Marion city agrees to compensate resident ‘in good faith’

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Pat Patterson got his wish with the Marion City Commission voting Monday to give him $968.99 less $10 taxes for his bill with plumber Tony Schafers for a sewer line never hooked to city sewer.

City Attorney Dan Baldwin said the city wasn’t at fault for anything, and if the commissioners decided to help Patterson it would simply “be a gesture of good faith. I don’t think anybody wants to do the research necessary to carry it further.”

Baldwin added that the decision sets no precedent for other payments, and the commissioners are free to consider any other like requests on a case-by-case basis.

City Manager David Mayfield said he didn’t even think it would be much expense or problem for the city crew to repair Patterson’s concrete driveway damaged during the problem.

It was established in the meeting last week that Patterson’s home had never been hooked to city sewer in the 20 years he has lived there, even though he paid for the service. Apparently in mistakes probably made in the late 1930s or early 1940s, the Patterson home sewer got hooked into an old line that might once have gone to an old city sewage plant.

Patterson learned of the problem when Schafers did repeated work on it after intermittent sewage backups. Schafers said the old line apparently was acting as a septic tank.

Merle Bruner, a former owner of the home, said the sewer used to act the same way for him.

Schafers said the line covered 60 feet of Patterson’s property, but only had perhaps another six feet to go at the property line to the city sewer.

“Only problem was, his line had no place to go,” he said. “The water was apparently bleeding out somewhere from the old line.”

The commissioners tried to come at the problem in different ways. Mayor Martin Tice tried looking at what part of a broken sewer line a homeowner normally would be responsible for paying.

Commissioner Jim Crofoot wondered if it could be the responsibility of a former homeowner.

“It seems to be a case where nobody’s right,” he said.

Patterson suggested going to court might be the only way to solve the problem, but Tice countered that the only ones to win there “would be two lawyers.”

Finally after some silence and chair twisting, Commissioner Larry McLain made a motion.

“Let’s just pay the bill,” he said. “It’s an issue nobody’s going to win. It’s not our fault. But he has been paying his sewer bill in good faith.”

The others joined McLain to make it 3-0.

The commissioners considered a proposal from Mayfield to allow a city employee to donate a maximum of 80 hours of accumulated sick leave to another employee who might have a more extensive illness that uses up her or his sick leave.

Donating employees would be required to have a minimum of 200 hours of sick leave built up, and to retain 160 hours for themselves.

Mayfield said employees accumulate sick leave at a rate of eight hours a week.

Crofoot said he would want a determination of who would decide donation eligibility.

Mayfield reported that he, Public Works Director Harvey Sanders and Street Superintendent Marty Fredrickson met with engineers from Bucher, Willis and Ratliff to go over the contract for a water plant upgrade. He said the engineers agreed to complete a report to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment regarding the upgrade.

The commissioners approved a transfer of $110,000 from the electric utility fund to the bond and interest fund for debt service.

They approved the November investment and collateral report and the financial statement.

They approved a donation of $100 to help sponsor, with other cities that use Marion Reservoir as a water supply, an educational day for farmers to control sediment erosion.

They approved paying warrants for $219,966.41 and payroll for $24,311.53. Mayfield said the warrants included a bond and interest payment for $109,898.75 and a Westar electric bill for $67,381.51.

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