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By Sue Curry Jones
Feelings of frustration, anger and empathy filled council chambers at Ava City Hall on Tuesday evening when approximately 37 people filled the meeting room. Most of the attendees were there to show support for a neighbor or friend in conflict with the City of Ava over a sewage problem in the northeast section of town.
On the other hand, several in attendance were there to speak up and voice an opinion. Some perspectives were calm and well-spoken; others angry and defensive. Nonetheless, a host of outlooks were presented, and primarily, individuals held slightly different opinions on how things have transpired.
The consterna¬tion and disagree-ment stems from sewer leaks on the northeast side of town in a residential area originally called K-Summit, second addition. The residential area, which was initially built outside the city limits, was originally developed by Butch Kottmeier. Years later, the housing development was annexed into the city, however, details about water and sewer lines within the housing area were never forthcoming.
According to municipal code, the city has the responsibility to provide water and sewer lines to the edge of residential property for hook-up. It is the responsibility of the property owner to run the line from their home to the City of Ava main or line connection.
In addition, City Attorney Larry Tyrrell said it is not permissible for the city to spend taxpayers dollars to fix problems on private property. Problems arising on privately held property are the responsibility of the landowner.
Nonetheless, the leak which has been unsolved for almost one year, continues to pose a potential health and public safety issue for the neighborhood and the homeowners coping with sewage in their yards.
Properties affected by sewage deposits are owned by: Casey and Heather Pierce, 610 NE 14th Street; and Shannon and Verna Wilhouse, 605 NE 14th Street.
In trying to solve the problem, the city had previously placed dye in the system and results revealed waste was coming from the homes of Craig and Bonnie Evans, 607 NE 15th Street; and Blair and Pam Karges, 714 NE 15th Street. Once notified of the problem, the Evans family hired an independent firm to re-route sewer lines and remedy the leak. The Karges, however, live on a limited income and don’t have the funds available to cover the expense of re-routing their lines. For non-compliance to remedy, the City has shut off the water to their home.
Two of the individuals appearing before council asked the city to make an exception for the Karges family, and to show compassion for their dilemma. They proposed that the city assume costs for correcting the sewer problem for the family.
Blair Karges, a military veteran, and his wife Pam, had the support of VFW Post Commander Larry Morrison, and Pastor Paul Neighbour. Both men spoke on their behalf. The Karges were also supported by fellow veterans, and local church members in attendance at the meeting.
City Attorney Larry Tyrrell noted a tentative agreement had been reached earlier in the month. Tyrrell said “in the interest to promote public safety and welfare, the City had agreed to a narrow allowance to help remedy the problem. We found a way to proceed, but it didn’t work.” Tyrrell said the parties involved couldn’t come to terms on the wording of the agreement. Consequently, finding a fair solution to the problem became difficult.
Some of the comments expressed by citizens addressing council were:
“Why are we putting citizens through this?”
“An 88-year-old veteran deserves more than we are giving him.”
“We are victims of the situation. The fact the city didn’t get in there and help – that’s not right.”
“Honor demands we do this for the elderly and a veteran.”
“What we cannot respect is having to live in somebody else’s sewage for any length of time.”
Citizen comments revealed most of the individuals engaged in the dispute hold conflicting opinions and dissimilar perceptions about the situation and a solution. And, since no resolve was forthcoming Tuesday evening, the sewage problems is still an issue.
In other business, the council approved a clarification to city code dealing with density requirements for accessory buildings. Section 110.122 Density Requirements was the title of the section repealed.
The aldermen also adopted an ordinance which will allow the City to charge interest on bills for weed removal from private property.
Accounts payable were approved for payment.
Councilmen present were Billy Long, Judy Lovan, Burrely Loftin and Ric Engelhardt.
The next meeting time for city council is Tuesday, Oct. 25, 5:00 p.m. in council chambers at Ava City Hall.
Video of the meeting is available for viewing at http://bit.ly/avacity10