Oskaloosa City Council debates the merit of paying bill to landowner
The city of Oskaloosa is paying another unplanned expenditure associated with the sewer project and some are wondering why.
Landowner Jerry Robbins presented the city with a bill for more than $2,600 a few months ago because of alleged damages he incurred as a result of construction of the city-wide sewer project.
Robbins owns land adjacent to the city’s lagoon and sold 13 acres of property to the city in 2009.
He claims a fence that was constructed by the city to separate the city’s property from Robbins’ property was taken down and not properly put back up. As a result Robbins says he had to move his cattle to a pen where he had to purchase water and hay.
Furthermore, Robbins says that construction workers took away some walnut logs that he says he requested be left.
After a lengthy discussion at the city council last Thursday, March 17, council members reluctantly voted to pay $1,100 of the bill for the hay and water costs. Mayor Mike Boyd, who did not have a vote on the issue, said he would not pay a dime of the bill.
“We didn’t tell him to move his cattle and we didn’t ask him to move his cattle,” Boyd said. “Why should the city have to pay a bill that the sewer crew made him incur? I honestly don’t think this is our gig.
“I would have no problem paying this bill if we did the damage,” Boyd added.
Councilman Allen Wise said he had a problem with the timing of Robbins’ complaint. Robbins claims that his cattle had to be penned up between June and October of last year.
“It went on from June through October and I don’t get a bill for anything until Feb. 17 of the following year,” Wise said. “If I had to buy hay I would have been at a council meeting waving my hand saying ‘What’s going on here?’ That never happened.”
Councilman Mike Paavola urged the rest of the council to pay the bill because the city will have to work with Robbins in the future with land easements.
“I do know that we need access into that and we don’t need the property owner upset because we have to work with him from now on,” Paavola said. “The access we have now is going to erode. I guarantee it.”
Paavola also expressed frustration with receiving the bill.
“I’d like to see the contractor pay for part of it,” Paavola said.
Robbins met with the contractor, Wise and Paavola last week. Paavola said he asked the contractors who was responsible for the problem and the only response was silence.
Councilman Kelly Hattemer and Jim Faris questioned the relationship the city has with Robbins. Both questioned whether or not the city is being held hostage.
Boyd said the fence that contractors took down is the city’s fence anyway and that he is also growing more frustrated with the relationship.
“We put (the fence) up out of the graciousness of our hearts to separate the properties,” Boyd said. “He didn’t spend a dime on it. We scratch his back. I have an issue of keep scratchin’, keep scratchin’ and keep scratchin’ the same person.”
The council discussed the possibility of holding back some payments from contractors.
The sewer project has also caused some problems with another resident on Cherokee Street.
A truck that was working on the project shattered the sidewalk on the 800 block of Cherokee.
Bob Osborn, the resident, said a project engineer told him they would replace the sidewalk.
Osborn said after waiting for months he tore out the remaining sidewalk.
After a lengthy discussion the council decided they would put the sidewalk back.
In other actions:
- The council voted to donate $100 to the Oskaloosa After Prom.
- After straightening out some language the city has an agreement with Century Link for the burying of fiber optic cables.
- The council discussed the planning and zoning board and how it has not met for more than nine months. McInroy said weather and other reasons are to blame for a couple of meetings but most of the time it’s from a lack of attendance by board members. The board has four members. McInroy said only two members are reliable for attendance.
- Faris will interview two applicants for the vacant zoning administrator within the next week.
- The city has received 13 applications for a full-time laborer. Heard has narrowed down his choice to two applicants. The council will begin scheduling interviews soon.
- The council approved one sewer bill adjustment due to water leaks for The Guidance Center but tabled another for a residence.
- The council approved the new liability insurance policy for the city. The yearly premium is $17,695. The amount is more than what the city budgeted for insurance.
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