City has maintained lot since it was built
By Bert Lehman
Two months after deciding to stop maintaining alleys and parking lots that are on private property, the city of Clintonville was asked to maintain a parking lot on private property.
Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland brought the issue before the Street Committee at its July 5 meeting.
She told the committee that she and Kray Brown, Clintonville’s public works director, don’t feel comfortable maintaining private property without committee and city council approval.
She said she wanted to give Gerry O’Connor, owner of the property with the parking lot in question, the opportunity to address the committee.
O’Connor told the committee that the parking lot is located between 35 S. Main St. and 43 S. Main St.
He said when that portion of Main Street was reconstructed the city approached him about converting the grassy area into a parking lot.
He said at the time he was told if he allowed a parking lot to be created, the city would maintain it.
He added that he was recently contacted by Brown, who informed him the city would no longer maintain the parking lot.
“It was created by the city. It wasn’t created by me,” O’Connor said.
There may have been some sort of gentleman’s agreement in place for the city to maintain the parking lot, Eveland said.
“As far as I’ve been able to see, there’s no written agreement in place,” Eveland said. “Because of that it’s something that Kray and I need direction from you guys because we don’t need to be on private property. It’s really up to you guys how you want to handle that.”
If the committee and city council decide to continue to maintain the parking lot, then a written agreement is needed between the city and O’Connor, Eveland said.
Committee member Steve Kettenhoven asked Clintonville City Attorney Keith Steckbauer who would be liable if something happened on the parking lot since it is on private property, but the city has been maintaining it.
Steckbauer said O’Connor would be responsible because he is the owner of record. He said if the city wants the parking lot, the city should either own it or have a license to use it. This license would stipulate who would be responsible, what the shared maintenance costs would be, if any, and what would happen to the property if O’Connor would sell the property.
“Right now we’re in that gray area where he thinks we’re maintaining it, but if there’s a slip and fall, they’re going to first go to the owner, and the owner is going to say the city is responsible, and we’re going to get dragged in as well,” Steckbauer said.
Eveland said the city needs to make sure there is a mutual benefit, not in just this situation, but all situations where the city is asked to maintain private property.
“This does cost time. This does cost money. We have a lot of things that need to get done,” Eveland said. “We need to be very careful because you’d maybe be opening up a Pandora’s Box, so there needs to be a reason why we’re doing this. And there has to be an agreement in place.”
She added that this situation may be one of the rare exceptions when the city should be involved with the property.
O’Connor told the committee the parking lot doesn’t benefit him.
“It benefits the buildings downtown on Main Street,” O’Connor said.
Committee member Lance Bagstad asked Steckbauer if it would be unusual for the city to decide on agreements on a case by case basis, after determining if the situation is mutually beneficial for all involved.
“It’s not unusual at all,” Steckbauer said. “… I think this is remarkably common.”
The committee directed Eveland and Brown to work with O’Connor to determine the mutual benefit of the parking lot, as well as authorize Steckbauer to obtain the letter report necessary to move this process to a potential agreement.