BISBEE — After going head to head with a resident about who owns a retaining wall on Okay Street for the past two years, the City Council approved a settlement during Tuesday’s meeting.
Prior to being elected mayor, Ken Budge and his wife, Mary Alice, asked the city to address a failing retaining wall just a few feet away from the back of their home on Okay Street. It began to bulge and the Budges were concerned the wall would fail, which could cause damage to their home as well as a break in the natural gas line.
Budge went back through records and determined the city owned the wall since 1905. A survey map of the land showed the wall held up a walkway for people to reach their homes from the stairs and when the land in Old Bisbee was deeded to the city, it took responsibility for all the streets, alleys, drainage ways, stairs, walkways and retaining walls. A stamp on the Cochise County plat map from that time stated: “Undesignated areas within the town site are lands held in trust by the City of Bisbee — per the city attorney.”
When the city refused to take responsibility of the wall, the Budges filed a lawsuit in May 2020 seeking a sum to repair it. Then city attorney James Ledbetter offered them title to the land in question.
It was a puzzling offer as the city claimed it did not own the wall. If the city did not own the wall, how could it offer a deed, Budge asked.
A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the couple, and settlement talks began.
Council members Anna Cline, Leslie Johns, Joni Giacomino, Mel Sowid and Frank Davis approved the settlement in which the Budges will receive $25,000 and full ownership of the wall. Councilman Lou Pawlick voted against it. Budge recused himself from the decision making.
In other action, with four city buildings relying on generators in cases of power outage, Public Works Director Jesus Haro received approval to get the emergency backups on a regularly scheduled maintenance plan. The generators at the police station, the pumphouse, the Mule Gulch lift station and Tin Town lift station will be maintained twice a year by Gen-Tech Power Generation Specialists for $7,528.
Police Chief Albert Echave told the council the generator at the police station was 20 years old. He was in favor of the maintenance agreement.
Haro also pointed out the city’s two fire stations and city hall do not have backup generators and need to be considered for purchase.
Problems with the electrical system at the Bisbee Airport helped Haro to forego expensive repairs and upgrades and go solar to light the runway with LEDs. Though the $25,000 for the system repair was budgeted, the needed 80 solar lights will cost just $6,565. The council approved the expenditure.
Queen Mine Tour manager Doug Graeme received the go-ahead to purchase four mine locomotive batteries from Battery Giant at a cost of $10,435. The batteries power the locomotive that takes visitors through the Copper Queen mine tunnels.
Budge pulled the agenda item involving the decision to appoint a new Design Review Board member in order to obtain more information on the two people who applied for the open spot — local contractor Jon Sky and Lori Gunnel, who is experienced with historic homes and buildings. Budge did not say what information he was seeking.
Just as the city’s second workforce affordable home is nearing completion by housing project partner Step Up Bisbee Naco, City Manager Steve Pauken said Doug Taylor, a retired architect, has been hired as the new county planner. One of his duties will include overseeing the housing program.