Easements from three properties stand between Union County and moving forward with their planned sewer improvements. Out of the 53 properties where easements are needed for the East Side Sewer Improvements Project, 50 have come to an agreement with the county. During their Monday, May 2 meeting, county commissioners rejected the idea of condemning a portion of the needed properties, so that the project could proceed. The vote was 3 to 2, with commissioners Jonathan Thomas, Kim Rogers and Tracy Kuehler opposing annexation.
“When we start looking at condemnation, it’s a serious matter and we need to look at it with due diligence,” Thomas said.
Commission Vice Chair Todd Johnson said it was a tough decision to vote for condemnation, as he’s a supporter of individual property rights.
The project would replace existing pump stations on the eastern side of the county, as well as building 14,300 feet of 24 inch pipe, along with 9,000 feet of 18 inch pipe, to handle the sewer needs of the area.
The problem is the price at which the county is negotiating. Under the county’s policy, Union pays 50 percent of the taxable value of a piece when purchasing a permanent easement. For a temporary easement, the price goes down to 10 percent of taxable value.
“(The 50 percent) is the offer that has been rejected at this point,” County attorney Jeff Crook said.
The issue isn’t that the owners are opposed to selling, but rather the price they want for the property, officials said.
“(The property owners’) argument is we shouldn’t use taxable value, we should use fair market value,” Public Works Director Ed Goscicki said. The reason Public Works uses taxable value, Goscicki said, is that any other option means there would have to be an appraisal each time an easement is purchased.
Funding for the project comes in portion from a $1.961 million federal grant the county received.