City’s broken promises recalled as new sewer work proposed

Published 5:00 am Friday, July 20, 2001

With a sewer improvements funding deadline looming, cityofficials Thursday sought access to needed land from severalproperty owners still stinging from broken promises of 30 yearsago.

Thursday’s “fact-finding” meeting was intended to allow propertyowners, city officials and engineers to discuss the approximately$300,000 sewer system upgrade and line replacement project and whatis needed to allow the north Brookhaven area project toproceed.

The project requires the city to get easements to several piecesof property in the area around Field Lark Lane, Union Street,Highway 51 and the country club. Easements allow construction crewsto go onto private property with the the owners retainingownership, although their future use of easement land is verylimited.

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“What we’re trying to do is explain the project to as manypeople as we can in one night,” said City Attorney Joe Fernald.

For meeting purposes, property owners whose land is needed havebeen divided by Highway 51. Officials met with west-side propertyowners last night, and a second meeting is planned with those onthe east side, Fernald said.

Some property owners last night said they were “burned” in 1971when they granted easements for a sewer project but never receivedpromised connections to the sewer system. Owners sounded veryskeptical last night.

“You did one time, you’ll do it again,” said Alvie Chandler, aField Lark Lane resident.

It was unclear last night who promised the sewer connections 30years ago. Chandler said his late wife was “laughed at” when sherequested the connections years ago.

“It’s no laughing matter now, sir,” said Engineer Derrick Tuckerin seeking to explain the project.

The city received a $322,000 Community Development Block Grantin 1999 to do the project, and the money must be spent by Sept. 29.A contract for the project was awarded in December 2000.

Tucker said the city is working against the clock.

“There’s a lot of decisions to be made at this point,” hesaid.

Fernald has received authority to pursue eminent domainproceedings on needed land. However, the attorney said he preferredto resolve the matter amicably, and that was the reason for themeetings with property owners.

Property owners had a number of questions regarding types oflines being installed, their location and potential future landneeds for sewer projects after annexation. While they got answers,property owners frequently returned to broken promises of the pastas their present concern.

“We don’t want to walk into this thing blindfolded,” saidColeman Lea, who also lives on Field Lark Lane.

Lennis McCullough, Chandler’s neighbor, said he had not had agood couple of weeks. First came new property value notices, thenhis area was targeted for city annexation, and now officials werewanting his property for a sewer project.

“They made a bunch of promises, and they didn’t come through onit,” McCullough said. “That’s our biggest objection.”

Lea sounded hopeful that agreements could be reached.

“I still believe a good compromise is better than a greatvictory,” Lea said.

Fernald said city officials are willing to put sewer connectionor other agreements in writing. He said the written agreementswould be enforceable in any court if the city failed to followthrough.

“What we’re trying to do is find the easiest way to do thisthing,” Fernald said.

City officials expressed a willingness to work with propertyowners on their concerns. With a variety of questions to beanswered, city officials and engineers agreed to meet with propertyowners individually next week to discuss what land is needed andwhere.

“We’re going to try to do what’s right,” said Mayor BillGodbold.