Witt Looks At Ways To Increase Grant Eligibility

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Witt City Council held a special meeting, prior to their regularly set meeting to discuss the city’s potential agreement with EJ Water Cooperative on Tuesday, Sept. 22. EJ Emmerich, representing the water cooperative met with Mayor Jim VanOstran, City Clerk Nancy Hughes and council members John Bauerle, David Cearlock, Sonia Hodson, Randall Lowe, Jay Martin, Tim Taylor and Kenny Vallelonga to discuss a grant the city is applying for, which will help them finance the interconnect line needed to hook into EJ Water Cooperative’s water line.

After researching several options, the council determined that the agreement with EJ Cooperative was the most fiscally responsible choice for the city, whose archaic water plant and wells have seen little structural upgrades since they were built in the 1920’s. Even taking the more fiscally sound option, the city needs to pursue a grant to help alleviate the financial burden of the much needed water project.

Emmerich has been working with the council members, mayor and City Attorney Chris Sherer through the grant application process. At Tuesday night’s special meeting the representatives learned the city’s incoming water revenue was under the margin that must be met to qualify for the grant - a safeguard to ensure the city can financially back the project.

As such, the council will hold a special meeting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, at Witt City Hall to vote on increasing the (water) service fee by one dollar. All paperwork for the grant must be submitted by Wednesday, Sept. 30, necessitating the upcoming Saturday morning meeting.

The regularly scheduled meeting followed at 7 p.m.

The board revisited a discussion concerning changes to the salaries of the mayor, city clerk, water clerk, alderman and fire chief. The suggestion was made that the mayor position be increased to $250 per month, treasurer to $300 a month, city clerk a $1,000 and increasing alderman and the fire chief to $50 per month - the increase would cost the city an additional $3,400 per year. It was also suggested that salaries should not be tied to meeting attendance as each member devotes a considerate amount of time to city issues on a daily basis.

Members had discussed setting the city clerk’s fees at $500 rather than a $1,000, and paying the difference ($500) to the water clerk. Both positions are held by the same person. The separation of pay was suggested as the duties could potentially change dependent on the EJ Water Cooperative or a newly elected city clerk not wanting to take on the additional duties of water clerk, as Hughes has done. The council waivered on the increase for the city/water clerk based on the separation of payments.

The council voted in favor of increasing salaries for the mayor, alderman, treasurer and fire chief. They tabled voting on an increase for the city clerk/water clerk positions. These changes will not go into effect until the start of the new terms, next year. 

Alderman Cearlock made a motion to purchase 40 tons of pea gravel for City Park at a cost of $1,200. The gravel will be spread around the shed, monkey bars and the play center.  Cearlock is planning to cut labor costs by taking on the project and is seeking volunteers to help spread the rock. He mentioned the work would need to be done in a timely manner to prevent children from being tempted to play in the rock pile, potentially scattering it over the ground. All voted in favor.

The council members mentioned increased activity at the park and receiving reports of unsupervised children hanging from rafters and breaking glass bottles. The council’s discussion turned towards the city’s liability if one of the children were to get injured on the property and purchasing cameras to survey the property. The feed from the cameras would be viewable through an app on the council members cell phones. They also discussed that the city currently has a $250 fine for littering, and issuing fines to the parents as a last resort to stop the destructive behavior.

Discussion turned toward sidewalk repair. Tim Taylor reported that the estimate given was $9,620, to fix the sidewalk next to City Hall and the corners at the intersection of Broadway and Main Streets, the total includes the work needed to make the area ADA compliant. After a brief discussion regarding funding the repairs, the council agreed to table the discussion.

 Dates for the City Clean Up Week remain set for Monday, Oct. 5 through Friday, Oct. 9. Alderman Cearlock reported that adding an electronic drive will cost the city an additional $5,000. He stated that since he can’t guarantee that they will receive a grant to cut costs the electronic drive should be tabled for the time being. He will apply for the grant and if received an electronics drive will be held in the spring. City Clerk Nancy Hughes informed the council that she had price checked dumpsters and DC Waste would cost $510 for the first dumpster and $478 for each additional dumpster. Randy’s Rolloff will be $353 for three tons, and $50 per ton after that. Clerk Hughes will place an ad in the paper, which will list items that can be dumped during the city’s clean up week.

The alderman voted in favor of holding a socially distanced trick-or-treat events on Friday, Oct. 30 and Friday, Oct. 31. The consensus was that if kids could attend school it was safe to hold the event. 

They discussed whether to repair or replace the city’s lawnmower. The discussion was tabled.    The meeting was adjourned at 9:10 p.m.

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