Fraser could lose stimulus money for lack of easement agreement
September 8, 2009
Fraser officials are hoping American Recovery and Restoration Act funds promised to the town in the amount of $750,000 won’t hinge on an unresolved easement on Grand Park property.
The deadline to have an easement agreement negotiated between the Grand Park development and the town is approaching the 11th hour relative to the town’s deadline of getting a loan agreement approved. But as of Tuesday, Fraser officials were still not confident a deal would be struck in time.
A special town meeting has been set for tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 9, with the subject of “condemnation of property” listed as a topic during a scheduled executive session.
“Is that something we’d like to do? Certainly not. But we’re just trying to walk through all of those options right now,” said Fraser Town Manager Jeff Durbin on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the town is seeking answers from the state about whether all four water projects the town aims to accomplish with stimulus funds ride on the one project application stalled by an easement.
The easement would allow a water pipe connection between the town of Fraser and the town of Winter Park.
Durbin said the town is hoping for an extension from the state. Or, he said, the town is willing to drop the connection project to save the other three.
“Our fear is that we have to give up all four,” Durbin said. In effect, the town could lose a $750,000 no-payback federal stimulus loan if it is forced to surrender its water projects due to stalemate on the easement.
The easement in question is near Winter Park’s King’s Crossing Road and Lion’s Gate Drive on Grand Park property in Fraser. A road connection eventually would be built where the pipe would be located. The connection would position both towns to have access to water in the event of a large emergency – a wildfire, mudslide or a spill on the highway – if an event posed a threat to one town water system or the other.
“If something catastrophic were to happen putting one of those two water systems at risk – if you can connect them – you can keep people alive,” Durbin said. “This is a life-safety issue.”
The pipeline to connect the two towns is a $67,000 piece of the capital-improvement package Fraser has been pursuing since 2004 to fortify its water system for a “safe and reliable” drinking supply.
Grand Park General Manager Clark Lipscomb, reached on Tuesday, said he has “bent over backwards” to accommodate Fraser’s “last minute” request for the easement, which he said he obtained a little more than one week ago.
“It’s 100 percent Fraser’s fault if they lose those funds,” he said.
The easement Fraser presented to Grand Park did not have the necessary legal functions to protect Grand Park’s, Rendezvous’ and the town of Fraser’s water systems, Lipscomb said.
With help from Grand Park’s legal team, Grand Park countered with an easement “one page longer.”
As the easement agreement came down to the wire, Lipscomb said he made himself and his legal team available to Fraser’s town staff last Friday and during the weekend, but were never contacted.
“We’re not asking for anything in the easement,” Lipscomb said, saying the only items Grand Park seeks are reimbursement for legal work on the document and assurance that the connection does not negatively impact Grand Park’s water pressure and fire flows and does not lead to the town asking Grand Park to improve its own system in the future due to something related to the pipe connection.
Durbin said Lipscomb’s concern about protecting the development’s interests are “reasonable.”
“We proposed language that we thought would address that, but not to (Grand Park’s) satisfaction, I suppose,” Durbin said.
“We’re just looking for a basic easement, just to put a pipe there,” he said.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.