Litchfield Swears In Re-Elected Council

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With the election in the review mirror, it was time to swear in six members of the Litchfield City Council on Thursday, May 6.

All six returned to positions they had previously held as Mayor Steve Dougherty, City Clerk Carol Burke and alderpersons Marilyn Sisson, Mark Brown, Kassidy Paine and Ray Kellenberger were all re-elected on April 6.

Before the “new” council was sworn in, there was other business to do during the meeting. Sewer rates in the City of Litchfield will be increasing by 12 percent next year, and mostly likely the year after that as the city faces $3.2 million in infrastructure improvements in the future.

Members of the Litchfield City Council approved the increase for this coming year after Alderman Dwayne Gerl proposed an amendment for a motion that would have increased the rates 12 percent a year for each of the next three years, reducing that number to just one year.

According to City Budget Officer Jereme Zook, the increase is necessary due to a large amount of planned improvements, including $2 million worth that have been approved for this year’s budget. Zook said that it wasn’t a problem to take the increases year-by-year, but another increase would definitely be needed next year to keep a positive fund balance in the sewer account.

Alderwoman Kassidy Paine asked what would happen if the fund went into the red. Zook said that the state says that the fund has to be self sustaining and the city would have to look at borrowing money or cutting costs if that occurred. Mayor Steve Dougherty said that government grants often carry the condition that the fund is self-sustaining as well.

The council also approved an agreement for operations, maintenance and management service of the wastewater treatment facility with Veolia Water North America-Central, approved a resolution for street and highway maintenance, approved engineering and administrative services with Martin Engineering for $36,300 for the Old Route 66 North improvement project and approved pay request number four from Gelly Excavating and Construction in an amount of $73,162.40 for work on the South Side Ditch project.

Alderwoman Marilyn Sisson asked if the ditch project had been completed, with special projects manager Art Levoy saying that the city was still withholding $25,000 pending satisfactory turf growth.

While none of the 14 motions on the new business agenda would fail, two pertaining to the Eagle Ridge subdivision did narrowly pass by a 5-3 margin. A motion to approve an entrance sign for the subdivision from Ace Sign Company and a motion to approve the leasing of lot 22 of the subdivision both received no votes from Dwayne Gerl, Marilyn Sisson and Mark Brown.

The lease, which will be for 60 years with an option to renew, was for $160,000, with an annual base rent of $1,500 per year. The lot, one of 41 in the new subdivision, is one of two at the southernmost tip of the lakefront properties and is the first to be leased by the city.

In other lake business, the council granted a time extension to Endrizzi Contracting to July 31 for the Lake Lou Yaeger project and approved a proposal for engineering services from Crawford, Murphy and Tilly for $52,000 for the Lake Lou Yaeger sanitary sewer, pump station and force main project.

In other business, the council approved a motion to direct the plan commission to consider the draft of the city’s comprehensive plan, approved a four-year contract with Kerber, Eck and Braeckel for accounting services to the city, approved the sale of a 1994 Pierce Saber engine and pumper to Russ Campbell for $1,580, approved a contract for billboard advertising with Lamar for $6,695 and approved printing of 5,000 Lake Lou Yaeger brochures from Journal Printing for $2,864.

Prior to the regular agenda, the council heard from Bert Holloway regarding UTV, side-by-side and golf cart usage in the city. Holloway, who spoke at the April 15 meeting regarding the same topic, said he had more than 300 signatures on a petition in favor of allowing the vehicles to be used in city limits and an “army of constituents” that would have flooded Corwin Hall under normal, non-COVID, circumstances. He added that the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office also approved of the vehicles usage.

Holloway said that the vehicles are much safer than the mopeds and bicycles with weed eater mowers on them that are already allowed and said that his 2020 Honda Talon is more expensive than most cars, with an MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) of $24,000, plus $5,000 in accessories.

Holloway ended by saying that he would like the matter to be voted on that night and warned that the supporters would remember who voted against the measure come election time.

Mayor Dougherty told Holloway that the council could not vote on the matter that night since it was not on the agenda, which drew a laugh from Holloway. Dougherty added that he had told Holloway earlier that the matter would be addressed, but only after the city had time to do due diligence on the proposal.

After completing the agenda, the council adjourned sine die (without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing) and  the council members were sworn in. Mayor Dougherty then called the new council back into session and began the appointment of the city attorney (Hantla and Hantla), sewer revenue collector (Carol Burke) and named the standing committee assignments, which did not change from the previous council.

In addition to the committee assignments, Ray Kellenberger, Kassidy Paine and Dave Hollo were assigned to the economic development committee; Tim Wright, Paine and Dwayne Gerl were named to the equipment replacement committee; and Kellenberger was named to the planning and zoning board.

Appointments were also made for six Litchfield committees before the meeting was adjourned for the night. Carol Burke was named to the police pension board for a two-year term. Pam Voyles, Kevin Brumm and Judy Dalhaus were named to the plan commission for a three-year term. Kent Redfern, Lonnie Bathurst and Mike Fleming were named to the economic development commission for a four-year term, with Frank Fleming added as a non-voting emeritus member. James Wright was named to the airport authority for a five-year term. Dave Hershberger and Ann Pattillo were named to the tourism advisory committee for a three year term and Richard Ward and Bill Borklund were named to the tree board for a three-year term.

Mayor Dougherty said more committee appointments will be made in the future. The next Litchfield City Council meeting will be held Thursday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Corwin Hall.

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