Mayor Andy Kimble recently discussed the city’s motivation and intentions surrounding sections of Elm Street and Pine Street

Mayor Andy Kimble recently discussed the city’s motivation and intentions surrounding sections of Elm Street and Pine Street

“We’re just trying to clean up, clear up, do some house cleaning on something that’s been right, wrong, gray, messed up, whatever you want to call it for more than a hundred years,” said Kimble in a phone interview Friday.

The city has been researching ordinances, records and state statutes for more than four months in an attempt to understand the complex patchwork of vacated land, streets and alleyways.

“We had Zimmermann Abstract do up a map for us, so we would know what alleys were vacated, because we’ve had some disputes over that,” Kimble added. “The city didn’t have any clue which alleys [were vacated]. We had [that information] buried deep in the files. We had Brad [Zimmermann] go through and put it together for us.”

Kimble said that Zimmermann’s map showed a vacated section of Elm Street and a vacated section of Pine Street

The strip of Elm Street “lying north of Wall Street and south of the Santa Fe Railroad” was vacated by city ordinance on Jan. 11, 1907, and is currently blocked on the West half by a number of trailers. The trailers were placed in the road two weeks ago by the adjoining landowner, local artist M.T. Liggett.

“We’ve got a closure [ordinance] when Elm Street was closed in 1907. In 1949 they opened it with another ordinance. But they didn’t register that ordinance with the county or the state like they did with the first one.”

Kansas State Statute 15-427 requires cities to file a copy of ordinances that open roads with the County Register of Deeds office.

Despite the city not submitting copies of the ordinance to the county, Kimble says that he feels the street has already been re-opened and that it is city property.

“As far as all of that is concerned, it is a street, period,” said Kimble. “There is a legal gray area that we have to correct to make it 100 percent clear and concise or we end up with what we have right now. We feel it has been un-vacated and we’ve got to make it legal. As long as I’ve been in Mullinville and that’s about 20 years, it’s been a road. The city has been maintaining that road, in regards to the grader and putting sand on it since 1949, probably longer than that. ”

Kimble says that adjacent landowners will be invited to city hall next Monday, during the city council’s regular session, to discuss the matter.

“We’re going to ask [the five property owners] while we’re visiting with them that we will do all of the paperwork and have the abstracts done at the city’s expense if they will sign a paper gifting it back to the city,” continued Kimble. “I think that there are some of them that will do that.”

Kansas statute only allows cities in the third class, which the city of Mullinville is classified, to receive closed roads as gifts. Or the city would have to purchase the land or  proceed with land condemnation to bring the land back into city possession.

“We have several different options and we’re going to go with the least aggressive one to begin with. [Attempting to condemn the land] will be a last resort. We want to do it peacefully and try to be friendly with the landowners first. Hopefully that will work.

If there is resistance we will have to go another direction.”

Kimble said that city officials have discussed the legal process of condemning land with City Attorney Janice Jorns.

“[We’ve explored condemnation of the land] just in what that process would be in conjunction with what we will try first. We’ve just touched on it, if we want to pursue it further, that is the route we will have to go.”

Kimble added that the city was only interested in the 60 feet of land that spans the road and that the city has no specific plans or projects for the targeted streets.

“No, we’re just trying to clear up this gray area that when these properties change hands in the future that someone wouldn’t pull something because there is a gray area,” said Kimble. “That would put the city is a worse position than we already are.”

Kimble was asked why city officials did not contact the landowners sooner.

“I don’t know what the heck they are trying to do,” Liggett stated two weeks ago, explaining that he was completely unaware of the motivation behind city plans.

“We were still in the research process,” responded Kimble. “Like it is with anything, we wanted to get our information first. M.T. [Liggett] pulled his trigger and did what he did. We had every intention of [talking to the land owners], but we wanted to get all of our information. You don’t jump off of a cliff unless you know the water is deep enough. We weren’t trying to pull any fast ones or anything like that. We weren’t trying to hide it, because it was in the minutes and it was in the agenda. We weren’t even close to discussing anything. We were trying to gather all of the information so we could go to them; being informed so that everyone could have what they needed to make the correct decision.”