Witt City Council Sets Special Meeting, Dec. 19

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Witt City Council met on Tuesday evening, Dec. 15. The meeting was called to order with the Pledge of Allegiance at 7:00 p.m. Aldermen Tim Taylor, Kenny Vallelonga, Dave Cearlock, John Bauerle, Jay Martin and Randy Lowe,  Mayor Jim VanOstran and City Clerk Nancy Hughes were present. Vallelonga, and Lowe attended the meeting remotely, via the Zoom platform.

The aldermen looked at bids they had received for the demolition and site restoration of the building at 24 West Broadway Street. They received a bid for $24,500, from S. Lynch, LLC., of Witt, and one for $63,000 from S. Schafer Excavating, Inc., of Pontoon Beach. The board will hold a special meeting to vote on which bid to accept at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19, at City Hall.

Eric Emmerich, representing EJ Water Cooperative, spoke to the group  regarding the need to replace a pump, flange and 30 horsepower (HP) pump at the lift station for a total cost of $26,755 - $8,255 for the flange and $18,500 for the 30 HP pump. Emmerich explained that the pump is old and worn and the flange is not sealing properly, if there is a wet season several homes could potentially flood/backup. He informed the board that prices will go up at the end of the year, so these quotes will increase if no immediate action is taken. EJ Water Cooperative also recommended the need to replace a five HP pump due to age and wear, at a cost of $6,004.37. This pump is at the same location as the 30 HP pump but at a different site. After an extensive discussion, the board voted in favor of making the replacements with the funds to be taken evenly from the General Fund and the Water and Sewer Fund.

Emmerich informed the board that he had received calls from two residents outside of the city limits but currently served by the city who want to hook up to Rural Water. The residents informed Emmerich that they continually have leaks on their current service line and would like to hook onto EJ’s water line. They are currently not included in the plans for the new water line. EJ Water assessed the situation and estimated it would cost an additional $5,300 to build out the line. The water cooperative offered to halve this cost with the city, decreasing the cost to $2,650. Alderman Cearlock pointed out that there could be potential issues with the council paying for this fix, as past precedent has been that homeowners have had to pay for any issues with water lines that are on their property out of their own pockets. He went on to state that as much as they would like to help, if the city picked up this cost, other residents may ask for reimbursements and that the city could not afford to honor these potential requests.   The board voted in favor of allowing the customers to hook up to EJ’s water line at their own cost - an estimated $1,325 apiece.

Emmerich then explained that two emergency purchases had been made with Mayor VanOstran’s approval. The fluoride scale failed and  had to be replaced in order to stay compliant, at a cost of $400. A two inch, brass check valve has also been ordered at a cost of $100.

The board moved on to the bills. The alderman questioned a bill from Witt Fire Department for $2,000 for payment of one of their fire trucks. The board voted to halve the request and make a payment of $1,000 to the fire department. All other bills were approved.

In place of a police report, Alderman Taylor updated the board on Police Chief Scott Wood’s recovery. He is back home but not yet well enough to return to work.

The council returned to a request they received at last month’s meeting 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 voted in favor of approving an ordinance to vacate half of the alley to Mr. Harston,with all legal fees to be paid by him.

Discussion then turned to hiring PRN city employees to fix water leaks, rather than outsourcing repairs to a commercial plumber. Clerk Hughes informed the board that one former PRN employee was still retained by the city, Scott Lynch, but the council would need to advertise for additional PRN employees. The alderman discussed PRN employee payment and voted in favor of setting wages at $35 an hour with an additional $65 added on for use of equipment. The intention is for the PRN workers to use the city’s equipment. Alderman Martin asked if the PRN workers would raise the city’s insurance premiums. Alderman Cearlock asked about workers compensation. The discussion was tabled until further information could be presented to the council.

Cearlock brought up an issue with trash accumulating around the city and asked if they should contact the probation office about sending people who need to fill community service sentences. All agreed.

Mayor VanOstran turned the discussion toward possible uses of the city’s former recycling center. Alderman Martin suggested putting a door on the center and turning it into a shed. Bauerle stated the need to purchase a camera for the area as well, to protect any equipment stored inside.

The mayor then informed the board that there is a drainage issue with the ditches running along Second and Third Streets, which is causing around three blocks of water retention. It was suggested that the issue may be with one of the culverts that had recently been replaced, and that rather than re-digging the ditches the culvert may need to be raised. The alderman asked Scott Lynch to assess the situation and present a quote for any repairs to the council.

Alderman Taylor brought up an ongoing issue of residents harassing city workers. Mayor VanOstran agreed to speak with the resident in question and direct them to bring any complaints to the council directly or to fill out a complaint form at the City Hall building. It was also suggested that the city workers start keeping a record of any harassment.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:16 p.m. 

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