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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

Parker council votes to proceed with survey of disputed street

Lee "Tuff" Hermeck, right, with McClure Engineering Co., discusses a survey proposal with Parker Councilman Gary Earley, from left, Mayor Ashley Balthazor, Councilman Jason Webber and Councilwoman Jody Bloodgood. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

PARKER – In a rescheduled monthly meeting with only three of five council members present, the Parker City Council on Monday hired a North Kansas City, Mo., surveying firm to plat out a disputed section of South Walnut Street..

Lee “Tuff” Hermeck, a representative from McClure Engineering Co., talked to the council about the project and said that while he believe there was enough documentation for the city’s claim to the street, a survey would make it clear what the city owned.

The estimated cost of the survey is $15,000 plus additional charges for reports from a title company on adjacent properties. Hermeck said his company would work by the hour, and the council could put a cap on the project of $15,000. With crews working by the hour, he said it could be less than that.

A map of the area provided by the Linn County GIS Mapping Department shows the relationship of Recycling Services to South Walnut Street.

However, he said he wanted to get deed work done by a title company, and that would cost an addition $250 per parcel of land.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that bad,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t know until his company got into the project.

Dan Gaikowski, owner of Recycling Services, a metal reclamation company, earlier this year blocked off the section of South Walnut Street that he said runs through the middle of his business. That section of street has been used to access a residence on the south side of the city limits there, and Gaikowski blocked off access on the city limit line and locked a gate across the street.

Recycling Services owner Dan Gaikowski put up a lock gate over South Walnut Street earlier this year.(Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

Although city records show the street as belonging to the city, officials could not provide proof of purchase of the property when confronted by Gaikowski. So the Parker council earlier his year voted to condemn the property by eminent domain and reclaim a 60-foot-wide swath of land.

In an interview earlier this year, Gaikowski charged that the condemnation proceeding was a land grab and said that he would fight it in court. He also took the fight public by posting signs suggesting that if the city could take his property, it could do that to anyone.

He has also said that Mike Page, who owns the property south of his and who used South Walnut Street to access his driveway before it was blocked, has other means of getting to his home. He said that property Page owns is adjacent to a public road and a driveway could be built to reach the house, which sits in the middle of property.

Earlier this year City Attorney Burton Harding said if a condemnation case went to court, Gaikowski’s only fight would be to challenge the amount the city would pay for that section of street.

Earlier this year when the Parker City Council voted to begin condemnation proceedings, Gaikowski posted several signs around town protesting the move. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

The council on Monday approved hiring the surveyor on a 2-1 vote with Councilmen Gary Earley and Jason Webber approving the measure and Councilwoman Jody Bloodgood voting against it.

In a separate interview, Bloodgood said she was concerned that the council already had spent more than $30,000 in legal and worried that the surveying wouldn’t be the end of the process.

The council earlier this year hired a company to survey the one-block-long street, however, that firm stopped the process citing difficulty in accessing the disputed section of land.

Page was at Monday’s meeting and charged that Gaikowski had harassed the surveyors from the earlier company as well as representatives from the Parker Baptist Church and suggested he might use that tactic again. Last year, Gaikowski blocked the entrance to the church over a strip of land he owned through which the entrance to the church ran. That issue was settled.

In an interview earlier this year, Gaikowski, far left, said that using what was Walnut Street makes his operation more productive. He said that his business employs several workers, like those in this photo, and brings business to the local cafe and service station. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

Page had been using a road across the dam at the Parker City Lake to reach his home. However, following problems maintaining the integrity of that road, the Parker Baptist Church allowed him access through their property.

He said on Monday he would likely need to put gravel on that access that would allow him to move larger truck with hay off his property.

Hermeck told the council he expected Gaikowski to be unhappy about the survey work, telling them he didn’t want to put any of his workers in jeopardy and suggesting the city contact the sheriff about security. He said it would take about a week to complete.

Parker Police Chief Craig Haley, who is also a deputy for the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, said he planned to be on hand during the surveying work.

Hermeck said his company could begin work as soon as a contract was signed.

“The city gave Mike that access long ago,” said Mayor Ashley Balthazor before the vote. “But if we give up now, the $30,000 is down the drain.”

In other business at Monday night's meeting, the council unanimously approved Christmas bonuses of $250 for all city workers, up from $100 last year. The council also approved a raise for Haley, increasing his hourly wage from $16 to $20 per hour.

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