Sheridan well a shutdown victim
Tolson Lane, sewer backup, library fund, also on agenda
SHERIDAN – Sheridan Mayor Bob Stump was so impressed with the Ruby Valley FFA Parliamentary Procedures team demo that he asked the FFA students to return, to help the board smooth out their parliamentary practices during meetings.
Four members of the FFA team – Tyler Haag, Madison Fabel, Zoe Lee, and Grace Larsen – and its advisor, Sheridan schools ag education teacher Rodney Braaten visited the town council on Monday, January 14, to show the council a demonstration of their skills.
With Haag serving as the chairman of the meeting and the three girls having a very short time to prepare some very extemporaneous arguments for or against a practice motion – to make and place planters filled with living flowers around the community – the students showed how a meeting was supposed to be run.
They presented arguments pro and con, used procedural maneuvering to get their positions heard and otherwise impressed the often very casual town council with their speed and knowledge of procedures.
Braaten called the exercise good practice and Stump and the board thanked the students for sharing their skills.
New well: shutdown victim
Stump, at the end of the meeting, updated council on how the town’s new well was a victim of the federal government’s shutdown.
The new well, designed to replace four older wells that are not supplying the town with enough water now, was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development arm last year.
Stump said he’d hoped to be drilling this well by October, but the federal paperwork slowed this process to a crawl, with multiple approvals for this and that, and with the federal shutdown nothing is happening.
“I’m so fed up with this,” Stump said. “We’re sitting here waiting, it’s sad. We’ve been pursuing this for 10 months. Nothing in the process has been expedited. Both parties are childish, it’s not for the good of the country. There is no urgency in their process. This should be expedited, don’t they understand this is an emergency grant and loan?”
Stump said if the town had the procurement document, the town could get the well drilled; but the shutdown has stymied this.
He said he called Sen. Jon Tester a week ago – Tester railed in the Senate about the impact of the shutdown on people and called for its end – but that was a week ago and nothing had been done.
“All of the things that were required have been done,” Stump said. “This is a ludicrous process.”
Councilman Dan Durham asked how long it would take if the proper paperwork were in hand. Stump said it would now be about four months – May – if the town had an approval in hand that day.
Tolson Lane subdivision
Council again considered issues focused on the proposed Tolson Lane subdivision.
In November, Todd Dahlman, formerly a Utah resident, came to the town council after purchasing a 5-acre parcel on Tolson Lane and shared his intentions to build a home on this property for himself, then subdivide it into additional lots. The town was interested in annexing this land and discussed with Dahlman a deal to provide him with sewer line materials if he would build a sewer line that could serve any future development.
Stump and town attorney Stephaine Kruer, of the Kruer Law Firm, discussed the process of annexation with the council, noting that it was not quite as simple as they were first led to believe.
Stump said he discussed the process with the Madison County Planning Director Charity Fechter and learned that the process of annexing empty lots amounted to one of two things. If a single landowner was involved, it should be a fairly straightforward process. However, when Kruer looked over the details, she discovered the process might not be so simple.
Kruer told the council that a 1973 state law, The Planned Community Act, a state effort to prevent urban sprawl, might come into play with Tolson Lane. Municipalities, she said, were obligated to provide certain services under the act, including a water main and sewer system, and 51 percent of the landowners in the annexation must agree to be annexed.
Kruer said the town needed a facilities plan, also a resolution with the intent to annex the property.
Stump said the town was not in a big hurry to annex anything yet.
However, Richard King, a nearby resident, was not happy with the plans, He had concerns about how Dahlman intended to build homes on the subdivided land after Dahlman’s own home was finished.
“I’ve lived in Utah, and you could touch the houses,” King said spreading his arms apart, “they were that close together. Who will enforce the 10 foot setbacks? Why are we not enforcing them?”
He noted that several of his neighbors abided by the covenants on the land they’d purchased, but one neighbor was using a utility easement right of way as a personal driveway, parking a trailer on it, revving up cars early in the morning, and being a nuisance. These same neighbors had a tiny house and another building on the property line, too, King said. He noted that other residences in the area had no Homeowners Association (HOA) to make sure that covenants agreed to were being enforced.
King wondered who could enforce this.
Kruer said that the town had no role in this, it was the HOA’s prevue, and that it would require a legal action to bring about enforcement. She also promised to look at the covenants involved.
Stump said he wanted to help King with his issues, too.
Library Director Bill Talbott explained to the board the need for a library depreciation and reserve fund.
Talbott said these were two funds the state recommended the library seek from the town to deal with allocated monies left over at the end of the fiscal year. The depreciation fund was to focus on replacing property of the library that had depreciated in value over time. The reserve fund was to focus on money for building and construction.
Talbott said the state has been pushing libraries to create these funds for several years, and the language in the resolution he was pitching for the council to approve was basically boilerplate for all city libraries.
The amount of money involved was relatively small, Talbott said, in 2018, $1,000 remained in the library’s budget. Typically this is rolled over into the next budget, Talbott said.
Maintenance Supervisor Curt Green explained how one homeowner in town experienced a sewer line backup that came up through a basement shower. The homeowner was asking if the town could reimburse him for expenses to resolve the clog, $926.
Green said the real problem was tree roots snarling the sewer line, but the town couldn’t be absolutely sure if the root clog was in the resident’s part of the connection to the main sewer line, or from the main sewer line. When maintenance broke up the clog, the root ball was hooked then quickly washed into the main line, leaving doubt about exactly where the clog occurred.
The town is responsible for the 8-inch main line, but homeowners are responsible for the 4-inch service line connecting to the main.
Council wondered if this was a persistent problem, and Green told them it was, that there had been about seven cases this winter took place in service lines, but that several years earlier, the town had cleaned out its lines and replaced some that were troublesome. The town is also using a sewer line camera to discover problem areas, but had no documentable proof that the main sewer line, instead of the service line was the problem in this instance.
Green said the sewer lines are inspected every three years for clogs and other potential problems.
Green also said the town had also put about $620 into unclogging the lines.
Councilman Mike Walter believed the town had satisfied its obligation, and said while he would be frustrated if it were his home, he thought the problem was on the homeowner, not the town.
“We would set a precedent any time there is a backup, if we paid this,” he said, “We satisfied our end of the bargain.”
Kruer suggested that a civil suit might result and that $920 was a cheap way out of a long and costly court battle.
Durham said he didn’t want to make a decision to pay the bill based on worries about a court case.
When paying the bill or not came to a vote, the council spilt two votes for (Durham and Rahn Abbott) two against, (Walter and Emilie Sayler). The tie-breaking vote came to Stump, who voted to pay the bill.
Sheriff, fire reports
Sheriff Phil Fortner noted that Sheridan had a lot of activity during December, including two animal calls, a dog bite, a DUI, four suspicious circumstances, a trespass call, a wildlife call, two thefts -burglaries and some other calls within the town limits.
Stump suggested the sheriff’s office continue to do traffic stops, especially across the street from the town hall, where a particular black vehicle – a thorough description was given – had been “driving like crazy” and was a threat to kids going to school.
Durham wondered about the burglaries, if they were related to the same people who have been hitting the Ruby Valley last summer. Fortner said the leader of that burglary ring had been put into the state prison for about 15 years and he didn’t believe there was any connection. The new burglaries were mostly crimes of opportunity, an I Pad was taken from a parked car, and purse and keys were snatched from another.
Sheridan Fire Department’s Ben Hitchcock also reported a busy month: a gas leak, two spinklers going off, a downed power line due to a hit-and-run, and a fuel truck fire.
Hitchcock also noted that winter training hours for the fire department would soon begin on Wednesday at the town’s training center. People were likely to see the fire department in action, working on simulations that would be like real fires, and training that is important to deal with home fires that might actually occur.