City maintaining private property
Public works director questions practice
By Bert Lehman
For years, the city of Clintonville has been maintaining an alleyway area east of Main Street between Seventh Avenue and Fifth Avenue that is partially private property.
The Clintonville Street Committee was informed about the situation at its May 2 meeting.
Clintonville Public Works Director Kray Brown told the committee that the area is not a dedicated alleyway, but it is being used by many in the community as an alleyway. He said by maintaining the area, the city is maintaining private property as well as property of the church in the area.
“I’ve been under the assumption for years myself that we don’t do anything on personal property unless I’m given the go ahead from our board members to do so,” Brown told the committee. “Because it’s not a dedicated alleyway there is risk – accidents – whatever, both to the property owner and also potentially to the city.”
Brown asked the committee if the city should continue to maintain the area. If the city decided to stop maintaining the area, he said the city needs to figure out how the area will be maintained. This could include easements, purchasing of property, or property owners giving the property to the city.
The city has put in “a lot of money” to maintain the pavement in the area, Brown said.
He added, “We’re maintaining property that isn’t ours, putting money into something that (the city doesn’t own). I need that money for other roads.”
Committee member Steve Kettenhoven asked if a fee structure could be assembled and then the city charge the property owners for maintaining the area.
Brown said typically a municipality can’t do work on private property unless a city ordinance allows it. He cited examples of sidewalk work and cutting grass for health and safety reasons.
Brown stated that he’d prefer not to maintain the area until the city council provides direction on how to handle the situation.
Committee member Lance Bagstad told the committee that it was his opinion that if the city didn’t already have an ordinance to allow the city to do maintenance on private property in the alley area, the issues should be directed to the city’s safety and ordinance committee to create an ordinance.
“In my opinion, if you want this to be an alley we need to dedicate that as a right of way and continue our property through this,” Brown said. “Then it’s going to be up to the adjacent property owners if they are going to agree to it or not.”
Clintonville City Administrator Chuck Kell told the committee that there are probably other areas in the city where the city is maintaining private property.
“I don’t know if we can make a decision on any of these until we know what else we’re looking at around the community,” Kell said.
Bagstad asked Brown if the businesses in the area are aware that they own part of the alley area.
Committee Chairman Jim Supanich said people he has talked to have no idea where the property lines are.
“Because we’ve been maintaining it so long, everybody thinks it’s us,” Brown said. “People who have lived here for some amount of years understand that we have maintained this for so long.”
The street committee approved a motion to recommend the safety and ordinance committee review the situation and develop an ordinance that covers city workers working on private property.
After the vote, Kell said he thinks the city attorney will have to be involved in developing an ordinance.
At the May 9 Clintonville City Council meeting, the council was updated on the situation.