Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
The City of Gardner is seeking eminent domain proceedings to acquire land from Miami County to obtain land stretching from Hillsdale Lake to the Hillsdale Water Treatment Plant.
The ordinance to seek condemnation of the land was approved  by the Gardner City Council on Jan. 21. The 20-acre plant is located north of Hillsdale Lake in unincorporated Miami County. The city approved a $24,795,542 expansion project.
Steve Shute, mayor, said the ordinance allows the city to seek the initiation process of if negotiations can’t be reached with landowners.
“It is our sincere hope to reach an agreement before we go to eminent domain,” Gonzalo Garcia, utilities director, said. “It seemed like the right thing to do. I don’t think any of us want to go to eminent domain.”
Eminent domain is defined as the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.
The Hillsdale Water Treatment Plant expansion project is for a 24 foot raw water main easement.
Garcia said he has been engaging with property owners since October to explain the impact of the easements, but no agreements have been signed by any of the property owners.
Mark Baldwin, council member, asked if the issue was a lack of communication.
Garcia said the holidays, weather and corrections to the inquiry had delayed things.
“The final engineering inquiry identified the existing water line is sideways and at the edge of the easement,” he said. “It has created issues.”
Shute said they were doing everything possible to work directly with landowners for an optimal water line and land use. Garcia agreed with Shute.
“The annexation wasn’t approved by the Miami Board of County Commissioners,” Garcia said. “The city didn’t approve expediting the review process.”
Baldwin said it wasn’t a land grab or expansion.
“They are concerned if we annex, what prevents others like the City of Wichita from annexing?” Garcia said. “There is nothing to prevent others from doing the same thing.”
According to an article in the Miami County Republic, one Miami County commissioner said the first time he heard from a representative of Gardner it was the city’s attorney saying Miami County couldn’t do their jobs. That was not a good way to start the process, the article stated.