City to maintain Gilleland sewer lines

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— The City Council ended a yearlong sewer system dispute Tuesday night by agreeing to take responsibility for sewer lines in the Gilleland subdivision.

Council said it would accept Gilleland's sewer lines as city-owned, sparing the homeowners thousands of dollars for necessary upgrades.

It was the response the 12 Gilleland homeowners wanted to hear. On Tuesday, the homeowners told the council they should not have to pay for improvements to sewer lines they thought for years belonged to the city. The homeowners said there is no clear record of whether the lines were or were not accepted as city infrastructure in 1968.

Upgrading the system could have cost the group $25,000 and was originally priced at $50,000.

"I think that this is great," homeowner Ed Trousil said. "I think (the council's) points were very respectful of the citizens of Steamboat and we are delighted."

Councilman Loui Antonucci said he did not care if the city or the homeowners were right about ownership of the sewer lines. He said the city had a moral obligation to cover the improvements to lines it had maintained for more than 30 years.

"I don't really think we should be penalizing a part of the community that doesn't need to be penalized," Antonucci said. "We should do what is right and end it right here."

The homeowners applauded Antonucci's comments. Later, the council unanimously directed staff to start the process of accepting the sewer lines.

The homeowners and the city discovered the lines were never officially turned over to the city when the public works department began looking at improvement projects in the Old Town area a year ago.

Because the city has no record of the sewer lines ever being officially dedicated, city staff argued the city did not own the system. Thus, staff said, it was not the city's responsibility to maintain 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.

City Attorney Dan Foote said in the late 1960s, the record shows only one or two developments that had accepted sewer lines. Other developments during that time that had private sewer lines did not show any record of sewer line dedications.

"I would like to kindly ask if any of the City Council sees a flaw in the city's position," Homeowner David Banks asked. "They openly admit there were no records at that time and are able (to refuse acceptance) over the records they don't have. They are doing this in a vacuum."

Antonucci was convinced to accept the sewer lines because the city had maintained them for years and the city annexed the development into its limits. Other council members agreed with Antonucci and asked that the sewer lines be accepted.

City staff presented a proposal to homeowners on Friday in which the property owners would pay for improvements to the south line and the installation of a manhole at the end of the south sewer line. The property owners would also dedicate utility easements to the city. In return, the city would finance the cost of improvements and accept both the north and south lines. Council did not accept that proposal.

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