Councilors direct staff to speed up annexation
The News Guard
Lincoln City Council has approved a move to spend $400,000 to safeguard water supply to a portion of Roads End on the understanding that City staff step up efforts to bring the neighborhood within the city limits as soon as possible.
“We are holding out a hand in good will,” Councilor Gary Ellingson said, “and we want to be on the absolute moral high ground of this issue. And we hope that when we deal with annexation that we will be treated the same way.”
The money would be spent to create a bypass around a failing booster station that pumps water to 38 homes in an area of high ground around N.E. Port Drive.
“One of these days it’s going to become irreparable,” City Manager David Hawker said, “and we are going to have 38 empty homes.”
At Council’s Monday, May 24, meeting, several members expressed concern at the prospect of spending so much money on a project that serves customers outside the city limits and who contribute no property tax to City coffers.
The City’s 25-year contract to provide water to Roads End expired in 2003 and has not been renewed.
“It was planned that Roads End would have annexed to the city prior to the expiration,” Hawker said. “That agreement has long since expired, and Roads End has not annexed.”
Under state law, the City can’t annex Roads End without consent from a majority of the area’s residents, representing a majority of the area’s acreage and assessed value.
Mayor Lori Hollingsworth asked Hawker if the money collected by charging Roads End residents double fees for water covers the cost of providing and maintaining infrastructure for the area.
Hawker said the double fees don’t begin to cover the cost of providing water to Roads End.
He said the current proposed $400,000 investment is dwarfed by the roughly $10 million the City has spent in recent years to secure additional water rights and storage capacity to meet the needs of customers inside and outside the city limits.
Councilor Dick Anderson said he had difficulty justifying spending $400,000 on non-residents at a time when the City is under-budgeting on some services for the people who live within the city limits.
“I’ve heard the arguments,” he said. “But I have no sense of where it would end or when it would end.”
Hawker confirmed that setting aside funds for the Roads End project means not spending money on projects within the city limits, such as replacing the Cutler City water main, which he described as “fragile.”
He said that if life were fair, Roads End residents would, upon hearing news of the impending project, form a line outside City Hall to sign consents to annexation.
Councilor Rick Brissette said Road’s Ends’ aging water infrastructure will require continued investment, making it essential that the area be brought within the city limits as soon as possible.
Council unanimously directed staff to obtain bids for the booster station project and to bring forward options for accelerating the annexation process.
The City sent written notice of the May 24 meeting to the owners of the 38 houses and 22 undeveloped lots that are served by the failing booster station, asking for their input.
Only two responded, and none attended the meeting.