union Street culvert. Funding sources for the project are still uncertain at this point, Jurgensen said. The council approved Young proceed with the repair of the culvert.

* Learned from Sally Johnson that another bid is needed for the Hinton Creek gas line relocation. Currently there are two -- one from Black Hills Energy, Wichita, and one from L & B Services, Springfield, Mo., she said.

* Heard from property owner Rebecca Sutterby of improvements to a building she owns on the north side of the Uniontown square at 103 W. Third St. "I know it looks like crap right now," she said, but handed the council a list of all that has been completed on the inside of the building. The council thanked her for the improvements so far. The two other owners of the buildings that are in disrepair were asked to come to the council meeting, but did not appear.

* Heard from Sally Johnson there has been no movement on the voluntary annexation project, as they had been waiting on the legal advice from attorney Clark.

* Learned from Sally Johnson that C & D Complete Business Solutions is having trouble locating people on the delinquent accounts list provided to them from the city.

* Heard from the clerk that Alpha Artistry is working on signs for the city hall/community center and drawing up samples for city limit signs. Councilmember Seth Martin had indicated he would seek information on signs the city can use for speed limits, no parking, truck route and pedestrian crossing signs. Martin was absent from Tuesday's meeting. Rich had checked on prices from Bourbon County for signs, the clerk reported.