Neosho discusses stormwater detention ponds

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

On Jun. 1, the city council continued discussion of public and private responsibilities of the stormwater management system, specifically stormwater detention basins in Greens #1, Greens #2 and Neosho Heights. 

Discussion about city code regarding the responsibility of stormwater detention basins in residential subdivisions had originally been brought forth in August of 2019 to council about an area being requested to be donated by the city, but that motion died without support. 

“Detention ponds are a requirement from the DNR, its not just to deal with residential, it deals with businesses,” said City Manager David Kennedy. “if you disturb so much of an area of a plot of space, there’s a certain amount of detention that is required in that area. Runoff, directing the water.”

At the May 4 council meeting this year, the item to discuss city code regarding the acceptance of stormwater detention basins in residential subdivisions returned and had been discussed at the May 18 meeting as well before conversations continued on Tuesday night.

In June of 2020, the city received a letter from Paul Law Firm PC in Neosho about section 430.100 of the city’s code on behalf of Lane Swift LLC, the developers of the platted subdivisions that has been divided over time into Greens #1, Greens #2 and Neosho Heights.

That letter points to the dispute between the city and the developers of ownership about any accompanying maintenance and tax obligations of the required retention ponds in each subdivision.

The cities attorney, Jordan Paul, is a part of the Paul Law Firm, and as a result of a conflict of interest, City Manager David Kennedy reached out to the Sims Law Office LLC in Neosho.

David Sims, of Sims Law Office LLC, told Kennedy that after reviewing the recorded subdivision plats and subsequent ordinances with each accepted subdivision, he did not see anything that indicates the city ever accepted any water retention facilities in the aforementioned subdivisions.

“I felt like we stated our case last time,” said Larry Swift at the May 18 council meeting. “we felt like the retention ponds were included in the plate when the city accepted it and that’s how we took it.”

“I’m not sure what the holdup would be in accepting the ponds,” added Swift. “If its maintenance, you’re obviously going to maintain the roads, you took the roads. If it’s a sewer line down the road, you accepted the sewer lines. If its water maintenance, you accepted the water maintenance (responsibilities). The stormwater piping has passed, the piping that goes into the stormwater has passed. I’m not sure you can get to the ponds and all of the sudden stop at that and not continue on and do the due diligence of taking the ponds over. On our part, we’d like to see an end to it. We felt we did everything on our part to develop it and do what we said we’d do. We feel like it’s the cities job to step up.”

Swift answered “yes” when asked by councilwoman Angela Thomas on May 18 if they expected the city to take over responsibility of the five detention basins, they currently service in different subdivisions at some point.

Mayor Bill Doubek wondered aloud about the costs of maintenance on those detention basins moving forward on May 18 and Councilman Richard Davidson asked if Kennedy would be able to acquire an estimate on that maintenance to understand the fiscal impact before deciding.

“If we accept one (detention pond), were going to end up accepting another, and another and another,” said Doubek. “I just want to know the city has the finances to handle it.”

Councilman Charles Collinsworth asked if Kennedy could look into neighboring jurisdictions to see if they had ponds in their possession and how their code read.

On Tuesday night, Nate Siler, Public Works Director, talked to council about what he had learned from neighboring areas since the May 18 meeting.

Siler had contacted Joplin, Carthage, Carl Junction, Duquesne and Webb City and told council that they had come into similar situations.

“All five do the same thing,” said Siler. “The developer, or the person who did the subdivision, maintains that property, ownership or the other option is a Home Owners Association.”

Davidson said he was torn because he knew the stormwater basins fit into the cities plan of slowing down water flow into streams, roads and creeks and are required by code.

Collinsworth and councilwoman Ashley Robinson voiced their opinion that action would need to be taken.

“We just have to be careful,” said Doubek. “What you do for one, you do for all, and I look at it, we only have a couple men. If we bring it all in, were going to have to have a bigger crew and bigger expense.”

“Whichever way council decides to go forward on this,” said Kennedy. “the next response for us would be updating the code so questions or issues like this don’t come up again.”

At the end of the discussion on Tuesday, council agreed that a policy needed to be written with growth of the community in mind and knowing that the problem wouldn’t go away.