Thesetrees are far from being free

Published on Thu, Mar 17, 2005 by at Grubb

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These trees are far from being free

By Pat Grubb

Blaine city council has authorized city finance director Meredith Riley to prepare the payment to Robert Carruthers for his land abutting the Blaine airport. The land was purchased under condemnation proceedings in order to remove trees that had grown into the flight path of airplanes landing and taking off from the municipal facility. Council took action at their regular meeting Monday, March 14.

Tree-free landing patterns come with a hefty bag of change, however. According to city manager Gary Tomsic, the city has incurred costs of $582,193 since June 2001. The land itself is costing $375,000 but the price tag also includes $28,000 for the value of the timber on the land, $38,000 for Carruther’s attorney fees and other miscellaneous costs. Tomsic said “Our legal fees are in excess of $84,000.”

The condemnation proceedings were heard in a jury trial presided over by newly elected district court judge Chuck Snyder that ended late last month. The city needed and was able to prove that there was a public need or necessity to purchase the land; once that was determined, the jury decided on the value of the land based on testimony from both sides. The city is required in such cases to pay for the costs of trial, attorneys, appraisal and other miscellaneous costs.

Other costs figuring into the total of nearly $600,000 would include engineering costs, initial appraisals, permits and wetland assessments. Over $270,000 has been socked away in anticipation of this day, and additional withdrawals from the city’s reserves will be necessary.
And the job isn’t finished yet, either. The city has initiated condemnation proceedings against abutting property owner Eugene Klein, seeking an easement allowing the city to remove or trim trees on his property.

Tomsic was cautious when asked if seeking an easement would be less expensive than the Carruthers purchase turned out to be and declined to be pinned down on a projected cost.