Before swearing in the new members of the Witt City Council in their May 25 general session, the outgoing mayor and council members had to finish up on some unresolved business.
A water report from EJ Water Cooperative’s Eric Emerick detailed standard practices and procedures (SPP) in their agreement with the city for wholesale water purchases. Some of these SPPs include a 10 percent late fee for late payments made at least three days after the due date, shut-off notices being sent out for nonpayment after 60 days, a $100 reconnection fee with no after-hours reconnections, and a $500 reinstallation fee for canceled accounts in addition to having to pay all past due balances.
In his report to the council, Emerick stated that they are working on getting a complete quote on replacing the bulk water meter. While that is being worked on, he is working with City Clerk Nancy Hughes to get the locations of the meters as EJ Water plans to record the information into a spreadsheet.
In the coming weeks, EJ Water will be working with the city to collect additional information leading up to the issuing of the first water bill from the water cooperative.
Emerick had three action items for the council’s approval. Motions to approve the telemetry contract renewal with Evoqua and approve the SPP would pass. However, the motion to approve a $3,000 budget for replacing the bulk water meter was tabled to the June meeting.
As a result of the SPP approval, the water rates are broken down to a $7.50 service fee, a rate of $5.06 per 1,000 gallons, and a monthly surcharge of $5 for a minimum bill of $17.56, inclusive of the first 1,000 gallons. However, the minimum bill for no water usage will be $12.50.
The structure of the sewer billing is much more limited, as there is a $5.50 service fee and a $2.50 rate per 1,000 gallons. The sewer rate minimum with the first 1,000 gallons will be $8.
In addition to a $150 water deposit, any water the city sells outside of the community, for example, Irving, the set rate is $8.50 per 1,000 gallons of water sold.
Other business pre-transition
Other items of business taken by the former council include:
• Approval of the fire and police reports regarding events that took place since the previous meeting.
• Approval of the treasurer’s report, which reflected a receipt of $3,601.70 from the municipal utility tax. Also approved were bills of an unspecified amount.
• Due to no recent meetings of the city’s standing committees, there was nothing to report in this session.
• CTI president Billy Williams spoke before the council regarding a list of requests the company is making in relation to rolling out service to the city. Among those requests was the construction of a facility that would house crucial equipment to keep the fiber Internet network running strong. Some locations were discussed, including the former Witt facility for the now-defunct Montgomery County Recycling program. Williams and the council will continue to communicate on this matter.
• A discussion on the approval of water and sewer easements for M & M Service Company was had, but no action was taken on the matter.
• A discussion on the missing wrought iron signage at Witt Cemetery was had, as there was curiosity as to when and why the sign was removed, where it went and why it wasn’t put back up. There was speculation that the sign had disappeared sometime in the early-to-mid 20th century, with no idea as to its current location, if it still is in existence.
• There was a brief discussion regarding the city receiving a grant for a new police car.
• The council opened sealed bids for the removal of four trees throughout the city. Three individuals submitted sealed bids for removal, with only one offering stump removal. One bid from Scott Knebel reflected subsequent bids per tree of $1,400, $1,050, $900 and $2,000 for a grand total of $5,350. A bid from another individual would be submitted for $975, $1,300, $1,500 and $975 respectively for a grand total of $4,750. Floyd Storm Jr. offered stump removal in the bids for each respective tree: $600 plus $175 for removal, $950 plus $150 for removal, $600 plus $150 for removal, and $1,000 plus $150 for removal. The combined total for Storm’s bid was $3,775. The council voted to approve the bid from Storm.
• Planned public comments from Alvin Yeske regarding a variety of issues and Sherri and/or Greg Hilt regarding a water meter issue did not take place as the parties were not present at the meeting.
The former council would call for a recess to allow for the swearing-in of the new city council.
Transition of power in Witt
Members of the new city council were sworn in by the Honorable James L. Roberts, resident circuit judge of the Fourth Circuit in Montgomery County. The newly installed council members are Lyn Cady, Catherine Cady, Kaitlin Govaia, Jay Martin, and David Cearlock. Ward 2 alderman-elect Timothy Oller was not present at the meeting.
During the transition, city attorney Chris Sherer advised the council to keep Tim Taylor on the council in the interim. Oller has until the council’s June 22 general session to take the oath of office before Hughes or the position will be vacated with intent to retain Taylor on the council.
Incoming mayor Shawn Cady and newly reelected clerk Hughes and city treasurer Sonia Hodson were also sworn in.
Among items of business following the swearing-in of the new city council were:
• Discussions on the American Rescue Plan, as presented by Dan Rogers.
• Action was taken on the repair of water meters that have been run over by residents.
• Action was taken on approval of ditch work.
• Placement of a dumpster was approved with intent for consistent ordinance violators to clean up their properties. Further action on what is accepted and a reasonable fee will be taken in the June session.
• The council heard a motion to rescind a motion for hiring Kerber, Eck & Braeckel LLP (KEB) for its 2021 audit, citing frustration with the timeliness of response time in the audit process. Martin stated that the deal with KEB was a “gentleman’s deal” and did not feel comfortable backing out of the deal. In the discussion was the intent to rehire Patton & Company PC, although that proposal was met with some skepticism. The council opted to finish out the final year of their deal with KEB before taking further action.
With no reasons to enter into executive session, the council adjourned shortly after 9 p.m. and will reconvene at the Witt City Hall on June 22.
This article was originally published in the June 2, 2021 issue of the Nokomis Free Press-Progress.
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Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.