Water main replacement waiting on deeds of easement

Published 6:37 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Windsor Town Council addressed the Duke Street and Virginia Avenue water main replacement project during the Tuesday, May 10, council meeting, with discussion focusing on how some residents have still not sent back the deeds of easement.

William Saunders

“We have gotten most of the deeds of easement back, but we’re still working with a few holdouts that haven’t gotten those to us,” Windsor Town Manager William Saunders said.

Councilman J. Randy Carr asked if there is any major reason why some of the residents are holding out.

“There hasn’t been a common theme,” Saunders said. “Some of them wanted minor tweaks to the language, and we turned those right around, no problem. 

“Honestly, I think it’s just apathy,” he continued. “There’s no real incentive to have it done, and they’ve got their lives going on, and we send them reminders, and they tell us, ‘Yeah, I need to do that.’ And then another week goes by. You don’t want to pester them too bad, but it’s really dragging on with some of them.”

“Yes, it is,” Carr said.

“And we haven’t gotten any flat refusal from anybody to sign it,” Saunders added.

Carr asked if it is a situation where town representatives need to go and visit the residents in question, and Saunders assured him that town staff members have gone to their houses and dropped off letters to the people they could not talk to. He later said that to the relevant residents, the town had sent three rounds of letters that request the deed of easement and list some of the benefits that will come with the new water main.

“Now we’ve been mobilizing (Town Clerk) Terry (Whitehead) because she is a notary, so if she can catch them at the house, she can notarize it on the spot,” Saunders said. “We’re working on it, and folks are being nice about it, and we’re being nice about it, but it’s just unfortunate that it’s dragging on like it is.”

J. Randy Carr

Carr asked if it was five or less residents who have not sent back the deed, and Saunders, trying to recall, said, “I want to say nine.”

Councilwoman Kelly Blankenship asked, “Is it prohibiting us from starting the project?”

“Well, we really want to have that,” Saunders said of all the deeds of easement. “We don’t want to do any condemnation or prefer not to go in front of a judge to give access, and we don’t really want to bypass anybody either because we don’t have an easement. We’re trying to really be aboveboard on this thing and not push anybody. It’s just unfortunate.”

Carr asked Windsor Town Attorney Fred Taylor if there is anything the town can do on the legal side.

“I think Mr. Saunders using the soft approach is probably a much better one than threatening legal action, which, to be honest with you, even if we carried through with would set us back months if not years to resolve it,” Taylor said. “So, I tend to agree with him. I’ve seen it on the other side in private practice; I think it’s more apathy, and it’s not a priority for people.

“If all else fails, we can start naming names, and those of you who know those individuals can help us encourage them,” he added.

To learn specifics on how the water main replacement project will affect residents’ property on Virginia Avenue and Duke Street, Carr asked, “From edge of asphalt into their yard, how much of an easement are we talking?”

“It varies almost to the lot,” Saunders said. “Some of the project is in the street right of way and we only needed the easement to relocate the water meter inside the yard. Mostly Virginia Avenue was really just for their meters. Most of that project’s going to be in the right of way for the main. 

“But along Duke, it’s mostly the main’s going to be in the yards because of the sidewalk,” he continued. “It has to be on the backside of the sidewalk. But there’s already a water main there. We’re just putting the new one next to the old one, but there was no easement done on the old one.”