Seligman makes headway on water, sewer line easements

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Part-timer hired to help city with ongoing projects

For what was a difficult process to get started, and a bit overwhelming, the city of Seligman reports it is beginning to make headway on obtaining about 900 easements from area residents, which will enable the city to complete work on water and sewer lines.

While the city still has a long way to go, Brian Nichols, city clerk, reports it is now about one-third of the way through the list, thanks to a more streamlined process and the additional help of part-time staff Eric Freeman, who has gone out, along with Nichols, to knock on doors and send mailers to help facilitate the process of obtaining the easements.

Freeman, who ran for mayor in the last electoral race, has served as an alderman in the past for the city, and is a Seligman resident.

"Our system extends well outside the city into the county," Nichols said.

According to Nichols, easements had to be pursued because they were never obtained from landowners when water and sewer lines were originally put in, creating a catch-22 scenario wherein the city was not able to go in and complete repairs as needed. The easements give the city legal permission from landowners to complete any repairs.

"The water lines date back to the 1950s and sewer lines, 1998, and we're going back because the easements were never gathered for these," Nichols said. "So, every property that a sewer main line or water main line runs across, we have to get easements for, even to go on and do repairs for. It's just the landowner granting us access to come in and do repairs. We're not asking for a future development, but just to take care of what's in the ground already."

Nichols said they originally had some setbacks making contact with residents by knocking on doors, but sending out mailers has made the process easier.

"People work, so it's not really an easy thing to do," he said. "We're trying to write the easements and mailing out letters to individuals to meet with them to get paperwork signed and notarized at their convenience. We're making great progress so the mailers has helped out quite a bit.

"[The process] has been very helpful and well-received and has taken care of any concerns. We're just getting maps available and ready for them and explaining where the lines go and recording that map along with the deed. We're just kind of plugging away at it.

The most common question residents have had is where the water or sewer lines are located.

Nichols said staff was needed to assist with tasks related to current, ongoing projects that have created an additional workload on top of regular daily tasks.

"Just trying to keep up with it all and then day-to-day operations, we've needed additional office help," he said. "It's generalized office help. He's been in the community for a long time and knows a lot of individuals, and, knowing people, he can go out and communicate with them [for the easements]. It makes it a little easier. It's definitely a benefit to have him here."

Freeman works about 32 hours a week and said he enjoys the work.

"I'm trying to help the city get through these projects," he said. "I know what the city needs and the goals of the city, and having a familiar face, a lot of times -- people respond to that."

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