City may not even own street that businessman wants to buy

The Albia Planning and Zoning Board voted to turn down a request from Erik Schofield to close a street so that he could purchase it for a private entrance to a new building. At the last Albia City Council meeting, the issue was tabled to enable the council to get more information.

In a weird twist, the council did get more information and the information suggests the city never owned the property in the first place. At issue is property located just west and north of the Albia truck route. The farmland is owned by the Miletich family and farmed by Ed Simpson and the “abandoned” street in question is at the end of a short street accessing businesses owned by Ronnie Griffin and Schofield.

Schofield was at Monday’s council meeting to present his case.  “I was made aware that there was an empty street with no utilities under it,” he said. “I want to put up another storage shed in my back yard and having that access would be very beneficial. It’s kind of a must. I would rock it and maintain it and it would be easier if I owned it.”

Schofield said he would be willing to buy his half or all of it. He said his half would not block entrance to the farm fields and even if he were to buy the entire street, he would give access to the farmland.

Planning and Zoning board members were spilt on whether to abandon the road or give it back to the original farmer and then voted unanimously not to close the road.  

But then Simpson addressed the council with some very old abstract information, which suggests the road was platted but never accepted by the city.

Graham Abstract researched the issue and found that in August of 1889, James Love had the area platted, but it was never developed. He then sold it to the Miletich family, now represented by Jim Miletich, a Colorado attorney, and they used it strictly as farm ground. Simpson said he has farmed the ground for the past 40 years.

“It’s the only access to the 100-acre farm and the platted street or alley has never been accepted by the city,” he said. “Just because land is platted, doesn’t mean the city owns it.”

Simpson, whose attorney, John Pabst, is vacationing in Minnesota, believes the property in question never passed out of ownership from the line of Love to Miletich.

That’s when Albia City Attorney Bob Breckenridge basically called a “timeout” and asked the council to table the issue until ownership of the land in question could be settled.

 Nancy Buss of Hall Engineering worked through final numbers on the $218,065 sewer-lining project. With change orders, quantity adjustments and costs savings due to the use of eight-inch lines instead of 10 and 12-inch lines, the project cost overrun landed at $6,250. The final bill was approved by the council and there was some discussion about future projects.

The actual wastewater treatment facilities are due for work this summer. The city has the Department of Natural Resources permit and bidding is waiting on the USDA Rural Development’s final review of the plan. Buss said she is hoping for a February letting. She said two minor issues remain, including getting temporary easements from adjacent property owners at the north plant to allow large equipment to access the plant and a waiver from St. Mary’s Catholic Church to proceed with work on the lagoons located just south of the church.

Buss said several contractors are interested in the project, which should create a good competitive bidding process. The council approved a resolution to accept the completion of the lining project.

 Dan Tometich addressed the council concerning the trails funding, since the Trails Committee was incorporated under the Albia Parks Board. Tometich said the project is all but complete, needing seeding and signage. The total cost of the project will come in around $525,000. The council decided to allow the remainder of the project ($100,000 came from a Wellmark grant through the hospital and $208,000 through Monroe County Foundation funding) by using Local Option Sales Tax funding that will be paid back at low interest.    

Tometich also addressed the need to expand a dead-end street about 100 feet to a county road in the Albia Industrial Park. Two new buildings are going up near Iowa Aluminum and all three businesses are interested in having another exit to the area. Tometich asked the council’s permission to look at options that would likely start with a gravel road expansion. The council told Tometich to proceed.

Albia Fire Chief John Freshwater gave the council an update on the purchase of new masks and breathing apparatus. The cost of the new equipment is $110,000, of which $60,000 is coming from a USDA grant and the remaining $50,000 from fire department annual fund-raising. He said the new equipment comes at no expense to the city or taxpayers.  

Chariton Valley Development Director Nicole Moore presented the final draft of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted by the council.

 Councilwoman Leslie Hill presented revisions to the proposed residential parking ordinance. She said the revisions took out the requirement of rock, asphalt or concrete for parking in the fronts of houses. “The new ordinance will solely address moving inoperable cars out of front yards,” she said. City Attorney Bob Breckenridge will take the revisions and present the ordinance back to the council at its January meeting.  

Breckenridge told the council all contract negotiations complete, with a two percent raise and a two-year contract. He said some adjustments were made to supervisor language based on longevity. All city employees have agreed to their respective contracts as well as supervisors and the council approved the contracts as well.  

Two tax exemptions, one for a new home and another for a new deck were approved.

A beer and liquor permit for the American Legion was approved.

New sidewalks

Street Superintendent Jeff Stephens met with representatives from the Iowa Department of Transportation concerning the resurfacing of Highway 5 from about the Chariton Valley Electric drive to the railroad underpass. Stephens said the DOT plans to replace all existing sidewalks on both sides of the highway through the square and to the railroad underpass.  

Breckenridge said the letter to the Appanoose County Railroad to repair their crossings was ready to be mailed.  

City Clerk Linda Heller reported that the city received $87,000 from the federal CARES grant to do payroll relief.

Sewer Department Superintendent Bucky Fry reported that Eric Miller was hired as his new assistant.

Police Chief Brad Evinger introduced new police officer Rachel Thompson who was sworn in by Mayor Richard Clark. She has six and a half years of experience with the Ottumwa Police Department, left that job in 2015 to pursue other opportunities and decided to get back into law enforcement. She will start Jan. 11. Officer Bates will start the Law Enforcement Academy on Jan. 4 with virtual classes.

Chief Evinger also reported to the council about Operation Secret Santa that provided children with gifts and families with Christmas hams.  

 

New Albia police officer Rachel Thompson is sworn in by Mayor Richard Clark.

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