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Homeowners’ request takes on water in NL

NORTH LIBERTY– Any thoughts of getting city assistance for upkeep on the Penn Prairie Pond were washed away last week.
The majority of the North Liberty City Council members agreed there was nothing the city could do to alleviate the algae growth in the wet detention pond in Penn Prairie subdivision, financially or otherwise.
The 52 homeowners in the east North Liberty subdivision who live around the pond have been paying for its upkeep, including installing a $60,000 rip rap border and giving it regular chemical treatments to keep the algae from overtaking the surface, to the tune of about $8,000 to $10,000 per year. In June, residents Gary Burge and Jon Dimartino approached the city council to ask for financial assistance, stating that much of the pond’s problemwas due to debris flowing into the pond from the city’s street drains, silting from construction and a nearby city-owned pond that also drains into Penn Prairie. The homeowners’ association was seeking help from the city, whether a stipend through the city’s storm water quality grant program, a financial contribution from the city, or even the use of city equipment and manpower to address the problems of the pond’s shallow depth, clogged drains, and garbage they feel is washing in from city streets.
At that time, the council had no answers for the two homeowners, but posed a lot of questions about why the homeowners felt the city should step in. City Engineer Kevin Trom and City Administrator Ryan Heiar were directed to gather more information on how the pond was functioning.
Burge returned to the council last Tuesday, Aug. 14, and all hope was sunk when three of the five council members said they felt the pond was a private matter.
City council member Chris Hoffman said the pond continues to do its job.
“As the city looked at this last year, we learned it was doing what it supposed to be doing for the community as a whole,” said Hoffman, who visited eight different ponds throughout the community, and took pictures. “The retention ponds are all doing what they are supposed to be doing; keeping waste out of the watershed stream. There is sludge or algae growing in just about all of them, but the difference is they are not attended to.”
Because the homeowners in Penn Prairie live closer to their pond, Hoffman continued, they might desire a cleaner, more manicured look.
“But that’s a personal choice a personal choice your homeowners’ association is making. I am not interested in trying to contribute funds to keep it pristine and clear. That’s not what it was built to do,” Hoffman said.
Council members Brian Wayson and Coleen Chipman agreed.
“Your developer’s agreement is the same as all the other ponds in the city,” Wayson said. “I can’t see what it is that makes your pond (different) so that the city should pay for its maintenance, when it does not pay for all the other ponds in the city.”
Burge countered that council members Gerry Kuhl and Terry Donahue, with whom his homeowners’ association has been communicating for a year, had agreed the pond was not doing its job, and had suggested city resources or equipment might be available to assist. Despite photographs taken by city staff that showed clear drains, Burge said, he knew some drains were half filled with sludge, and he and his neighbors were only asking for a little help.
“You have 52 pond owners. They are North Liberty residents. They deserve the council’s interest in making that a nice neighborhood,” said Burge. “We have never asked for anything that we weren’t willing to share in the costs. We are willing to work with the city to improve this.”
Donahue said he and Kuhl had shared the homeowners’ concerns and information with the rest of the council and city staff, and while he is convinced there is something going on with the pond, “we are no closer now than we were a month ago, as far as how to help with the aesthetics and cut down costs,” said Donahue. “We ain’t there.”
Burge conceded as he left the council podium.
“If I am beating a dead horse, then there is no sense in me wasting any more of my time,” he told the council. “Thank you.”