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The Case Of The Mystery Tile

By Staff | Apr 30, 2009

While it might sound like Sherlock Holmes mystery, the Case of the Mystery Tile has the Palo Alto County Supervisors and Engineer’s Office puzzled over the ownership of a tile southeast of Ruthven. The mystery was afoot Tuesday morning, April 14, during the engineer’s briefing with the Board of Supervisors. The mystery became a little less confusing during the April 21 board meeting, but still remains puzzling.

“We have a little mystery going in Section 20 of Highland Township,” Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz reported to the supervisors. “There is a 20 inch tile out there, running into a ditch, but on the county’s tile maps, there is a 20 inch tile shown to be a half-mile north of this tile.”

According to Fantz, in researching files in his office on the tile, which is in Joint Drainage District 60, Lateral 9, a letter dating back to 1983, written by former County Engineer Bill Ellingrod indicated that the southern 20 inch tile was not a county-owned tile. However, drainage work orders for the district show work has been done on the southern tile over the past 40-some years, the most recent work being done in 2005.

“Looking at the file, my best read on this is that this tile is a private tile,” Fantz said, but we need something conclusive I’d recommend we turn it over to the drainage engineer.

“Everyone around there thinks it is a county tile,” Board Chair Ed Noonan noted.

“I know from experience that sometimes the old county tile maps aren’t always accurate,” added Supervisor Keith Wirtz.

“That’s true,” Fantz agreed, “But they’re usually not off by a half a mile.

Supervisor Ron Graettinger asked who paid for the repairs to the tile back in 2005.

Drainage Clerk Carmen Moser noted that the repairs were paid with a stamped drainage warrant that has been earning interest on a $446 total since 2005.

“This tile has been repaired off and on over the years by us and has been treated as a county tile, according to the work orders,” Fantz noted.

“Let’s have the tile dug up, see exactly what is out there at both places,” suggested Noonan, to which Graettinger agreed

“Right now, all we’ve got is an arrow drawn on an old map,” Noonan said. “No one really knows for sure what’s what out there. All we do know is there are 57 acres out there that are being drained by a 20-inch tile, so something has to be going on with it. In the meantime told the landowner to go ahead and have the repairs made, and if it is a county tile, that we’d reimburse him for the repairs.

“Let’s go see where the 20 inch tile on the map is actually at for sure,” Graettinger said, bringing the discussion to a close.

A week later, some new light was shed on the mystery tile by Fantz.

In the April 21 board meeting, Fantz reported that he had continued reviewing old documents in the engineer’s office and found some original grading plans dating back to 1914, which turned out to have the tile drawn in the wrong spot on a map.

“At this point, I see no other answer for sure other than to bring in a drainage engineer to figure out just where this other tile runs and who it serves,” Fantz told the supervisors.

“So what is your opinion on this tile now, after finding this new information?” Noonan asked the engineer.

“I suspect now that the tile to the south is actually the county tile,” Fantz said, “but I think that both of these tiles are actually county tiles. But no matter what we find if we go out there and dig, we still have a problem to solve. You’ve got yourselves a real conundrum.”

The board agreed there would be no easy answer, and decided to seek the input of a drainage engineer to actually locate the entire tile and determine the benefitted lands to make sure they were being assessed for their fair share of the district.