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Centerfield divided

over sewer repairs

By Ryan Roos

Staff writer

7-19-2018

CENTERFIELD—The City Council visited a controversial issue that requires homeowners to pay for sewer line breaks, even when they occur on city property.

On Wednesday, Rodger Marshall, a city resident, asked the council to reimburse him almost $2200 for fixing a sewer line rupture on city property, between the main line and his home.

The council tabled the vote to consult with the county’s lawyer. At stake is the issue of who is going to pay for hook-up repairs with an aging sewer system.

At the heart of the controversy is a 2004 city ordinance which shifted the financial obligation to repair-line breaks solely to the homeowner, should that break occur off the main line and in route to the home and not be the direct result of any city disturbance.

 In early June, Marshall was required to pay $2176 to repair his broken sewer line which had ruptured on the city’s property.

 “I was told by a city official that they were no longer responsible,” said Marshall.

Marshall expressed concern that the original line was installed defectively. “When we dug up the broken pipe we found that whoever installed it didn’t even glue it to create a seal,” said Marshall, “and now I have to pay for it.”

 Current city ordinance stipulates that a licensed official must sign off on the line prior to its competition to ensure its long term viability. Yet, as of July 11, Centerfield City did not have the original inspection records necessary to verify the original work was done properly.

Mayor Tom Sorensen stepped in prior to the vote to explain the town “would find itself in a lawsuit,” if the council approves the refund. “What we do for one, we must do for all,” said Sorensen.

 Former Centerfield mayor Valjean Hansen stated that laying the full burden of repair upon the homeowner was never the city’s original intention. “I started that sewer system,” said Hansen. “It was always understood that if repairs needed to be made on city property, the city was responsible.”

City Councilman David Beck echoed this sentiment: “The property owned by Centerfield City, after the initial installment, should be Centerfield City’s responsibility.”

Beck, along with Councilman Jon Hansen, first proposed that Marshall be refunded. Councilman Hansen spearheaded the effort to compensate Marshall, partially on the grounds that the original work indeed appeared defective. “The pipe was not installed the way it should have been,” said Hansen.

Some see the shift in the city’s responsibility as a potential time bomb to residents. “The sewer system is aging,” said resident Kevin Hansen, “and it’s going to start failing at its weakest links – the hook ups – which now falls upon us to pay.” 

Hansen noted that Marshall’s case was a relatively minor fix, yet still represented a significant financial burden. The cost of repairing a line break under the city road would be virtual impossibility for the city’s elderly or single income families to afford, said Hansen. “Who’s got an extra $4000 in their pocket? There’s no possible way.”

Hansen also questioned the impulse to halt the vote, even with the understanding that more cases may appear. “Why stop the vote?” asked Hansen. “What else is out there?”

While sympathetic to homeowners, city officials have insisted their job is to uphold a proper interpretation of the city’s ordinances.

 Mayor Sorensen noted: “Let’s just make sure we do this the right way.”