Water Issues Continue To Plague Witt

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Mayor Jim VanOstran called the meeting of Witt City Council to order with the Pledge of Allegiance at 7:05 p.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Aldermen Tim Taylor and John Bauerle, Mayor VanOstran and City Clerk Nancy Hughes were present. Aldermen Kenny Vallelonga, Dave Cearlock, Jay Martin, Randy Lowe and Treasurer Sonia Hodson attended the meeting remotely, via the Zoom platform.

There were a few minor changes to the minutes from  the meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19. One to reflect that Alderman Randy Lowe abstained from voting on vacating the portion of the alley extending from Meadow Street because of technical issues; the alderman was virtually attending and lost connection to the Zoom platform during that portion of the meeting. The other was the addition of the date Mayor VanOstran approved EJ Water Cooperative representative Eric Emmerich to purchase a replacement for the failed fluoride scale at a cost of $400. The minutes were approved with the amendments in place.

Alderman Taylor reported on the Water Committee meeting. Emmerich asked for approval of a $350 payment to  Vandeventer Engineering for work on a 30 HP pump that was deemed not repairable. 

The bill was for the time and labor put into taking the pump apart. Lowe motioned to approve the payment. All voted in favor.

Taylor went on to report that a resident, outside of city limits wants to buy a meter to put on a fire hydrant (potentially the hydrant used for the Rail Road) to supply water to his farm. He estimates that he will use anywhere between 65,000 to 75,000 gallons per year - however he cannot use the hydrant located uptown because his system does not allow him to fill his truck from the top and the current system does not enable filling from the bottom. The plan is to adjust the hydrant in question to only put out 100 gallons a minute. Discussion turned to a suggestion made by Emmerich that the city is not charging enough for water being used to fill up water trucks. The city is currently charging $5.25 and Emmerich suggested they charge between $8 to $10. The aldermen discussed using the profits made by raising price to make modifications to the water point with the intention to draw in more customers, primarily farmers. The matter was tabled while the board collects more detailed information.

 Taylor continued the water report, stating that the board should find out the status of the DCEO Grant in March.   

John Panieri requested an adjustment to his water bill, citing a leak that occurred after work had been done by the city. Mayor VanOstran explained that one of the city workers put a meter down near Panieri’s residence and in order to connect to Mr. Panieri’s line the worker had to put another piece of line in-between the meter and Panieri’s line. The leak in question occurred at the point where the new line and Mr. Panieri’s existing line were connected, however Panieri’s line was damaged prior to any of the work that occurred. The leak has been fixed. City Clerk Hughes reminded the board that the city does not have a water adjustment policy, they have a sewer adjustment policy and that adjusting Panieri’s bill could lead to future requests for water adjustments that the city could not afford. The request was denied.

Alderman Taylor finished up the water report by informing the board that EJ Water Cooperative plans to flush the hydrants in April.

Hughes read a report sent in by Police Chief Scott Wood.  Wood updated the board on his health and informed them that many of the things he had been working on prior to his medically necessitated time off will need to be resubmitted. He plans to have this done within the next two weeks. Wood stated that the warrants that he requested several months ago have been issued. Three of the four warrants were served while he was on leave and he was unable to interview the offenders at the time of arrest. Several court hearings have been scheduled and continued until next month; he will keep the board updated.

Wood went on to report that the city was not selected for the vehicle grant. However, he has been contacted and told that the city will be put at the top of the file this season. He went on to explain that COVID-19 is still effecting how the office handles calls for service and at the moment the jail is only taking felony charges and violations of Orders of Protection. He has had numerous complaints regarding a female that has been causing issues around the city, however since she is not committing a felony he cannot detain her.

He went on to report that all clean up operations have been put on hold while the weather is bad. Several residents have cleaned up their properties and he will continue speaking to non-compliant residents.

Alderman Cearlock stated that he would like to see Wood bring the Drug Task Force back to the city. He also suggested that the board be ready to give Wood extra support in this endeavour.    

 Fire Chief Don Keiser reported that the department has responded to four fire calls, two of which were accidents and 14 EMS calls, since the last meeting. He informed the aldermen that fire truck #307 underwent five-year testing. No critical or major issues were found. He reported that Drake-Scruggs in Springfield donated one of the skid units that they had been using for demonstrations, to the department. The new unit will replace the skid unit on the brush truck, which was damaged during the field fires late last year. He estimates that the skid unit would have cost around $7,000 dollars and is greatly appreciated. The department is planning to hold a few training burns within the next few months, two on homes in town and one field training. Several firefighters have been able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Fire Chief Don Keiser was in attendance, and reminded the board that Witt Fire Department will hold their annual Rib Dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13. The dinner will be drive-thru or carry out only, and includes a rack of ribs, potato, baked beans, slaw, roll and dessert. Tickets are $18 a meal and can be purchased by contacting the fire department. A raffle will also be held.

Cearlock reported that he has requested a time line for the Block Grant and will report back at a later meeting. Hughes stated that she would get the ball rolling to install a second street light at the Women of Witt pavilion.

Discussion turned to the need to reinforce the museum wall at Regina’s Cafe, at an estimated cost of $12,000. The cost of the wall was not included in the initial bid for the demolition and site restoration of the building at 24 West Broadway Street. The aldermen voted in favor of splitting the cost of the wall between the general fund and the municipal utility fund.

Robert Mehlberg made a request to extend the culvert at his residence an additional 33 feet. The city is already slated to replace 17 feet of the culvert in question due to damage, and Mehlberg would like to pay to add an additional 33 feet, with all work to be done by city employees. The aldermen decided that the city will offer to replace their portion (the 17 feet) and the additional 33 feet at a cost to Mehlberg that also includes labor. Mayor VanOstran made the suggestion that it would be beneficial to have the city’s PRN worker Scott Lynch train his fellow city workers to install culverts.

The council denied a request by George Shelton for a water adjustment, as it is not their policy to make water adjustments. Motions were made to approve sewer adjustments for Kimberly Schiefer ($89.08) and Louisa Petray ($80.06).

The aldermen went into executive session at 8:40 p.m. The council returned from executive session and adjourned the meeting.

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