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Nevis water run off liability questioned

The city's liability in water run off issues in Nevis is being handled gingerly, maintenance supervisor Don Umthun cautioning fixing problems "could be opening up a can of worms."

Angie Otterness, who owns a Nevis student-built house on Evergreen Drive, had approached the city on problems with water run-off in her yard. A swale had been suggested, which she'd rejected, "because it would not be a permanent fix."

Otterness indicated road upgrades had caused the problem.

"The road and its grade were there before the house was built," mayor Dave McCurnin told her. "The house is on the low side. I'm not sure if this is the city's responsibility or liability."

Umthun said he'd met with a local contractor on the issue. The city "needs to be careful," he told the council. "We may be setting a precedent" if the city fixes a problem when a house has been "built too low."

The Otterness house, Umthun said, is four inches below the graded road. He cited other residences in the city below the road grade.

"Are we opening up a can of worms by fixing the problem? Did we just buy a basement?" he asked of possible scenarios. "There is a potential for others to be knocking on the door."

Council member Paul Schroeder said the water problem may have increased by the city tarring the road. "But unfortunately, it falls on you," he told Otterness. "Roads are established and the house comes after."

"Are you suggesting I find legal advice?" Otterness asked.

Schroeder agreed that if the city had done something that altered his yard "I'd probably fight it. But I'm not sure you'd win. The city can tar roads."

"The road was there long before the house was built," McCurnin said. "As Don suggested, we may be creating a bigger liability" (by assisting). Come spring, he said, the city would have people calling wanting their basement cleaned out (from water seepage).

In other action, the council:

-Quashed a suggestion from McCurnin to turn off some of the city's 91 street lights to save on the $13,000 annual electric bill.

Deputy Jeff Stacey said from a law enforcement perspective, lights are necessary.

Council members agreed "conceptually" that it might prove to be a money saver, but clerk-treasurer Carol Fridgen said she gets calls when lights are out.

McCurnin cited areas of the city where they could be eliminated, but not at intersections.

"Is it worth it for five lights?" Karl Dierkhising asked.

Although some lights may not be in a residential area, Schroeder pointed out they are useful for pedestrians, children and adults.

The council took no action.

-Reported liquor store earnings of negative $599 in September, $12,420 year-to-date. This compares with a net income of $35,805 for the same period last year.

Liquor store manager Mark Peterson said he was notified of beer prices going up so he stocked up on inventory, contributing to the negative earnings. "Hopefully, it should come around this month."

Octoberfest was a success, Peterson told council members, with 185 pounds of food and $20 in cash donated for the food shelf.

He's planning a hot dish cook-off in January along with a cribbage tourney, proceeds benefiting the Nevis scholarship fund.

He was granted permission to seek quotes for a programmable thermostat as an energy saving measure at the liquor store.

-Approved a garbage pickup quote of $45.70 per month from Boxter for the liquor store and city offices. City Sanitary had submitted a quote of $57 per month.

-Increased Muskie food stand rental costs from $20 to $40 with a $60 deposit. The deposit will be refunded if the area is cleaned after use and garbage removed. Lake associations are the primary clients.

Picnic table use will also come with a price. The council agreed to charge $5 per table, 10 maximum, and will be available for city residents only. They may be moved off premise.

-Approved rescinding last month's motion to award R.J. Construction the quote of $1,500 to repair the dip in the sewer line on Arrowhead Drive. The company owner notified the city they did not have the proper license.

Scouton Sewer and Excavating will do the project for $1,747.