Twin Bridges fence dispute continues
Surveyor results disputed Another survey to be done
TWIN BRIDGES – The fence between Four Rivers Fishing Company, owned by Chris Knott and Seth McLean, and Jeff and Patti Walker’s property was again an issue at Twin Bridges town council meeting on Tuesday evening, June 12.
At May’s council meeting, Jeff and son Hoyt Walker complained about the fence Knott and McLean had constructed between their two properties.
The Walkers said the fence was higher than the 6 feet allowed by town ordinances, it was not constructed according to the rules that said the finished side of the fence must face the adjoining property, and – most egregiously – it was on their property, as evidenced by the property line pins the Walkers had on their ground, pins they claimed Knott and McLean ignored.
Knott and McClean disputed the fence being across the Walker property line. They admitted the fence was higher than permitted, because they didn’t want their fishing clients looking at “junk” on the Walker’s property, and they told council they would take it down to the 6-foot height.
During the dust up between the Walkers and Four Rivers at the council meeting, town attorney Lori Harshbarger suggested that the property line be surveyed to clear up any discrepancies on property boundaries, which should resolve the fence’s location issue. She said the town could check into the fence height and if it was more than 6 feet tall, order it to be brought into compliance.
However, in the month between the May meeting and the June meeting, several things happened:
The Walkers had a survey done.
They did not share the results of this survey with the city council or with Four Rivers.
Jeff Walker said on June 12 that the survey clearly showed that the fence was over their property line. He explained how the very pin locations Hoyt Walker talked about in May’s meeting were the same pin locations the surveyor discovered.
Jeff Walker said the new surveyor’s pins were now in place for anyone to see, and they indicated the fence was on their property.
As a result, Jeff Walker tore the entire fence between the properties down. He admitted doing this at the council meeting.
This brought law enforcement into the dispute. Madison County Sherriff Roger Thompson was at the meeting and he said an official report about the fence being destroyed had not yet been filed. It is possible criminal charges might be filed against Walker, Knott said.
Knott and McLean disputed the legitimacy of the Walker survey.
Knott said the Walkers never notified them about the survey, or shared the results of it with them. He and his father, Frank Knott, talked about how the new survey pins do not bear official surveyors marks, certifying the legitimacy of the pins. Frank Knott said he worked in construction all of his life and he’d never seen a surveyor not mark his pins in an official manner.
He also said that the fence was essentially “stolen” when Walker knocked it down and that $10,000 worth of materials were involved.
Harshbarger told the Walkers and Four River that they should not try to communicate with one another directly any more, but should speak to their respective attorneys about the situation.
Mayor Tom Hyndman noted that town ordinances regarding fence construction were misconstrued by the Walkers when they said the face of the fence must be towards the adjoining property owner. Only when the fence faces town property does a fence’s face need to be finish side out. When the fence is a boundary fence between properties, both neighbors must agree on which side should be out.
Councilmen Joe Willauer and Matt Greemore wanted to see the Walkers’ survey report.
Frank Knott said Four Rivers would be getting a survey of their own, and would be sharing this with the council and registering the results with the county to establish a clear boundary between the properties. Hydnman said this was a fair thing to do.
Jeff Walker also told council that as a result of the bickering over the fence, he was suffering from Atrial fibrillation from the stress of the dispute.
Willauer said there was nothing the council could decide at this point, so the council moved on.
In other business, the council began looking at fairgrounds water issues, a library agreement, installing three trailer court water meters, and the resignation of two council members.
Fairgrounds water issues
Fairgrounds manager Dana Escott, on behalf of the county’s Fair Board, requested that the town close a fairgrounds water meter – the one beside the vault toilet – because the fairgrounds is already metered, and the board takes care of the water bill.
Hyndman said that usage helps “pay for the bills,” noting that the fairground’s drinking water comes from the town’s supply.
Greemore said the town should look into the costs of removal before shutting off this supply. “Financially the system is designed with meters in mind, it would be nice to know the numbers.”
Willauer agreed. Willauer and Greemore made a motion to look into the impact of this and make a decision at the next council meeting.
Also, Madison County Sanitarian Van Pucket came to the council to discuss a fairgrounds water line that travels under the Beaverhead River. This line had broken and was issuing its water into the river. Pucket said that the full extent of what needed to be done to fix the line would be known after an engineers report, but just 21 days remained to get the line fixed.
Pucket suggested that an irrigation well on the fairgrounds might be used to supply non-potable water for livestock and for toilets to use.
Since this was not a public water supply and it would be used for less than 60 days, it fell under the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulation. Pucket said he would test and “shock” the well if necessary to make it safe as a temporary supply for livestock and toilets
Greemore worried pressurizing the line would send untreated water back into the town’s water supply. He wanted to isolate the broken line with a shut-off valve. Hoses could be used to bring water from other sources to livestock, he said
Maintenance Supervisor Sam Novich told Pucket that the well he wanted to use was designed for irrigation only.
“In my opinion,” Novich said, “it’s not advisable for potable source. It’s okay for animals and irrigation, but it should be closed to people. Leave it as it is.”
Pucket said he’d addressed the status of the well with the state and they okayed testing and shocking the well for hand-washing and toilets. Pucket said drinking water would be provided by bottled water. Pucket said a disclaimer posted by the sinks and toilets would limit the county’s liability should something happen, and all spigots or toilets using the water would be labeled as non-potable. Yet he also noted that “DEQ wants nothing to do with this.”
Twin Bridges clerk/treasurer Kristi Millhouse worried that any problems would come back on the town, and Greemore wanted a statement on the warning signs that the town was not responsible.
Pucket promised to keep the council “in the loop” about the status of this, since it was an “emergency situation” at the fair. Hyndman said the council would make a decision about this at their next meeting.
Harshbarger noted that after six months of waiting for an informed opinion from the state Attorney General’s (AG) ffice, she’d heard back that an opinion might be soon forthcoming – but urged the council not to expect it too soon.
The problem, she said, was that after various lawyers within the AG’s office reviewed the case, there were conflicting opinions on the agreement. So, the AG himself, Tim Fox, would be looking at it and offering an opinion.
“We’ve been waiting six or seven years already,” Harhbarger said.
Trailer court water meters
Novich asked the council to approve adding three water meter to four mobile homes in a trailer court owned by Tad Dell. Novich explained that the mobile homes were currently served by a single meter that monitored water going to all four homes and that cost of this water was divided out among the mobile home owners.
What Dell asked the council to do was keep the meter to the one mobile home and install three other meters to monitor water use in the other three mobile homes. This would bring the trailer court into town water use compliance, he said, something the town had been after Dell to do all along, but relinquished on since Dell couldn’t install the meters when the trailer court was first established.
The cost of the three meters would be about $3,000 Novich said, and this didn’t include the labor necessary to install the meters.
Greemore said he was all in favor of compliance, but this should have been done when earlier, on Dell’s dime. “This needs to be done before the end of the year, he said, and I want him to put the time and effort into doing it,” he said.
“That makes sense,” said Willauer.
Two council member resignations have, or will be impacting the council. Annette McClean had resigned prior to the June 12 meeting and did not attend it. Also, Davey Smith said he would be resigning from the council in August because he was moving.