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Council waives $15,000 fee for water, sewer hook-up

The Oregon City Council reversed a 25-year-old ordinance Tuesday, waiving a $15,000 fee for a county property owner to hook up to city water and sewer mains.

The council took action that approved a request from William and Nancy Messenger to waive or reduce the fee on property they are flipping at 794 N. Ill. 2, just outside the city limits.

Commissioner Jim Barnes made a motion to deny the Messenger’s request based on an ordinance passed in 1993 while he was the city’s mayor.

Barnes said the ordinance requires a fee of up to $15,000 if the owners of that property hook up to city mains because of a dispute between the city and former property owner Jerry Moats.

He said Moats refused to give the city an easement across his property to run a water main to the Fairgrounds Subdivision, forcing the city to spend $15,000 to reroute the main.

The Messengers bought the property from Moats last November.

Deb Maas, attorney for the Messengers, said her clients were unaware of the ordinance because a title search failed to discover it.

She said city clerk Charlene Ruthe only recently found the provision in the code, after the Messengers made their request to hook up to city services.

Maas said the Messengers plan to request annexation into the city, but only if the fee can be waived or reduced.

“From their perspective, the ordinance is punitive for something they had no part in,” Maas said.

Nancy Messenger said the property already has a well and installing a septic field is estimated at $8,500.

Barnes said the title search company is to blame for not discovering the ordinance.

Maas said the Messengers do not want to get involved in litigation.

Commissioner Terry Schuster said that while Moats was “totally within his rights” to refuse the easement, the Messengers should not have to pay for his decision.

He also said the city would gain from annexing the property through additional sewer and water fees and real estate tax revenue.

Mayor Ken Williams said that as a result of the vote, the Messengers will be required to pay only the standard hook-ups fees of $1,500 each for sewer and water, plus other costs, once the property is annexed into the city.