LOWELL | The Lowell Public Works Department will be examining and assessing improvements the town's 53 ponds need.
The next step, though, remained uncertain late last week as town officials struggle with who will pay for pond maintenance. Most were installed by developers to store stormwater for drainage control.
Matt Lake, the Lowell Stormwater Board president, told the Town Council during Wednesday's joint session the stormwater fee assessed all Lowell property owners monthly should not be used to landscape and maintain private property.
It is unfair to those private owners who are responsible and maintain their pond properties, he said.
Currently, town crews are mowing grass and otherwise maintaining 14 of the ponds in the town. Six of those are now owned by the town, but eight are privately owned.
Of the privately-owned ponds in the town, only 27 are being maintained by private parties.
Lowell Public Works Director Greg Shook said those ponds being maintained by the town are functioning properly and have required minor maintenance such as erosion control, mowing and sediment removal.
Still, Lake said he knows it has cost as much as $80,000 for dredging ponds in instances of sediment removal elsewhere. The system needs to be equitable.
Consulting engineer Craig Hendrix of SEH said, "The piping going into a pond is yours. The piping going out of a pond is yours. You have the easement. It's yours."
He said such things as mowing should be handled through code enforcement with property owners billed for the work.
The councilmen agreed, though, that billing for work does not mean the town is paid. In most cases, the town is not.
Councilman Phillip Kuiper, D-4th, said the town's ownership of some of the ponds came through the liens filed against the properties or no tax payments. In other cases, developer/owners have simply not maintained their ponds and tried to deed them over to the town, he said.
Shook said the town maintains high profile ponds that reflect the town's aesthetics and respond to neighborhood complaints when pond areas become unsightly.
Shook said the pond owner in Pine Ridge Estates where he lives, the Pine Ridge Association, was apparently never formed. Finding pond property owners now is a real challenge, he said.
Council Vice President Don Parker, D-3rd, said, "Lots of things were missed years ago ... We have an obligation to the people living in the subdivisions now."
Lake conceded pond maintenance is an issue across the country.
"This is a good discussion. This is good government," he said.