Mullinville city officials, in an attempt to reclaim long abandoned city roads, has sparked concern with one of its most outspoken residents.
Over the weekend Mullinville resident artist M.T. Liggett parked a large number of trailers adorned with metal “stop” and “private property” signs on the west side of Elm street, north of Hwy. 54. which, due to a long established abandonment by the city, is half owned by Liggett.
“We’re dealing with it, but I’m going to have to go with a ‘no comment’ for now until we can talk with our attorney,” said Mullinville Mayor Andy Kimble on Sunday.
The city has been preparing to reopen streets that the city had abandoned some time ago.
City Council minutes from Jan. 16 mention a request from Zimmerman Title and Abstract owner Brad Zimmerman to “clarify information on the vacated streets/roads map he had prepared for council” indicating that the city has been working on the project for more than three months.
Liggett produced a letter written by Mullinville City Attorney Janice J. Jorns to Mullinville City Clerk Susan Clayton. The letter, which discussed the reopening of city roads among other things, seems to be a response to an inquiry made by city officials.
In the letter dated Feb. 14, Jorns mentions Kansas Statute K.S.A 15-427, which governs the improvement, vacating and reversion of streets and alleyways for Kansas cities in the third class, which Mullinville is classified.
The statute states:
“The council shall have power to open, widen, extend or otherwise improve any street, avenue, alley, or lane; to create, open and improve any new street, avenue, alley, or lane; and also to annul, vacate or discontinue the same, whenever deemed necessary or expedient: Provided, That all damages sustained by the citizens of the city, or the owners of the property therein, shall be ascertained in the manner provided by law: And provided further, That whenever any street, avenue, alley, or lane shall be vacated, the same shall revert to the owners of real estate thereto adjacent on each side, in proportion to the frontage of such real estate, except in cases where such street, avenue, alley or lane shall have been taken and appropriated to public use in a different proportion, in which case it shall revert to adjacent lots of real estate in proportion as it was taken from them.”
Jorns in her letter notes that the statute does not grant cities in the third class the authority to reopen city streets, an authority that is granted to cities in the second and first class.
“Therefore, if the city finds in necessary to unvacate a street or alleyway, they[sic] city must acquire the land either by purchasing the land…or through a condemnation proceeding,” continued the letter. “… if the adjoining landowners wanted the street or alleyway reopened, they could gift the property back to the city...”
The city has not said whether it has attempted to purchase any of the land, requested that the land be gifted back to the city or begun condemnation proceedings on any of the land.
Liggett professed to be unaware of what the city was planning to do with the street, of which half is lawfully his private property.
He was asked if any member of city council, mayor Kimble or a city employee had spoken to him about the cities plans for the road,
“The city has not discussed this with me at all,” said Liggett. “The only thing I know is what I saw in the [city council] minutes in the Merchant’s Directory [newspaper]. The next thing I know I get a copy of [the letter from city attorney Janice Jorns]. I have no recourse but to protect myself. I had to do something especially when someone starts that kind of action.”
The road, which runs the entire length of the northern half of the city, has been a well-traveled dirt road connecting Hwy 54 and North St. The street is passable and seemed to be reasonably maintained. It is not apparent whether the city has maintained the road, even though it is no longer city property.
The road brings highway traffic to Hillcrest Cemetery and runs alongside Liggett’s workshop and pastures.
Liggett did not say how long the trailers would be on the road and city officials have not commented about how the city was going to proceed.
Mayor Kimble did say that the city council would address the issue during their March 19 meeting.
Liggett, who has adorned roadsides in Mullinville with his kinetic and often controversial metal-work totems has been a boisterous outspoken county resident for years sometimes butting heads with city officials in Mullinville and Greensburg, typically relating to his artwork.
“I’m not doing this to create problems, they will say I’m doing it to create problems but that is horse [expletive],” added Liggett. “They never came and talked to me or anything. I don’t know what the [expletive] they are trying to do.”
Requests have been made to city officials for documents relating to this issue.