In 1905 the newly organized University of Florida was looking for a home. By statute the Board of Control was empowered to choose the site, and in so choosing, to take donations offered by municipalities wishing to be chosen. Through its "Citizen's Committee" (an unofficial body with no real authority), the City of Gainesville, Florida, offered, in addition to substantial donations of buildings and lands, to furnish water to the University free of charge. The offer was accepted; the University of Florida, with an enrollment of 135 students, set up blackboards in Gainesville (population 3,633), and water began flowing through University pipes.
The instant case was brought by the City of Gainesville, praying for a declaration of rights under the contract. In the interim between the “donation” and the suit, enrollment of the University had increased to 11,000 students. The City (population 26,861) alleged it had floated revenue bonds for its present waterworks, the revenue from the waterworks was insufficient to retire the bonds, new facilities were needed, but new bonds could not be sold under the present situation.
The City’s contentions were: (1) the “Citizen’s Committee” had no authority to make the contract, and the contract, “ultra vires” in its inception, could not be ratified by subsequent actions of the City; (2) the term of the contract being indefinite, it was (a) void as against public policy as being “perpetual,” or (b) if construed as being for a “reasonable time,” the “reasonable time” had expired sometime during the past forty-five years; and (3) the present size of the University was not contemplated at the time the contract was made, and, as the contract places an uncontemplated burden upon the City of considerable magnitude, the City should be relieved from the contract.
Held: Affirmed, the contract is enforceable.
William H. Sherwood,
Municipal Corporations: Contracts in Perpetuum,
35 Neb. L. Rev. 140
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