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Council hears sewer concerns, reports

Farmington City Council members heard their share of concerns over the way the city’s liability insurance carrier handled a sewer main backup on New Year’s Day during Monday evening’s meeting. The group also heard department head reports and passed three bills.

“You may not like me much (when I’m finished),” one resident told the council at the start of the meeting. He was there to address a sewer problem which occurred on Jan. 1. The man had filed a claim with the city’s insurance carrier which had been denied. He was asking the city to reimburse him for the costs associated with cleaning up his basement.

Some 20 minutes of discussion boiled down to the fact that a sewer main in the area of Walter Street had apparently clogged with grease and tree roots since it’s last scheduled cleaning. Sewer backed up into at least one home and caused disruptions in service for at least one more. The homeowner at the meeting said he had about five inches of sewage in his basement. He said he had contacted city and had been told to file a claim with the municipality’s insurance carrier.

The insurance company rejected paying the claim based on the fact that the problem occurred at apparently no fault of the city. Public Works Director Jeff Blue explained at the meeting that the carrier’s policy is to request maintenance reports for up to a year prior to a problem and look to see if the city was in any way negligent on maintenance or upkeep. He said no negligence was found.

The resident told council members they should cancel the insurance policy and find another insurance company. He said it was his belief the city should have coverage to handle such incidents.

Mayor Scott Semar explained that a liability policy is the only thing a municipality can even purchase. The question was also asked if the homeowner had a back-flow prevention valve installed in his sewer line outside his home. He said he did not.

No action was taken on the matter, and the homeowner was asked to look into having a back-flow valve installed for his own protection against future problems.

Sewer concerns aside, council members moved on to take a voice vote to approve the hiring of two new police officers. Both officers, one part-time and one full-time, were hired several weeks ago and began work. Only later was it learned that the hiring required one additional voice vote to be effective. Police Chief Rick Baker reported the two are well into their on-the-job training programs.

Under committee reports, Librarian Beth Murray reported that a home schooling resource center has been established at the library. She told the council that there are more than 70 families in the Farmington area who are actively home schooling their children. The center will act only as a gathering place for resources, and will not be funded by city revenue.

Blue announced the city will look at holding its annual spring cleaning on the week of April 7.

Civic Center Director Bill Towler said the center is readying for its annual outdoor show to be held Feb. 1-2. This year there will be hunting and camping supplies in addition to fishing equipment.

Towler also said the Centene Center is ahead of schedule and already has more than 52 events booked for the coming year. The first event in the new center will be the Farmington Chamber of Commerce banquet on Feb. 28.

Council members voted to reject a special-use request for storage buildings to be located of Hyler Drive. The bill came forward from Planning and Zoning with a negative recommendation. There was some controversy over whether the P&Z group felt the council was opposed to storage units. After a lengthy discussion the matter was voted on and failed to receive enough votes to locate the buildings in the residential-zoned area.

Three additional bills were voted on and approved. Two dealt with expanding corporate boundaries to take in a small parcel of land near Parkland Health Center and a second near Engler Park. The third bill was for an agreement for services rendered with the firm of Crawford, Murphy and Tilly, Inc.

The council will meet next for its monthly work session on Feb. 6.

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