MOUNT VERNON — It took some digging to avoid some digging. The digging being done Monday was at the Knox County Service Building, where Apple Valley property owners Joe and Mary Jo Balistreri met with the Knox County Commissioners, Water and Wastewater Superintendent Ron Simpson and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Charles McConville to figure out how a deck came to be built on top of a county utility easement. The goal was to avoid having to tear up the deck if repairs are ever needed on the sewer line, which runs through the easement.
Simpson noticed the combination deck/storage area jutting from the side of the Balistreri residence when he was recently checking wastewater lines in the large housing development near Howard. Simpson realized that the sturdy deck, made out of poured concrete, block, and wood, had been installed directly over a force main sewer line. If this line were ever to break or spring a leak directly beneath the deck, it might theoretically have to be removed to reach the line.
As the county had never been asked about putting a deck there, Simpson asked McConville to send a letter explaining that the county would not be held responsible for any damages or expenses resulting from removing the deck if work had to be performed on the line, which is in a county easement.
The Balistreris said they were completely surprised by the letter, because the deck was a pre-existing structure on the house when they bought it in 2000. Simpson showed his files, which included the approval for the original construction of the house in 1983, the transfer to the new owners in 2000, and approvals for the building of a new garage in 2001 and a room addition in 2004. He has no paperwork on file regarding the deck.
“From our perspective, we never released an easement to build over that force main,” Simpson said.
Joe Balistreri showed the officials a printout of the house from 1999 real estate advertisements. The pictures show that the deck was in existence then, predating the Balistreris’ ownership.
In response to a request from Simpson, Apple Valley Property Owners’ Association general manager Jeff Harmer called during the meeting to inform the officials that he had found paperwork in AVPOA’s files showing that the deck was approved for construction in June 1989. Apparently, it was missed at that time that the deck was encroaching on a county easement, for no county approval was sought or recorded in the file, according to Harmer.
Since the current layout is in existence through no fault of his own, Balistreri asked if, in the event that the force main needs repair, it could be rerouted around the deck. Commissioner Allen Stockberger said the county would not object to that, but that a rerouting easement should be pursued now, before any problem arises. Balistreri pointed out there is a little bit of space left between the deck and his property line. Simpson arranged to meet with Balistreri Tuesday afternoon to see if there is enough space to potentially reroute the line around the deck without requiring an easement on the neighboring property. If an additional easement is required, that will be pursued next.
In other business, Knox Department of Job & Family Services director Roger Shooter met with the commissioners to notify them that due to state budget cuts, the Prevention, Retention and Contingency program would be going from a $30,000 per month cap to a $20,000 per month cap in September. The PRC funds assist workers with fuel and vehicle expenses to keep them working.