By Will Johnson
ELKHART – Talk dirty to me Elkhart! The city leaders of Elkhart can’t seem to get out of their own way as they keep embarrassing themselves time after time. Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying!
In a bit of irony – the latest fiasco in Elkhart involves dirt. That’s right – a substance, such as mud or dust, that soils someone or something.
We’re not talking about someone’s activities on social media that could prove damaging if revealed, such as a Councilman Daryll Faulk stating, “I love Mexicans. Everyone should have one. I do.”
Or Councilman Chuck Conner who was concerned about a reporter’s attitude and sent an e-mail stating, “Your reporter came into my council meeting last Saturday with an attitude and the council did not approve of it. When we were placing chairs for everyone to have a place to sit, he was rude and unprofessional and was not going to move or assist in any way to abide by our city policy. We DO HAVE a city policy stating that everyone MUST sit or stand in the seating area, per the Fire Marshall. If he cannot come to meetings and report the meetings, without being biased, then he can stay home.”
Damn that pesky First Amendment!
No, we’re talking about a Facebook post from City Administrator Judith Cantrell addressing this dirty little matter. It’s not nearly as cut and dry as the city would its residents believe.
The post states, “To our Elkhart family, we understand. We do. It is frustrating to see dirt coming out of ditches in your yard and not understand why the City cannot leave the dirt for you to use. Municipal law is complicated . . . but there is a method to the madness. Although I know that this may not be the answer that some are seeking, I thought I would take a moment to explain.”
Cantrell further stated in her post, “Much like with your water and sewer services, when there are issues on the City’s side of the meter, the City is obligated to makes repairs to the service. If you were to have a leak on your private property, a busted toilet, or a leaking shower . . . you (as the property owner) would be responsible for repairs. The City would not be allowed to come onto private property and make repairs. If you were to have cracks or sinkholes in your driveway due to natural wear and tear that would also be your responsibility.”
The next paragraph, however, is like comparing apples to oranges.
It states, “This same rule applies to the work that is being performed this week on various ditches throughout town. The City is using taxpayer funds to perform maintenance on public right-of-ways to ensure proper flow of storm water.”
Whether the city of Elkhart is using taxpayer dollars to dig on your land is irrelevant. If the ditch is on your land, it’s your ditch and your dirt.
According to the Texas Local Government Code, many cities regulate the maintenance of city easements on private property. The City, however, does not usually gain ownership of the property itself, but only easements to use the property. Underlying property ownership is most often retained by the property owner, and the property owner is responsible for maintaining the easement. Ditches are drainage easements and cities can require landowners to keep weeds and trash from the street, sidewalk or gutter in front of the person’s premises.
Cantrell’s post further stated, “We heard your concerns during the rain event earlier this year, and we are taking the steps to avoid a repeat of that flooding. Be proud that your voices were heard!”
She further states, “However, the dirt removed from those ditches is the property of the City of Elkhart and cannot be given to private residents, no matter how much we would like to help each and every one of you out. The Texas Constitution expressly prohibits a City from giving anything of value to a private individual.”
If you have any questions about where your property begins, please contact the County Clerk of Anderson County. Furthermore, contact the Anderson County Appraisal District to see who is paying taxes on that portion of land.
There are many fine people in Elkhart and they deserve better representation in their city government than they are currently getting.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.