With the recent rain flooding homes on Faith Avenue, neither homeowners nor the city of Abilene are seeing a quick resolution to the damage the flowing water creates.
During last week’s study session, commissioners Chris Ostermann and Dee Marshall said they want the homeowners and not the city to pay the estimated $250,000 cost to fix the stormwater flooding.
Homeowners said at a 2017 study session that the flooding leaves behind deposits of silt.
The homeowners said then that developments to the west, one being the addition of Eagle Drive, made the drainage situation worse.
A study was done by Kaw Valley Engineering in 2009 and another by Olsson Associates in 2016 which called for replacing the current retention pond with a storm retention lagoon on property owned by Highland Homes. Cost was estimated at $250,000 to $300,000 and would solve flooding issues, including a 100-year flood.
“Let’s say we go through this process. What is the precedent of other issues throughout the city where there is water damage?” Ostermann said.
Marshall pointed out an issue with East Maple Street. During an April meeting, the commissioners were told of a flooding issue on 15th Street.
“Where does it say that it is our (city) responsibility?” Ostermann asked.
“It’s private property,” Marshall said.
“I don’t mean to suggest that we have a legal responsibility,” said City Attorney Aaron Martin. “I think it is up to you to whether there is sufficient public interest to justify this project or any other project. I would certainly let you know if there is a legal issue.”
In September 2018 the city commission authorized negotiations with Bob Hoffman of Highland Homes to use the land on the east end of 1709 N. Buckeye, the former Priem’s Pride Motel. Highland Homes was willing to allow the city to use the land for the retention lagoon but wouldn’t maintain it.
At a December meeting, commissioners were told that about 50 percent of the property owners on Faith Avenue agreed to assist with maintenance but 50 percent disagreed.
Commissioners were told last week that once an easement has been established, the city could start accepting bids.
Martin said an agreement was being worked on between Highland Homes and property owners.
“It got fairly far into that negotiation. It was all premise on the understanding that the property would be dedicated to the city, the city would construct the necessary drainage improvements at its own cost, and the underlying property owner, Highland Homes, would maintain the grassy area in perpetuity,” Martin said.
That agreement ran into problems, Martin said. In 2018 the commission approved a resolution to have the city manager negotiate ownership and maintenance with the homeowners.
“It authorized the city manager to see if it was a reasonable thing to pursue,” Martin said.
He said that in April this year further discussion was held to find long-term maintenance of the grass.
“We did not finalize or formalize anything but, based on that meeting, I think there is a basis to find some common ground,” he said.
However, he said that was based on the premise that the city would construct the public improvements.
City Engineer Mark Bachamp with Olsson Associates, said that once the lagoon is constructed, it will take care of any future development to the west.
“Which is, to me, the whole point,” said Mayor Tim Shafer. “If we are to develop Abilene and we have that large empty space there, and we want to develop that, it would be more attractive to developers if that is already done.
“As for some of the other problems around town, we will have to deal with those, too,” he said. “It’s what we are here to do: deal with problems that people have.”
City staff was directed to review a special assessment of property owners to pay for the drainage project.
Martin said he wanted to consult with bond counsel.
“Generally, drainage issues are something that can be addressed,” Martin said. “I think the issue is determining who benefits from this. That is not something that I have seen done but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done.”
Contact Tim Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.