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Construction on the Baker city streets is moving along, with the crews moving from the west side of town to the east, city engineer Shannon Hewson of Brosz Engineering told the city council.

All the water mains had been constructed to First Street East, and tests are being conducted on water quality, Hewson told the council May 19.

“After the Memorial Day weekend, they tentatively plan to start cutting east from First Street East. It may be sooner, depending on how things fall into place. It looks like it is going pretty well … maybe paving in mid to late June. It looks like they are trying to beat their planned July Fourth deadline. It looks pretty close,” Hewson explained.

But the city also came to a difficult decision regarding the situation facing 13th Street East.

Close decision

The city decided not to approve a petition to discontinue 13th Street East – after more than an hour of discussion and having the mayor casting a tie-breaking vote.

Part of the reason for the decision was its connection to nearby Texas Avenue.

According to City Clerk Kevin Dukart, the city owns the sewer main that serves the Fallon County Water and Sewer District. “This line connects to the Baker subdivision and proceeds the entire length of 13th Street East, terminating at the sewer main on Texas Avenue. The city of Baker, in addition to the dedicated right of way, holds producing minerals in the section. Abandonment may sever the ownership and public revenues from the city of Baker.”

He also pointed out that there are some conditions that could have an impact. “If this is abandoned without some type of reservation on the WBI property – if they fence that in, we would probably have to have some type of permission to get on the property to service that sewer line. I do believe that it does lie on the WBI side of the street,” Dukart explained. “There are some issues to consider moving forward on this.”

According to the city attorney, if the street is abandoned that would mean the only other public right of way would be on Texas and that dead ends.

“The city currently has the right to construct a public road from the highway into Texas Avenue. “That is a logical looping road, should there be additional development to the north and to the east.

“If there is a cul de sac installed (on Texas Avenue), there would be essentially little to no east-west access and no north-south access whatever. By law, the city utility is unaffected if you abandon,” Rich Batterman added.

“By law, the city utility is unaffected if you abandoned,” he told the council. “The city will be able to access its water and sewer lines, even if it abandons the right of way. However, it would still be an obligation of the city, in my opinion, to maintain an adequate easement to allow it to service those lines. It won’t be a public street, though we will have a need, potentially, to bring equipment in to repair, maintain or replace those public utilities.”

He also told the council that they should be considering what is in the best interest of the community in general.

“The relinquishment of the access and the ability to maintain, construct those roadways for future development are important and should be carefully considered before they are relinquished. Future development is always a consideration.”

The WBI pipe yard along the highway and 13th Street East had formerly been zoned as residential and was changed to industrial years ago, according to Mayor Steve Zachmann. “Should that property be cleared and sub-development occurs for housing, obviously those streets would be important.

“Abandonment of a street should be in the public interest. My opinion would be that abandonment would not be in the best interest of the city.”

The growth plan and growth policy of the city were also important to consider, the mayor said. “The growth policy was designed to protect the public interest over private interests. That is specifically what we are looking at here now.”

Councilor Tracey Goerndt first made a motion not to abandon 13th Street, with Brittany Hoversland providing the second. The motion failed by a one to three margin.

“The petition still stands on the table,” the mayor explained.

The council then split on a motion to approve the abandonment of the street by a 2-2 margin.

“As mayor, I cast the tie-breaking vote. I vote nay.” Zachmann said, denying the petition to abandon the street after more than an hour of discussion.

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