McLouth, water well owner at impasse over lease
by Dennis Sharkey
The city of McLouth is still at a stalemate with a landowner and a new lease for a city water well.
Barbara Peterson approached the city last fall seeking a new lease for a water well that is located on her land just north of the city.
Peterson approached the city with several demands including more money for the lease and access to potable water.
The biggest sticking point is the access to water. Peterson claims that her lease, which was last amended in the late 1980s, states that the city is required to provide potable water. However, her land is located outside the city limits and is in the jurisdiction of Rural Water District No. 12.
The council asked Peterson at their last meeting on Feb. 7 if she had contacted Rural Water No. 12 about granting a waiver. The city cannot run a water line to the property without permission.
Peterson said she thought the city was going to seek permission and had not spoken with the district.
Councilman Harlan Woodring told Peterson that the city cannot make a request for her.
“The fact that you want to do this now cannot be grandfathered in to something that happened that long ago,” Woodring said. “The onus is on you.”
The other option for potable water would be to drill another well. However, Peterson cannot guarantee that a new well would not affect the city’s well.
The closest city water line is more than 2,000 feet from Peterson’s property. Peterson continued to claim that it was the city’s responsibility to get water to her property.
“I really truly think I have a right to water that is treated,” Peterson said. “I need to have treated water. Why should I concede to something that’s not treated when it says I can hook to your water line in my lease?”
The council told Peterson at the last meeting that the city is not responsible for paying the cost of new water lines. Councilman Jim Moore told Peterson that even new developments are paid for by the contractor and not the city.
“We supply the meter,” Moore said. “We don’t supply the line to the meter.”
City Attorney Trevin Wray said the last time he heard from Peterson it was understood that she would present a new lease with new terms.
“I’m not hearing the terms of a new lease,” Moore said. “I’m not hearing what you expect us to do.”
“I just don’t see how I can sign a lease when the things in my lease are wrong,” Peterson responded. “I’ve got to have them right.”
When the problem was first addressed last fall, Peterson threatened to kick the city out and take the land back over. Wray told Peterson in November that if she wanted to pursue that avenue the city would seek to condemn the property and take it over. The city would then pay Peterson fair market value for the land.
Wray told the council the city may have no choice but to pursue that choice if Peterson continues with her demands.
“It cannot be such where the city is being put into a position where it’s being nearly extorted,” Wray said. “Condemnation would be a better, more feasible economic option.
“If access to water is a hang-up, we know where we can start and stop right now,” he added.
City Administrator Carl Chalfant said the city would also have to seek easements in order to run a water line to her property.
Wray said it appears the city and Peterson cannot reach an agreement because of her demands.
“The deal breaker is the one we cannot comply with,” Wray said. “That’s the problem.”
Wray told Peterson that the council does not want to condemn her land but if she continues to make demands that cannot be met she will give the city no choice.
“The more demands that you add on, the less feasible it becomes and the more appealing it becomes to just go out and condemn it,” Wray said.
“We need something in writing from you,” Moore added. “Not just keep talking and talking.”
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