Litchfield Opts For New Mowing Service In 2021

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Mowing has been on the minds of many as the weather warms up and the city of Litchfield was no different as they awarded the bid for mowing and maintenance of various city owned properties and derelict properties during their meeting on Thursday, April 15.

The bid was won by Evergreen Landscape Management after a discussion by the council on whether to go with Evergreen or Precision Lawn Care, who had held the bid since at least 2017. Both bidders had a connection to the city council as Evergreen owner Corey Cotner is the grandson of Alderwoman Marilyn Sisson and Precision owner Ryan Dougherty is the son of Mayor Steve Dougherty.

The two proposals varied slightly in regards to the 15 non-compliant lots the city included in the bid. Evergreen’s proposal was for $25 for each lot listed, then $50 for each lot that was added onto that list in the future. Precision’s bid was for $30 regardless of whether the lot was on the original list or not.

Alderman David Hollo commented that usually the city has an engineering firm determine who is the lowest responsible bidder and questioned Cotner and Dougherty about their qualifications. Both have been mowing since they were young, with Cotner estimating 10 years of experience and Dougherty saying he had 26 years of experience.

Hollo also asked about employees for each company. Cotner said that he has two retired gentlemen who work for him, in addition to himself, while Dougherty said he has two full-time, one part-time and himself.

Alderman Woodrow Street asked Cotner if Evergreen had the equipment to handle the city’s mowing needs. Cotner said that he had three zero turn mowers and was pre-approved to purchase a tractor and six-to-eight foot brush hog if he was awarded the bid. Dougherty said that he had similar equipment to Cotner, but used a 15-foot batwing mower to mow the berm at Lake Lou Yaeger, adding he believed that was what was needed to mow that area in a week as the city had requested. Cottner said that he believed he could do the mowing with the smaller apparatus, but would purchase the larger equipment if needed.

Three votes would be needed to determine a final decision, with Hollo initially proposing awarding the contract to Precision for three years. That motion would fail 2-5-1, with Hollo and Street voting yes, Dwayne Gerl, Mark Brown, Kassidy Paine, Tim Wright and Ray Kellenberger voting no and Sisson abstaining.

The second motion would be to approve a two-year contract with Evergreen, but an amendment was proposed to reduce that to a one-year contract. 

The amendment passed 5-2-1, with Hollo, Paine, Wright, Street and Kellenberger voting yes, Gerl and Brown voting no and Sisson abstaining.

The final motion for the one-year contract was approved by a 6-1-1 margin, with Hollo voting no and Sisson abstaining.

The vote wasn’t the only one drawing dissension on the night as the council split 5-3 in favor of allowing Steve and Tammy Estell to retain Lake Lot #205 for the 2021 season.

Tammy Estell was on hand to request that the city allow them to keep the lease on the lot and requested that the city reimburse them for having their camper towed away after a disagreement with the adjacent lake lot lease owners, Eric and Stacy Lamb. Eric Lamb is also the Lake Superintendent at Lake Lou Yaeger and has been tasked by the city to determine lot boundaries, who can receive lake lots and other lake issues. The matter was previously discussed at the Oct. 1, Sept. 17, Sept. 3 council meetings after the Lambs stated the Estells’ camper was parked on their lake lot.

During the discussion on the Estells’ request, Alderman Hollo questioned why the council was even involved and said that the city followed protocols and gave the Estells ample notice to move their trailer. He added that the Estells refused to comply and should expect consequences.

Alderman Gerl, who has a lake lot nearby, said that he’s not sure what the big hurry was and questioned what the sense of even going out to the lake would be if you had to be on pins and needles every time to avoid being kicked off your lot. Gerl said that he believed the Estells should be allowed to keep their lot.

Alderman Kellenberger mentioned a suggestion he had about forming an ad hoc committee and reviewing the ordinance and the possibility of having the lots surveyed to determine where the specific boundaries are. Mayor Dougherty said the committee was never formed, with Hollo adding that having the lake lots surveyed would most likely cost the city $200 to $400 per lot and would not be economically feasible. Hollo also added that if people don’t like the way the lots are laid out, there are 160 people on a waiting list that would gladly take theirs.

Alderman Wright weighed in and said that he didn’t see why the issue was such a big deal and recommended that the Estells be given one more chance.

Alderman Gerl reiterated that the lake lots are supposed to be about having fun and he believed that Lamb was abusing his authority by having the trailer towed. Stacy Lamb said that her husband had spoke with Steve Estell about moving the camper and he agreed originally, but Tammy Estell refused and yelled at the Lambs. Lamb said that she believed if she did not want the Estells’ camper on the property they paid for, they should not have to allow the Estells to leave it there.

City Administrator Tonya Flannery cautioned the council about going back on the ordinance allowing the lake superintendent to enforce the rules of the lake area, which the council approves each year.

Alderman Gerl would motion to give the lot back to the Estells, a motion that passed 5-3. Gerl, Sisson, Brown, Wright and Kellenberger would vote yes, while Hollo, Paine and Street voted no.

In other business, the council approved an ordinance revising the budget year ending April 30, 2021 and authorized Crawford, Murphy and Tilly to oversee the construction of a new phosphorus chemical feed building for the wastewater treatment facility for an amount not to exceed $61,950. Flannery said that the building will keep the city in compliance with the state.

The council also passed motions to approve the beautification project provided by a local donor for an amount not to exceed $100,000 for expenditures and to contract Mike Klaves to water, weed and maintain the plantings, approved a contract with D&M Electric to install an electrical panel to supply the boat slips at Lake Lou Yaeger Marina 1 with a power source and approved the purchase of two new 2021 Charger Pursuit all-wheel drive patrol vehicles. 

Alderman Brown asked Police Chief Kenny Ryker about the purchase, mentioning that the department got a new car last year. Ryker said that was correct, but the department is well overdue and has an aging fleet. The two new cars will replace a 2008 and a 2011 car, the later of which has mechanical issues, and the department is receiving some outside funding from the school district for the purchase through the school resource officer agreement. Ryker said that they were originally scheduled to replace three, but one was Ryker’s vehicle and he opted to put off the purchase.

Two motions regarding the building of the school building at 120 West St. John were also approved. Alderwoman Sisson asked if the building would have storm shelters, with Building Inspector Gary Edwards saying that two, if not three, were incorporated into the design of the building. Alderman Kellenberger said that he saw the changes the district had made after their request for a street to be vacated was denied and thought the new design was super.

A motion to vacate a platted alleyway in the Sunset Park subdivision was also approved, as was a motion to change the zoning of the property at 1451 East Union Avenue from A-1 agricultural to C-2 general commercial after the closed session, which began at 7:57 p.m.

The change in zoning is contingent of certain limitations regarding the property, which is next to a residential area. In the past, residents in the area have opposed businesses such as liquor stores, storage facilities and gas stations for the property.

Attorney Eric Hyam was on hand to represent a client looking to develop the property and asked that the zoning not be restricted to professional offices or medical offices, which he said would eliminate such potential businesses as insurance agents and tech companies. He added that the client would be willing to limit the type of business going into the property, but would rather it have a broader definition.

The council also heard from Bert Holloway, who asked the city to consider an ordinance allowing UTV and side-by-side vehicles on city streets. Holloway said that several other neighboring communities have approved similar ordinances and that the move has generated $6,700 in revenue for the city of Hillsboro.

Holloway added that the vehicles have been proven to be no more of a safety issue than mopeds, slingshots and enduros and that approving such an ordinance would be supporting two local UTV dealers, Niehaus Cycle Sales and Action Powersports.

Mayor Dougherty said that the council couldn’t act on the idea at that meeting, but would discuss it.

The Litchfield City Council’s next meeting will be on Thursday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m. at Corwin Hall.

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