County hints at lawsuit over PORT trail drainage

Closed session generates petition to file suit over 28E agreement


FORT MADISON – The Lee County Board of Supervisors put the City of Fort Madison on notice Monday that they are in violation of a 28E agreement governing the maintenance of a segment of the city’s PORT trail near 302nd Avenue.
The two entities have had several conversations about the repercussions of water that is causing issues along the stretch of road due to the construction of the section of the PORT trail just south of Gethsemane Cemetery and east of 302nd Avenue.
The city owns the PORT trail and had to obtain an agreement to construct the addition in 2020.
At Monday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the board went into a closed session to discuss what Lee County Attorney Ross Braden called “imminent” litigation over the resolution to the water issues.
Out of the closed session, Supervisor Chairman Garry Seyb said the board was instructing Braden to serve notice of intent and demand pertaining to three sections of 28E that was filed with the Secretary of State’s office in March of 2020.
Those three sections pertain to the city’s responsibilities for maintenance of the trail and the county’s right of way. Specifically, section J of the agreement says in the case of any damage or alteration of county drainage structures or reduction in the effectiveness of county drainage structures due to design, construction, or maintenance of the trail, the city shall, at its own cost, extend and/or modify existing county drainage structures as needed to ensure that adequate surface drainage from county roads, highways, and adjacent properties is maintained.
However, city officials claim that the flooding taking place on county roads, in the cemetery, and on the trail itself are the result of the county’s infrastructure and not the construction of the trail.
The two sides have reached a stopping point in conversations about remediating the water issues and the county has taken the first legal step.
Braden said the notice of intent will give the city time to respond to the county’s allegations under the terms of the 28E and, if a resolution can be found, a lawsuit may not be necessary. The notice of intent is a petition filed with North Lee County District Court.
“This is just serving them with notice and typically it’s a first step to filing a lawsuit. They get two weeks to respond to this board. It’s no secret. It has to do with the drainage, or lack thereof, of that area,” Braden said.
Water is pooling in the cemetery during heavy precipitation and on the roads and snow removal efforts can also cause water drainage concerns.
Fort Madison City Manager Laura Liegois, who was in attendance at the meeting, but not in the closed session, said she thought the move was premature.
“The City of Fort Madison has had numerous communications with the county engineer’s office for this project. There have been conversations not finished, not because of the city staff. It’s too bad that it’s come to this level of conversations for the project,” she said.
"I have had two conversations regarding the project since I came to Fort Madison in January on the issue. It would be great for the city and county to have a good working relationship. It’s not been the most welcoming at this point to lead us to this level of discussion.”
Liegois said the city will have to engage another attorney for the issue because the city's attorney Lynch Dallas is also under contract with the county so there would likely be a conflict of interest.

Fort Madison, city, Lee County, 28E agreement, PORT, trail, drainage, cemetery, Supervisors, County Attorney.


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