Steamboat Springs A group of Old Town homeowners is asking the City Council not to force them to pay for upgrades to sewer lines the homeowners thought belonged to the city.
The 12 homeowners in the Gilleland Addition on East Logan Street say they should not have to pay for the improvements, which could cost more than $4,000 per homeowner, because ownership of the lines is unclear.
In the past, the city has done work on the lines, but staff said the sewer lines have never been dedicated to the city and therefore are not the city's responsibility to fix.
Homeowner Ed Trousil said for 34 years the city has installed manholes, cleaned out pipes and supervised connections to the lines.
The Gilleland Subdivision was platted and accepted by the town in 1968, but the homeowners said it was not until 1974 that the city charter was created and clear guidelines were put in place on how to identify, install and dedicate infrastructure to the city.
Trousil said there are most likely other neighborhoods in Steamboat that could face similar problems when the time comes to repair their sewer lines.
"I think there is a concern about how many other subdivisions are in the same position we are and just don't know it yet," Trousil said.
In a letter written to the city, the Gilleland homeowners asked the council not to use a "historical mistake" as a way to avoid paying for sewer improvements.
"You cannot assume ownership of a system for 34 years and then apply today's rules on a system that was installed in 1968," the letter reads.
The city discovered the lines were never officially turned over to the city when the public works department was looking at improvement projects in the Old Town area a year ago.
"We have done work on those lines. We did so with the belief they were public," City Attorney Dan Foote said.
Foote said the city still has no evidence that the sewer lines were dedicated to the city and he is focusing on finding a solution that is acceptable to the homeowners.
But the homeowners said there is also no evidence that the lines were not turned over to the city and public. They said that no title review, appraisal, city document, agreement or notice shows the sewer lines were intended to be private.
Public Works Director Jim Weber has not found a similar problem anywhere else in Steamboat.
Weber said the fact that the development does not have easements for sewer lines is a good indicator that the lines were never city-owned.
He also said the county owned the land before it was annexed into the city around the same time it was developed.
If council decides the sewer lines were private, Trousil said the neighbors might review the lines for damages the city may have caused and seek reimbursement for tap and sewer fees.