The News Guard
With letters demanding Roads End annexation consent poised to leave Lincoln City Hall any day, city councilors have agreed to a last-minute meeting with members of the Roads End Water District to discuss the supply of water to the area.
Mayor Dick Anderson said he and City Manager David Hawker would make themselves available to meet with a delegation from the District’s board of directors as early as this week.
Anderson’s announcement came at the end of Council’s Nov. 28 meeting, after REWD Vice President Brayden Criswell delivered a written invitation from District President Maud Krom.
The request for a meeting comes as the City is primed to send out the first wave of letters demanding that Roads End property owners sign a consent to annexation in return for continued water service.
The letters are aimed at gathering enough written consents to allow Council to annex the Roads End area by a simple majority vote.
The REWD has opposed the City’s tactics, with Krom describing the threat to terminate water service as “unconscionable.”
But councilors have maintained that, eight years after the expiration of the City’s contract to provide water to Roads End, it is time for the area to come within the city limits in order to continue receiving service.
In her letter, Krom mentions the REWD’s recent efforts to secure an independent water supply by drilling wells but says the District is also “open to negotiations with the City for water supply.”
However, she wrote, the District wants these discussions to happen before the City sends out its demand letters.
Council made no move to delay the mailing of the first batch of letters, which are slated to target property owners at the south end of Roads End first.
If the talks go ahead, they would not be the first discussions between the City and the District regarding water supply and annexation.
In fact, the current District was established in 2001 with the express purpose of negotiating with the City in run up to the expiration of the 25-year water supply contract in 2003.
The talks were unsuccessful and the City continued supplying water to the area but, in 2004, began requiring a signed consent to annexation every time a property changed hands.
In October, Council escalated its approach, announcing that the City would require consents from all Roads End property owners in return for continued water service.
Before Anderson’s announcement that he would accept the District’s invitation for talks, Council went into executive session “to consult with counsel concerning the legal rights and duties of a public body with regard to current litigation or litigation likely to be filed.”
Council also approved a resolution aimed at clarifying the rights that Roads End property owners would have to water service in the event that the area is annexed.
The move comes in response to concerns that a water service agreement that property owners must sign along with the consent could give the City the right to shut off water to Roads End properties for any reason, even after annexation.
The resolution seeks to calm those concerns by clarifying that the City will provide water to all annexed properties “as a common utility service in the same manner as to all residents of the City of Lincoln City.”
Speaking on behalf of the REWD, Criswell opposed the resolution, saying it is “not a sufficient fix.”
Criswell did not clarify in what way the resolution was deficient but condemned it as another effort by the City to “allow forced consent to annex.”