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Let’s hope city officials don’t hit the snooze button after the recent wake-up call they received.
The problem at Briar Creek woke them from their slumber after they learned that the bond in place to fix private streets there wasn’t nearly enough (See story, A1.). Once that and similar bond problems are fixed, though, here’s hoping they don’t doze off again before fixing their mistake of spending taxpayer money to remove snow from private streets.
City officials will argue all day that doing so isn’t necessarily wrong. They’ll say people who live in Briar Creek and on private streets in other subdivisions are taxpayers and deserve snow removal like other city residents, and that without it, school buses wouldn’t pick up children who live on them.
Catch them in a candid moment and they’ll admit that the years-old practice is offered as a favor to developers who, during boom times, might have taken their developments elsewhere.
Perhaps all of the above is true, but that doesn’t make it right.
State statutes are not vague when it comes to spending taxpayer money on private land. It’s a no-no, and everyone, including city officials, knows it, even if they’re reluctant to admit it.
While this practice has been in place for years, it still flourishes today. Just a few weeks ago the city council approved snow removal from a private street in the development on the high school side of South Broadway. That’s where developer Jimmy Morgan built a couple of “spec” houses — build ’em,hope someone buys ’em — that have instead been rented.
Although those houses sit at the rear of the property, city plow trucks are now responsible to remove snow the length of the private road.
Also, had city officials held the feet of Briar Creek’s developer to the fire, the streets in the most heavily populated phase of the development would already be city streets. That was supposed to happen when the phase was 90 percent completed, but didn’t because the developer was short on money and the city didn’t make him do it anyway.
Before the howls of “There goes the newspaper again, picking on the city council” begin Wednesday morning from City Hall, we invite them to doubt us all they like. But we also invite them to hear from their neighbors down Main Street at the judge-executive’s office.
In preparing the story on this week’s front page, we checked with Judge-Executive Steve Cornish and county road supervisor Chip Chambers. Both were adamant that the county does not and will not plow private streets in subdivisions. That service is provided when the streets meet specifications and are formally turned over to the county.
Just to be clear, we’re not saying that under no circumstances should the city remove snow from private streets. Were those streets to become impassable during a major snow storm, an emergency work order could and should be issued to provide access for fire trucks, ambulances and other emergency vehicles.
But a few inches of the white stuff doesn’t equal an emergency, and removing it is the responsibility of the developer, or if that doesn’t happen, the people who live there.
We’re not saying this to come down hard on the good people in Briar Creek or anywhere else. They are taxpayers, and until now probably didn’t have a clue that the streets on which they live are private. Blame them if you will for not reading the fine print before buying their lots in life, but the real culprits are those who sold them those lots if they didn’t happen to mention the whole “private street” thing.
We’re also not anti-development, homes or otherwise.
We are, however, convinced that skirting the law to do favors for some can only come at the expense of all.
Comment at theandersonnews.com.