City spending on roads questioned

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At issue... Whether the city can spend tax dollars on a street not accepted into the city’s maintenance system

By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Dozens of missing grates provide a safety hazard for those living in the Heritage Hill subdivision.

But should the city of Shepherdsville spend tax dollars on replacing the stolen grates covering storm sewer access points?

That is the difficult question bantered about by members of the Shepherdsville City Council.

At its previous meeting, the council approved having the grates made and welded into place to cover the openings. But, on Monday, the question arose whether the city had taken over maintenance of the subdivision streets and whether tax dollars could be spent on the repairs.

Councilman Larry Hatfield threw the question out immediately. And councilman Bernie Brown followed with his issue over spending tax dollars on private property.

Originally, Hatfield said he thought the city had taken over the first section of the Heritage Hill residential development. However, the roads were missing the final coat of blacktop, which is required under the city’s ordinance.

He knew the city took over the streetlights.

While city officials understood the concern, most went on the side of public safety in deciding to replace the grates and cover the open holes, which could allow children to fall into the storm sewers.

“There is a tremendous liability to have an open hole in the street,” said city attorney Joseph Wantland.

While understanding the issue of maintenance of the road, Wantland said the officials know there is a problem and it would face liability if anything happened - whether it maintained the street or not.

When thieves stole the metal grates and the city officials responded to the situation, Wantland said he felt the councilmembers did the right thing.

He didn’t want to put the public’s safety at stake over an issue of whether the city had taken the road into the maintenance program.

This is not the first time the city has been called upon to fix problems left by developers who did not finish the job properly. Wantland pointed to sidewalks the city installed off Beech Grove Road and road issues in Shawnee Acres.

Mayor Scott Ellis felt the city was placed at greater liability if it didn’t correct the problem, especially since it was aware of the situation.

The city is checking to see if the thefts are covered under the insurance policy.

Councilman Garland “Corky” Miller said the vendor has already started working on the custom-made grates and he felt the city had to pay the bill for the services.

Brown said that there was nothing in the city records about taking over the street maintenance.

Frank Pitman, a resident in Heritage Hill, said there are annual fees paid by property owners toward an association. But he knew the city had fixed two streetlights in the past and that he was told the city would provide snow removal.

Wantland said he is sure the city has an ordinance outlining requirements for developers. He wasn’t sure it was in place when Heritage Hill started eight years ago.

Things did get emotional later in the meeting.

Miller, who lives in the patio homes section of the development, said the residents of Heritage Hill had been subjected to double taxation. Until a recent settlement, that area was part of the city that was paying an annual property tax to Southeast Bullitt Fire District and to the city.

“They’ve been smacked around enough,” said Miller.

He added that the city should have done more to get the tax lawsuit settled.

Councilman Don Cundiff said he took offense at the comment. He said the city had been working on the lawsuit for years. The city was originally sued in 1999 by the four fire taxing districts due to annexation measures taken by Shepherdsville.

Cundiff added that Wantland had worked on the lawsuit during his prior work for the city and then when he returned last January.

Hatfield said the city officials needed to look at the development ordinance to make sure things are done properly.