Witt City Focuses On Water

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Witt City Council met on Tuesday evening, Nov. 24. The meeting was called to order with the Pledge of Allegiance at 7:10 p.m. Aldermen Tim Taylor, Kenny Vallelonga, Dave Cearlock, John Bauerle, Jay Martin and Randy Lowe,  Mayor Jim VanOstran, Treasurer Sonia Hodson and City Clerk Nancy Hughes were present. Vallelonga, Lowe, Martin and Hodson attended the meeting remotely, via the Zoom platform. There were no visitors in attendance, in-person or remotely.

Alderman Cearlock gave a brief report on the Water Committee Meeting held on Wednesday, Nov. 11. EJ Water Cooperative suggested the board purchase a V-Notch Weir Fabrication at a cost of $750. The V-Notch is needed so that the city can accurately measure the flow from the Waste Water plant to the city. 

Currently the city is estimating what this flow is and the V-Notch would allow for accurate visual measurements. EJ Water Cooperative cautioned that the IEPA (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency) would likely not accept estimations. Cearlock made a motion in favor of purchasing the V-Notch at a total cost of $750 dollars - $500 for materials and $250 for labor. Bauerle seconded and all voted in favor.

Cearlock continued his report. The Water Committee discussed the ten-year plan to fund the long term water project at their last meeting; an updated copy will be distributed once it is received. This plan includes the city’s plan to fund the water connection with EJ Water Cooperative as well as funding improvements to water mains, additional  meters and work done at the wastewater plant over the course of the next decade. The plan is still in the development stage and is more of a guideline/timeline for themselves and future council members than an authoritative document. Cearlock reported that he expects a lot more discussion regarding the plan before it is ready to be finalized.

Discussion turned to a Block Grant for $550,000 the council is interested in applying for. The grant can be used to help repair low income homes (to be used for insulation, siding, plumbing...). Cearlock estimated that $50,000 can be put into ten homes,with the additional $50,000 used towards administrative and engineering expenditures. There are stipulations regarding how the grant can be used and homeowners potentially selling homes after they have been repaired. The aldermen decided to look further into how the grant works. The Block Grant will not compete with the grant for the new water connection; both can be applied for at the same time.

The city received a quote from Vandevanter for the replacement of a flange fitting for the pump at the wastewater plant (30HP Lift Station) for a cost of $8,255.

The board expressed concern for Police Chief Scott Wood. The alderman personally bought a $50 gift card and “Get Better Soon” card for Officer Wood and his family.

Witt Fire Department reported five fire calls and four emergency service calls. The volunteer fire department held elections earlier this month. Assistant Chief is Dan Rogers; captains are Jake Spensberger, Dennis Loskot, Douglas Keiser and Phil Speiser; directors are Jim Rogers, Frank Beasley, Kyle Schmedeke and Dale Joyce; secretary/treasurer is Tyler Beeler; training officer is Dan Rogers; assistant training officers are Dennis Kilzer and Kason Schmedeke; explorer captain is Joey Keiser. All December meetings and regular training events have been cancelled due to concerns over COVID-19. The fire department will work in small groups as needed. Fire Chief Don Keiser reported that the department is currently okay on PPE (personal protective equipment) but their supplies of N95 and surgical masks are depleting. The department replaced a battery on squad #303 and AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) have been installed on squads #303 and #305. Ladder 307 is working out well and has taken its spot in the Witt Fire Station. Keiser stated that the department plans to work on updating its ISO (Fire Insurance Rating) when COVID-19 concerns relax.

Discussion turned toward CARE Grants. Money from the COVID-19 relief grant must be spent by Thursday, Dec. 31. The alderman discussed the parameters of how the funding can be spent - expenditures must be related to health and human services. Questions about if the funds could be used for salaries were brought up.

Alderman Taylor suggested the city revert back to hiring PRN (as needed) workers to repair water leaks. This was a former practice of the city and less expensive than their current method-outsourcing repairs to a commercial plumber. Clerk Hughes will look into the suggestion and the council will discuss it in more depth at a later meeting.

The aldermen turned their attention to the request for a yield sign at Raymon and Young Streets. Martin scoped out the situation and stated the area was only a block from a stop sign and that it should be a simple yield to the right. It was decided that installing a yield sign at this location is unnecessary and that the issue of speeders was better  addressed by increased police presence in the area.

 The alderman unanimously decided to keep City Hall closed to the public for the time being, in consideration of the increasing COVID-19 rates. Hughes will still be at the office during regular hours to answer phone calls and check the drop box.

The council was brought a request to vacate the eastern  portion of the unpaved alley extending from Meadow Street by resident Charles Harston, who unknowingly built a portion of his garage (approximately nine feet) on the city property. The alderman studied a property map depicting the issue and discussed the semantics of abandoning the alley. The city could legally abandon just a portion of the alley, there is concern as there is a water line located on the alley. The matter was tabled with Lowe agreeing to look into the issue.

The aldermen voted in favor of giving Christmas bonuses to the city’s employees in the amount of $150 for full-time employees, $50 for part-time employees and $50 for the fire chief. A sewer adjustment was credited to John Bauerle in the amount of $88.36.

Vallelonga brought up a previous decision to install lights at the Lions Club, and mentioned that no action had been taken yet. The aldermen agreed that lighting is needed to discourage recent vandalism. Taylor will mark where the lights need to be placed and Hughes will contact Ameren.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:02 p.m. Next month’s meeting will be held a week early, Tuesday, Dec. 15, in observance of holiday schedules.

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