Mayor Jim VanOstran called the meeting of Witt City Council to order with the Pledge of Allegiance at 7:00 p.m., on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Aldermen John Bauerle, Kenny Vallelonga, Dave Cearlock, Jay Martin, City Clerk Nancy Hughes, Treasurer Sonia Hodson and City Attorney Chris Sherer were present. Alderman Randy Lowe attended the meeting remotely, via the Zoom platform.
Martin led a prayer for Alderman Tim Taylor and his family, who was absent from the meeting due to a medical emergency, before opening the floor to public commentary. One visitor expressed her concern regarding the school bus taking wide turns at the end of Stewart Street onto Fourth Street, as there is noticeable dirt and gravel erosion at the curb the bus is turning onto, creating a potentially dangerous situation. Mayor VanOstran will have the city workers look at the area and contact the district’s bus garage.
EJ Water Cooperative representative Eric Emmerich provided a water report to the council. Emmerich reported on the PPG Grant that EJ Water Cooperative is pursuing on behalf of the city to help camera and fog out the waste water lines to look for any collapsed lines. The PPG Grant is a modified search grant, in the amount of $30,000. The grant stipulates that the city comes up with 25 percent of the funds, which equates to $7,500, with the grant to be awarded in the amount of $22,500. Emmerich informed the council that a decision needed to be made as soon as possible because the grant is due on April 1, and a public notice needed to be posted stating the city was submitting an application for financial assistance to the USDA. The items could not be voted on as the request was not listed on the agenda. The board will hold a special meeting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, to vote on the request.
The previously approved 30 horsepower (hp) pump and the five hp pump replacements, at the lift station, are anticipated to be shipped the first week of March. The pumps will be installed by EJ Water Cooperative shortly after they are delivered. One of the flow pipes (for the waste water line) and interior liner are eroding due to age and need to be replaced. The issue was discovered when work was being done at the site, and EJ Water Cooperative requested emergency approval to repair the damage before any replacement parts are installed, in the amount of $5,111, plus the shipping. Photos were presented to the board documenting the extent of the erosion. Emmerich also requested approval to put more rock at the lift station, in the amount of $500. A vote was tabled as the requests were not listed on the agenda.
Emmerich ended with a quote, requested by the city, to upgrade their bulk meter (used to fill up water trucks) to accept payments via credit card. It currently takes quarters as payment. In addition to upgrading the meter with a touch screen and the technology needed to make non-cash payments, the facility would need to have internet access. The board requested the quote include the cost of upgrading the meter to have both a top and bottom feeder. Emmerich estimated the cost would be between $10,000 to $20,000 dollars.
Discussion turned to if the investment would be lucrative for the city - how much demand there would be. Alderman Martin stated that according to the deposits log, bulk water sales currently totaled around $3,000 over a six-month period. Discussion then turned to raising the water rate for the bulk meter - the rate is currently set at $5.25. Action was tabled until more information could be presented on the benefits of the meter upgrade and potential rate raise.
Following the approval of the treasurer’s report and bills, Clerk Hughes read the report submitted by Fire Chief Don Keiser. Eight new tires were put onto tank truck #302. There were three fire calls and the department provided mutual aid for a Nokomis shed fire and an Irving house fire. The rib dinner on Saturday, Feb. 13, was a big success, especially considering it had been changed to a drive-thru event due to the ongoing pandemic. Their profits were only down $1,000 from last year - which they reported as a record year for the event.
Cearlock gave an update on the block grant to help fix the homes of in-need residents. He informed the board that the organization they are applying for the grant through, out of Effingham, has hit a roadblock as Montgomery County is slightly out of their traditional service area and they are waiting for approval to move forward. They are anticipated to report back within the month and Cearlock will present any new information at the next meeting.
Mayor VanOstran presented quotes for a new city lawn mower. The board discussed whether it would be more frugal to purchase a new commercial grade mower, as they are currently being replaced every one to two years, or to hire out the service to a company that would provide their own equipment. The matter was tabled until more quotes on both mowers and groundskeeping companies can be presented to the council.
The aldermen moved on to issues with the negligent state of the Charles Shelton residence. Since there is no written will, or clear owner to reach out to, the city has no legal standing to take any action toward cleaning up the property. The issue was tabled until the city could look into legally taking ownership of the property.
John Masten of Masten’s Mosquito Control presented a quote to the board to spray for mosquitoes this summer, as he has in years past. The board voted in favor of hiring Masten to spray eight times, beginning mid-May through early September, including all streets and alleys, at a cost of $4,600, or $575 per application.
Martin made a motion to renew the Jayhawk Software contract at a cost of $500. All voted in favor. A sewer adjustment was made for Gail Bradshaw in the amount of $35.68.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.