Council holds off on request to vacate a portion of Oak Street in Pierz

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
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LeRoy Kahlhamer of Pierz lives next to Oak Street in Pierz. There’s just one little caveat — while a half block of the street exists on paper — it does not exist as a street in reality.

Kahlhamer requested Monday, that the Pierz City Council vacate that half block of the street, located directly east of his property running north and south along his back yard. Kahlhamer lives on First Street Southeast and Edward Street.

The remainder of the street, about a block and a half, runs past Holy Trinity School and was vacated in 1958.

“They vacated to just south of where the school gym was built in 1958, for the school to add on,” said City Administrator Anna Gruber.

Kahlhamer showed the Council a map created when he had the area surveyed by Kevin Festler. However, Festler told Gruber that the vacated street was incorrectly recorded on the map and that the area needed to be resurveyed and the map redrawn.

Gruber said neither the city nor the county had records showing that portion of Oak Street has ever been vacated.

Mayor Toby Egan asked what the benefits to vacating the property were.

“It would benefit me,” said Kahlhamer.

If the street is vacated, half of the 35 feet of property would go to Kahlhamer, the other half to the school.

Gruber said a benefit to the city is in having access to a sewer line and man hole near the area.

“In vacating it, the city gives it away. It needs to be a proven benefit as to why the city would do that,” she said. “It may be a benefit for the city to keep it.”

Council Member Mike Menden said he wanted to contact the city attorney for advice, since the school maintains that area.

Gruber said the city attorney would advise the city as to whether “adverse possession” comes into play because the school has been maintaining the property.

“That (adverse possession) would be there because the school has been treating it as theirs,” she said.

Should the city decide to vacate the street, a new survey would have to be done to determine the halfway mark of the street, a new legal description written, a public hearing required and affected property owners notified.

“It’s an expensive process, to hire a surveyor, redo legal descriptions and have a meeting,” said Gruber. “There is no benefit to the city and someone would have to pay for it.”

The Council agreed to hold off on a decision on whether to vacate the street until the city attorney had a chance to review the situation.

“It (Oak Street) doesn’t belong to the City Council,” said Mayor Toby Egan. “It belongs to the residents of Pierz. We’ve got some research to do on this to find out what benefit there would be to the city or the property owners and take a closer look at it.”

Pierz City Council Briefs

In other business at Monday’s meeting, the Pierz City Council:

• Decided not to shorten hours or close City Hall Fridays. Discussion centered on extending hours Monday – Thursday to allow service hours for people who work, or to have City Hall open just four hours Fridays. Mayor Toby Egan said he knew Fridays were slow, but “People expect us to be open from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., whether there is just one person or not;”

• Approved donating use of the park shelter at Pierz Park as requested by the Pierz Legion Auxiliary to host a picnic for the veterans of Harding Place, provided the shelter has not already been reserved;

• Agreed the $4,413.28 to pay for the new transformer that services six new campsites at the Pierz Campgrounds should be paid for out of the 20 percent of the golf course funds that are transferred to the parks. In addition to the transformer, bills estimated between $5,000 – $6,000 will be coming from Kummet Electric, a water bill and Royal Flush all related to adding the six campsites. Treasurer Maureen Watercott provides a detailed listing of the transactions for the Park Board;

• Learned from City Administrator Anna Gruber that the city will work with several other cities to apply for a Soo Line Legacy Trail Grant. Gruber said she is working with personnel from Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH). The application is due in December, but the grant won’t be awarded until September 2013. The first phase, said Gruber, is to work on the structure of the grant before working on its scope;

• Learned that a representative from Sister Cities International made contact with a man traveling to Kyllburg, Germany, Pierz’ Sister city. He plans to begin a penpal and art exchange program in the schools and a host family exchange. Gruber said T-shirts from Pierz were sent with him to give to members of the Kyllburg parliament. Gruber said she learned from the city’s attorney that setting up a nonprofit sister city organization would allow funds to be raised through charitable gambling, etc., to keep the sister city relationship advancing, possibly helping fund trips, etc.;

• Heard from Bob Otremba, Public Works manager, that Aztech Sealcoat offered the lowest bid to seal coat Faust Street, Industrial Park Road and Ronald Avenue, at a cost of about $19,924.50. Seal coating will be applied to 19,750 square yards at $1.11 per square yard;

• Approved Police Chief Eric Hanneken’s estimates for replacing the 2005 squad car with a 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe from Murphy Chevrolet in Foley. Murphy’s bid was $32,700, compared to Nelson Ford’s bid of $34,900 for a 2013 Ford Interceptor utility. Equipment for the vehicle was estimated at $4,888.45; decals and installation of equipment at $1,300 for a total of $39,388.45.

Hanneken said Murphy offered a trade-in of $6,000 for the 2005 vehicle. Egan said the Fire Department had requested the 2005 vehicle for its use. Council Member Stephanie Fyten said if the Fire Department wanted the vehicle, it should transfer the $6,000 from its fund to the police fund; and

• Approved Hanneken’s request to order a computer update for the new squad at a cost of $6,074. The old computer was a refurbished model and the state is now requiring updated computers that provide fingerprint ID to access computer information.

The next meeting for the Pierz City Council will be held Tuesday, May 29, at 7 p.m., due to the Memorial Day holiday May 28. The meeting will be closed immediately at 7 p.m. for a discussion on attorney/client privilege.