Public responds to sewer plan
More than 70 people attended a public hearing at Fairfield City Hall Wednesday to ask questions, express concerns and hear information about the city’s planned sewer improvements.
Two property owners south and west of Fairfield Wastewater Treatment Plant may be forced to move, and about a dozen residents along the route for a new sewer line in Phase I will need to grant easements.
Terry and Edith Meyers own two parcels of land, 15.33 acres and 2.76 acres with a home, and are listed in engineering documents as having land the city needs to purchase for the sewer project. The other landowner, Lila Williams, owns 5.12 acres and 4.9 acres and a home west and north of the treatment plant. Her property also is listed as needed to purchase.
John Meyer, president of French-Reneker-Associates, lead a question and answer session to explain more details of the project.
“We hope to be under construction in a year on Phase I, from the plant to Lamson Woods,” he said. “We’ll need to buy some properties by the treatment plant.”
Meyer explained that Iowa law requires citizens have input and a public hearing before construction begins.
Letters were mailed to residents along the route of the proposed new sewer line, which in Phase I runs from the wastewater treatment plant off Marigold Avenue on the south edge of town, north to Lamson Woods.
Residents who will be impacted by Phase II of sewer improvements, which continues a new sewer line from Lamson Woods and north to the area of B Street and Kirkwood Avenue, also received letters.
Large aerial maps of Fairfield were spread out on tables in the center of city council chambers, showing the wastewater treatment plant and location of a 20 million gallon holding lagoon planned adjacent to the plant.
The meeting had no formal structure; remarks were made by city administrator Kevin Flanagan and wastewater superintendent Shawn Worley. Representatives from French-Reneker and McClure Engineering Company were introduced.
Citizens had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with anyone, view the maps, leave comments and ask questions.
Smaller presentations took place in a separate room, three or four times throughout the two-hour meeting.
“Federal law says we have to follow the Uniform Assistance Relocation Act and offer fair market value to properties we need to acquire,” said Meyer.
Though the maps showed a proposed route for the sewer line in Phase I and engineer studies have been made, Meyer said the final route has not been absolutely determined.
“We hope to finalize the route in a month to six weeks,” Meyer said. “Those with property the city wants to buy will get appraisals if the value is more than $10,000 or a comparable estimate if under $10,000.
“Our acquisition agent will contact the land owner and have open negotiations,” said Meyer. “All deals with the land agent have to be approved by the city council before going through.”
Mike Adams and Jay Walton of JCG Land Services in Nevada, Iowa, attended the meeting Wednesday evening and talked with some of the property owners and engineers. The city has hired them to negotiate purchases with landowners.
“I realize it’s frustrating to not know the exact route,” Meyer said.
Residents in Phase II of the project were asking questions about easements.
A woman said she and her husband were in the process of purchasing property on Glennview Circle and the home has an in-ground pool and a manhole in the backyard. She wanted to know the impact Phase II would have.
“We’re evaluating two corridors and looking at options,” said Meyer. “We’ll need a permanent easement of 30-to-50-feet and a temporary construction easement of 80-to-120-feet. Easements can’t be built on, you can pave over it, but not place buildings.”
Meyer said the sewer pipe will work on gravity flow, so routes being considered need to slope toward the treatment plant.
Another citizen said he lives by Evergreen Cemetery and a 30-foot easement as drawn on the maps displayed would be inside his house.
“That’s the type of area where we have to think outside the box,” said Flanagan.
Meyer said the general rule is to provide compensation for disruptions and minimize damages to property.
Another resident asked if the new system would stop sewer overflows in his hayfield north of the treatment plant.
“Shawn [Worley] and I want that,” said Meyer.
Beverly Sprague owns property with a home across the road from the treatment plant drive.
“That letter [dated Aug. 2, from the city] came out and scared us,” she said. “It talks about not building any residential buildings within 1,000-feet of the future [water] storage basin.
“I appreciate what the city is doing, getting the odor under control, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk with these people,” said Sprague. “I have beautiful trees and spring-fed ponds on my property. I hope this won’t devalue properties.”
Williams, owner of one of properties marked for acquisition, said she moved across country 20 years ago to live on this particular property. She read an impassioned letter in a room with city attorney John Morrissey, Flanagan, French-Reneker and McClure Engineering representatives.
Williams posed four questions, the main one dealing with the planned location for the 20-million gallon holding pond.
“My house would be sitting in the new pond,” she said. “Did you consider alternate layouts? Did you consider using the property north of the plant?
“If you had considered the property north of the plant, part of which I own and would not mind considering selling to the city, you would not have to displace any citizens from their homes nor have to demand waivers from so many residents who should not find a sewage swamp so close to their residences.”
Another property owner, John Prechtel, asked the same question.
“We examined every option and are trying to affect as few property owners as possible,” said Flanagan. “We looked at residents directly affected as well as the whole community. We have to also look at the bottom line.
“We’ll take your thoughts into consideration,” Flanagan said to Williams. “This input today is going to be informing us, and we’ll re-look at some of the decisions.”
Mike Starkey, an engineer with McClure Engineering in North Liberty, said the treatment plant is a fixed structure.
“We will go back and look again,” said Starkey. “We looked at seven or eight different scenarios. The property you are talking about, to the north, has a steep, 70-foot drop-off to the creek. We’d have to move a lot of earth to construct a holding pond there. A wall would need to be built at the creek, and it would all involve moved dirt.”
Flanagan said building on fill-dirt can be dangerous. Fill is not as compacted, and to hold five acres of water, it would be safer to dig a hole down, on Williams’ property west of the treatment plant, than into the side of a slope with fill.
Sharkey said the engineers have not yet taken soil samples themselves, but relied on preliminary reports from a soil study from the department of agriculture.
Adams told Williams that as land agents, her property would be appraised, and she would be offered fair market value.
“I’d try to find three comparable properties to yours,” Adams said.
Meyer said once Williams is given an offer, she would have 10 days to accept or decline.
Flanagan said citizens would have an opportunity to address concerns at an upcoming city council meeting. The council meets 7 p.m. Monday at city hall.