Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
The City of Gardner will begin the eminent domain process for the condemnation of the Prairie Trace Development easements. Tory Roberts, council member, dissented from the passing of the resolution at the Nov. 16 council meeting.
The acquisition of the easements is for a six foot forcemain to the East Lift Station for Prairie Trace’s sanitary sewer improvements. Prairie Trace is 175th to 183rd between Cedar Niles and Clare Road alongside I-35.
Gonz Garcia, utilities director, said the city will continue to negotiate with land owners throughout the condemnation process.
The project has a May 2021 deadline, he said, and is a 90 day process.
Two residents spoke to city council members stating their disagreements with the eminent domain process.
Nancy Faulkner, fourth generation Gardner resident, said it was unfortunate the city is going through the condemnation process, and they hadn’t received information until October 9.
“It is not ok,” she said. “It is not the right way and not the right manner.”
Faulkner said her family had helped build Gardner, and the situation was highly disappointing. “This sure seems like bullying,” she said. “We are not being treated fairly.”
Faulkner said they were here to work with the city. “We believe in helping Gardner,” she said.
David Wolf, resident, said he has a fifth generation farm and that the main line will go through a small section of the land.
He said they were also there to help build Gardner and wanted to be treated fairly. Wolf said the proposal that had been brought to them was ridiculous.
“Let’s get a good relationship so both parties can be happy,” he said. “The first conversation being to condemn the land is not a good way.”
Jim Pruetting, city administrator, said he had been speaking with Wolf already, and they had offered double the amount and to replace the fence that is existing on the land.
“We enhanced the first offer to build the relationship,” he said.
Pruetting said they tried working with Wolf to save the trees along the fence line but never received a response.
Randy Gregoryck, council member, said he wanted to know if there was a report after the price had been doubled and what would be the best case scenario ideally in the name of partnership.
Pruetting said they asked if they could move the line further South on the property, but the Wolf’s attorney said they weren’t interested.
“In order to save the tree line we would have to move the line south onto the property,” he said. “He wants to keep the trees as much as possible.”
Wolf said they wanted a fair market value, and the trees are important for his property line and protection of his cattle, weather and erosion.
“When the condemnation kept coming up, we didn’t feel we had any other choice but legal representation,” he said.
Wolf said their first step was to do the right thing, and they just wanted to be compensated.
“We are not in city limits,” he said. “It’s not right.”
Gregoryck said he thinks Pruetting is capable of meeting in the middle.
“I think we can work through this,” he said. “ I understand your connection to the land and encourage you to keep working through this and stay engaged.”
Tory Roberts, council member, said she didn’t like that the city immediately went to condemnation and agreed with public comments that it didn’t seem fair.
García said they didn’t go straight to condemnation.
Roberts said she would prefer to negotiate further, and it doesn’t look like good faith from the land owners’ side.
“It seems like we are taking their land,” she said.
García said there is still a property owner with the project that doesn’t want to negotiate.
Steve Schute, mayor, said he would like the city administrator to move forward.
“This is not unique,” he said. “We are in capable hands.”
Several ordinances and resolutions for bonds and notes were also passed:
-$5,150,000 for the estimated Prairie Trace Sanitary Sewer improvements.
-$5,280,000 in General Obligation Temporary Notes for the Hilltop Ridge benefit district improvements and Tuscan Farm
-$5,205,000 principal amount of General Obligation Refunding and Improvement Bonds for the City. Also providing for the levy and collection of an annual tax to pay for the principal and interest on the bonds.
-Utilities Department committee recommendation to pass an ordinance for amendment approvals for the  Chapter 12 Capital Improvements. The Capital Improvement Plan is for basic city service levels to help maintain City Population Growth.