Witt Continues To Address Water Issues

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Mayor Shawn Cady called the meeting of Witt City Council to order at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24, with the Pledge of Allegiance.  Aldermen Dave Cearlock, Jay Martin, Lyn Cady, Catherine Cady, Kaitlin Govaia and Tim Taylor, City Clerk Nancy Hughes, Treasurer Sonia Hodson, Fire Chief Don Keiser and City Attorney Chris Sherer were present.

Alderman Taylor gave the water report. He informed his fellow aldermen that the altitude valve that feeds Irving’s water supply broke again, consequently draining their water tower and leaving the village without water for a short period. 

He stated that Eric Emmerich, EJ Water Cooperative representative, was informed and that the pressure valve (which was purchased by the City of Witt to replace the faulty altitude valve) would arrive by the end of this week and would be installed immediately. 

He stated that the ongoing pandemic has caused delays in parts being received. EJ also put a new master meter in, free of charge, to help catch leaks/issues more quickly.

Taylor went on to inform the board that Clerk Hughes has received several complaints about the new water meters leaking. He cautioned that people should not be opening the new meters. 

Several other council members stated that they had personally witnessed the meters leaking. Taylor stated that there was a contingency in the grant the city was awarded to allow the use of some funding to fix issues, such as the meter leaks. 

There are also several broken meter pits that need to be replaced as some of them are not cast iron. Mayor Cady stated that it is primarily the old clay tile meter pits that are broken.

Taylor moved on to update the council about a meeting he and Alderman Martin had with Emmerich. They found some issues and asked Emmerich to come back with a more accurate number of which meters would be in use after billing was switched from the city to the cooperative next month.

He told the other aldermen that their current sewer rate need to be increased by at least $7, in order for the city to be eligible for more grant funding. The current rate is $2.50 per 1,000 gallons - among the lowest rates in the state. 

The proposed rate increase would be in addition to the current $2.50 surcharge. The aldermen discussed how to gradually increase the rates over an extended period of time to avoid any financial hardship to residents. 

Taylor explained that the city is aware there are sewer issues, but they are not eligible for grants to fix problems because the current sewer surcharge is too low. The council agreed to check what the current sewer surcharges are for neighboring communities and continue the discussion at a later meeting. Taylor went on to explain that there are still five meters that need to be put in. He explained that only the meters that are flagged will be changed.

Any meters that have been replaced that the owner does not want will be removed free of charge. However, if residents refuse to have their meter changed now and then want a new meter at a later date, there will be a $500 fee to replace the meter. Taylor mentioned that there is a potential issue with the alley behind Mac’s Diner and people driving over the meters located there. He asked about making a portion of the alley open to authorized vehicles only.

Resident Alvin Yeske addressed the council. He gave props to the aldermen for addressing several issues within the city. He then spoke about replacing water meters that are not currently being used - which had been previously addressed. 

After the treasurer’s report and the bills were approved, reports were presented from Fire Chief Don Keiser and Officer Scott Woods. Alderman Cearlock asked that Mayor Cady request Wood bring the Drug Task Force back to the city. Chief Keiser was asked to move the fire station’s practice car during the Witt Labor Day celebration.

Martin made a motion to approve the city’s annual budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. All voted in favor. The council then voted in favor of approving the Annual Appropriation Ordinance (#2021-08-24).

Attorney Sherer addressed the board about a legal issue concerning the State of Ohio for the collections in the matter of the City of Witt, IL, v. George Teye. He explained that the city had a substantial judgement against Teye, who owns property in the city that was recently demolished. Under former Mayor Jim VanOstran’s leadership, the city began the process of legally recouping financial losses on the project. Sherer has been in contact with a law firm in Ohio that has offered to domesticate the Illinois judgement - meaning that they will take the judgement that was made in Montgomery County and file it locally so that it will be enforceable in the state of Ohio. The aldermen voted in favor of pursuing the judgement at a cost of $1,000.

The council went into a discussion on adopting a fraud policy for the city; a requirement of one of the grants they are applying for. The matter was tabled until more information can be presented.

The board voted in favor of abolishing the office of city attorney (amending section 1-2-88 of the revised code of ordinances for the city) to allow them to both retain and dismiss legal counsel with more ease than they could if the position is an appointed office.

Discussion returned to amending Ordinance #2021-08-24C stipulating that camping on private property within the city will not be allowed for a period of more than seven consecutive days with the exception of the time period of two weeks before Labor Day through two weeks after Labor Day. All voted in favor. The aldermen also voted in favor of taking the tops off of two trees located at 311 N. Second Street, and removing tree stumps located at City Park.

Taylor informed the board that there was an issue with one of the electrical wires that feeds the lighting at the softball diamond. He pointed out that the fields/lighting is regularly used for games as well as a landing point for helicopters in medical emergencies. Taylor contacted Ameren about fixing the current wire issue and was informed that there is a grant available to update the lights but that it has to be submitted by an electrician. He asked for permission to reach out to an electrician to pursue the grant. Discussion turned to other improvements needed at the softball fields. All agreed that tournaments generate traffic and business to the city. The aldermen discussed potential grants that could be used to improve the park space. 

Discussion turned to the recent rains and flooding. All the aldermen agreed that ditches need to be better maintained and cleaned out regularly throughout the city because debris is causing blockage issues, as well as breeding mosquitoes from standing water.

Mayor Cady stated that “Years ago everyone took care of their properties and mowed their own ditches but now properties are being left untended. I don’t like coming in to Witt seeing trash cans on the roads and trash everywhere. If the city is going to maintain the ditches in front of private residences we need residents to do their part. I want everyone to work together. We need to be a team. We are not going to make this town any better if we don’t.”
 Cady addressed the aldermen about purchasing a tractor and accessories to better maintain the city’s ditches. They also discussed potentially using grant funding for the purchase. Mayor Cady will price potential tractors/equipment and bring more information to a later meeting.

Clerk Hughes informed the board that the city will be sprayed for mosquitoes prior to the Labor Day celebration. 

The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.   

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