Water was the common theme of discussion during the Witt City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24.
Alderman Tim Taylor presented the water report, informing the council that the altitude valve feeding Irving’s water supply has broken. As a consequence, the water drained from their water tower, leaving the village without water for a short period of time.
EJ Water Cooperative representative Eric Emmerich informed Taylor that they did purchase a pressure valve. This will replace the faulty altitude valve and would arrive by the end of the week and be installed immediately.
He additionally noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in supply chain delays to receive their parts. EJ Water installed a new master meter to help catch leaks and other underlying issues quicker.
City Clerk Nancy Hughes received complaints about the new water meters leaking. Taylor cautioned that these new meters should not be opened.
Several aldermen witnessed the meters leaking. Taylor stated there was a grant contingency that allows some funding to fix infrastructural issues, like the water meter leaks.
It was also reported that there were several broken meter pits requiring replacement, as some of them are not cast iron. Mayor Shawn Cady stated that it is the old clay tile meter pits that are breaking.
Taylor would further inform the council about a meeting that he and alderman Jay Martin had with Emmerich. They found some issues and asked Emmerich to come back with a more accurate count of how many meters would be in use after billing is switched in September.
Resident Alvin Yeske addressed the council. He gave props to the aldermen for addressing several issues within the city, then inquired about replacing water meters that are not currently being used, which had been previously addressed.
Potential sewer rate hike on the horizon
Additionally, he informed the council that their current sewer rate will need to be increased by at least $7 for more grant funding eligibility. The current minimum billed for sewer is currently $8.
This proposed rate increase will be in addition to the current $2.50 surcharge. There was discussion on gradually increasing the rates over an extended period of time. The primary concern was posing financial hardship on some of its residents.
Taylor explained that the city is aware of its sewer issues, but they are not currently eligible for grants to fix their underlying problems because their current sewer surcharge is too low.
The council agreed to check on current sewer surcharges for neighboring communities and continue the discussion later.
More information on meter swaps
Taylor also noted there were still five meters remaining to be put in. Additionally, he would explain that only flagged meters are changed.
Any meter replacements not wanted will have removal free of charge. However, if residents refuse to have the meter swap now and then want a new meter at a later date, there will be a $500 meter replacement fee.
Alley behind Mac’s Diner closed to normal traffic
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.
Council addresses legal action
City attorney Chris Sherer address the board about a legal issue that concerns the state of Ohio for the collections in the matter of City of Witt, Illinois v. George Teye.
Sherer explains that the city has a substantial judgment against Teye, who owns property in the city. Additionally, this was property that was recently demolished.
The city began the process of legally recouping financial losses on the project under the guidance of former mayor Jim VanOstran.
Sherer has been in contact with a law firm in Ohio, which has offered to domesticate the Illinois judgment. This means taking the judgment made in Montgomery County and filing it locally so that it will be enforceable in Ohio. The council approves a motion to pursue the judgment at a cost of $1,000.
Ditch maintenance and mosquito nuisances
Discussion turned to recent rainfall and flooding. There was agreement that there should be better maintenance and regular cleaning of the ditches. Moreover, debris causes blockage issues and mosquitoes are breeding from standing water.
“Years ago, everyone took care of their properties and mowed their own ditches, but now properties are being left untended,” Cady stated. “I don’t like coming in to Witt seeing trash cans on the roads and trash everywhere.”
Cady stated this needs to be a team project.
“If the city is going to maintain the ditches in front of private residences, we need residents to do their part,” Cady added. “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. There was discussion about potentially using grant funding for the purchase, and Cady said he would price potential tractors or equipment and bring forth that information at a later meeting.
Hughes noted that mosquito spraying will occur prior to the Labor Day celebration.
Other Witt council business
Other business discussed in the meeting include:
- Approval of minutes from the July meeting, treasurer’s report, and fire and police reports.
- Alderman David Cearlock asked that Mayor Cady request Woods to bring the Drug Task Force back to the city. Keiser would receive a request to move the fire station’s practice car during the Labor Day celebration.
- Ordinance #2021-08-24A, an ordinance to approve the city’s annual appropriations, would pass in conjunction with passing the city’s annual budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
- Discussion on adopting a fraud policy, a requirement for one of the grants they are applying for. There was a tabling of the matter until more information is available.
- The council approved Ordinance #2021-08-24B, abolishing the office of the city attorney. This amends Section 1-2-88 of the city’s revised code of ordinances. Therefore, this allows them to retain and dismiss legal counsel with more ease than as an appointed position.
- The council would amend Ordinance #2021-08-24C reflecting a prohibition of camping on private property in the city. The period must not exceed seven consecutive days. This is with the exception of two weeks prior to and following the Labor Day holiday. The amendment and ordinance would receive unanimous approval.
- The aldermen also voted in favor of taking the tops off two trees located at 311 N. Second Street and removing tree stumps located at City Park.
- There was discussion on an electrical issue regarding a wire that feeds lighting at the softball diamonds. This issue will continue to be addressed. Meanwhile, they will find out more information from Ameren about a lighting grant. Other grants were discussed to help improve the park space.
This is a corrected, SEO-friendly version of a story published in the September 1, 2021 edition 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.