Witt City Council Moves Forward With Water Plan

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The City of Witt held a public meeting to discuss the council’s intention to apply for a $30,000 grant from the USDA to smoke and camera the city’s sewer system to look for and document areas in need of repair at 6:45 p.m., on Tuesday, April 27. While the incoming council members were present at the meeting, no one from the general public was in attendance. The current and incoming council heard from EJ Water Cooperative representative Eric Emmerich during the public hearing. If approved the city would be responsible for 25 percent of the grant, approximately $7,500 dollars. Since it was an informative public meeting there was no need to take a vote on moving forward with the grant application process 

Mayor Jim VanOstran called the regular meeting of Witt City Council to order at  7:10 p.m., with the Pledge of Allegiance. Aldermen John Bauerle, Kenny Vallelonga, Dave Cearlock, Jay Martin, Tim Taylor, City Clerk Nancy Hughes, Treasurer Sonia Hodson, EJ Water Cooperative Representative Eric Emmerich and the incoming council members were present. Alderman Randy Lowe attended the meeting remotely, via the Zoom platform.

Emmerich presented the water report to the council. He informed the aldermen that they had finally received the five horse-power (hp) replacement pump for the lift station after a four month delay due to the ongoing pandemic and that EJ Water Cooperative planned to install the pump within the next two weeks. He asked the council to come up with a general budget of how much they wanted to invest to upgrade the city’s Water Salesman so that he could present them with quotes at the next meeting. Emmerich suggested that they keep the upgrades simple for now and upgrade the face to a touchscreen as well as the salesman’s capability to accept one and five dollar bills in addition to quarters. He estimated that the salesman currently brings in between $2,000 to $3,000 in revenue for the city a year.  

Emmerich informed the council that in order to move forward with the DCEO grant they needed to sign the Engineering Agreement with M&G Engineers, which will enable M&G to submit the PER (Preliminary Engineering Report) to the USDA. Alderman Cearlock stated that the council had approved the agreement and authorized Mayor VanOstran to sign it at the March meeting.

Emmerich discussed EJ Water Cooperative taking over water billing as part of the water agreement between the cooperative and the city. Water bills would be disbursed every month, rather than every two months - which is how it is currently set up. EJ Water Cooperative would track water usage and bill individual customers who would pay the cooperative directly; the city would then receive a check from the cooperative in the amount of revenue collected each month.

Emmerich went on to discuss the need for the city to purchase new water meters, stating that the old meters are not recording water usage accurately and are in turn losing revenue that should be going to the city. The purchase of new digital water meters would necessitate an increase the city’s current water rate. Alderman Taylor pointed out that switching billing to the water cooperative from the city would result in water leaks being detected faster.

Alderman Martin made a motion to replace the water meters at an estimated cost of $190,000. Taylor seconded the motion which passed 4 to 2, with Aldermen Martin, Taylor, Vallelonga and Lowe voting in favor of the motion and Cearlock and Bauerle voting no. Martin made a motion that when the new meters are installed a $3 increase will take effect with the water and waste water minimum to include the first 1,000 gallons. All voted in favor. Taylor made a motion for EJ Water Cooperative to take over billing in August. All voted in favor.

The council moved on to approve the treasurer’s report. Municipal Utility Tax received for March was $3,261.34. Clerk Hughes gave the report submitted by Chief of Police Scott Wood. He stated that he had received the final audit requested for the vehicle grant and anticipates that they will learn the status of the grant within the next month. 

The aldermen voted to purchase a new office printer and scanner for Witt City Hall at a cost of $929.99, to be taken out of the Utility Fund. They then voted to sell the city’s old Kubota lawn mower to VanOstran at a cost of $1, to avoid having to pay to dispose of the machine. Clerk Hughes informed the aldermen that the ramp on the ship at City Park needs to be replaced. The lumber has already been purchased and it will be fixed shortly.

Discussion turned to a request made by property owner Lee Austin that the city split the cost of removing a tree that was partially located on a property he owns and partially located on city property. Young paid to have the tree removed at a cost of $875 and asked that the city consider reimbursing half of the fee - $437.50. The aldermen voted against reimbursing Mr. Young.

They returned to a request from M&M Service Company  for a water and sewer easement. The matter was tabled while further information is collected. The council approved a sewer adjustment for Miriam Batista at a cost of $94.95. The aldermen approved a request from Dorothy Ulrici for the city to remove a broken sidewalk located at 547 South Fifth Street. They also agreed to bid out the removal of dead trees located at 981 Monroe, 104 South Main and 319 North Main.

The council had received a list of requests from CTI regarding extending fiber optic services to the city. Cearlock suggested that they ask CTI to send a representative to one of the council meetings before any action is taken.

The board moved into executive session at 9:10 p.m.; following this session the meeting was adjourned.   

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