March 24, 2023 at 11:33 a.m.

Town Council Meeting Notes 03/21

By Jessica [email protected]

Council president Ohmer Miller opened the meeting with a reminder to silence all electronic devices. He then led the opening prayer and pledge of allegiance.

The first item on the agenda was the approval of minutes from 01/03/2023 and 01/17/2023. John Walstad made a motion to approve them. Ed Johnson seconded the motion. It passed 5 – 0.

Approval of claims was up next. Herby Asher motioned to approve the claims with John Walstad seconding the motion. It passed 5 – 0.

The council then moved on to old business. Tony Akles with Strand & Associates presented the CCMG (Community Crossing Matching Grant) notice to proceed. He stated the award letter had been sent to Globe Asphalt and they had secured the appropriate bonds and insurance. The next step was giving a notice to proceed by April 6. They will then have 130 days to complete the project putting the completion date on August 14. August 29th will be the deadline for all finishing touches to be wrapped up. He needed a motion to approve the notice. Ed made the motion and Herby Asher seconded it. It passed 5 – 0.

The OCRA (Office of Community & Rural Affairs) wastewater grant was next. Jason Eckart stated he would like to pursue the first-round grant for 2023. The town did not get the grant last year. Victoria Bechert of ARA needs an initial draft to submit by April 28. Bechert stated there would need to be a public hearing at the April council meeting. She plans on submitting the maximum grant request of $600,000.00. She asked the council for approval of that amount for her grant proposal. Ohmer Miller asked for a motion. John Walstad made the motion. Ed Johnson seconded the motion. It passed 5 – 0.

Next on the agenda was a wastewater survey presented by Buzz Krohn of O.W. Krohn and Associates. Brandon Barthel gave the presentation. He stated this would be the first base rate change for water since 2018. A study of three years’ worth of revenue and expenses was presented. Asset funds have increased from $539,000.00 to $596,000.00 in the past three years. He reviewed income statements and balance sheets for three years as well, noting the bond debt and current monthly payments. He recommended a water rate increase of 18 percent across the board to cover rising expenses and bond debt. This would increase the average bill from $40.00 to $48.00 a month. Ed Johnson asked how the expense rate would be affected when the bonds expired. Ohmer Miller asked David Clouse if there was anywhere specific the 27 percent reported water loss was happening. Clouse could not pinpoint any one location stating it was most likely underground and not visible from the surface. Diane Burton asked if the rate increase was phased in how far the increases should be spaced out. Buzz Krohn recommended two increase phases of nine percent each.

Barthel then reviewed the wastewater income statement and balance sheet. He recommended creating an emergency fund of $50,000.00. He noted that rates had not increased since 2007 for sewer, stating sixteen years was a long time for no rate increases. He noted the current bills were very low compared to other communities at an average of $22.00 per month. Currently the town is charging less for the sewer than what they are paying out. He recommended a 61.5 percent increase as the current sewer rates are too low. That would increase the average monthly bill by $13.50 per month. Herby Asher asked if the wastewater rate increase could be done in phases as well. As rate changes will have to be made by ordinance, town lawyer Scott Andrews recommended a working session to discuss. A session was set for Tuesday April 4 at 5:30 p.m.

The council then moved on to the well house lot. Jason Eckart stated the lot located at Maple Street and the ally of Seminary had been bid on by the Burton family at $2,000.00. Russ would like to build a garage on it. There is a sewer line currently running under the lot which would need to be moved. The matter has been tabled for five years. The lot has incurred $1,500.00 in mowing costs for the town in the past five years. The lot is no longer buildable except for a garage. The lot is too small for living quarters. The initial bid was neither accepted nor denied. Clouse estimated it will cost $2,400.00 to move the existing sewer line. Russ Burton is willing to split that cost with the town. Jason Eckart recommended the town accept the $2,000.00 bid. Matt Galbraith noted you can’t build a secondary structure on a lot without a primary structure there first. Shanon Pittman asked why the matter was tabled for so long and whether or not it was now void. Ed made a motion to accept the bid contingent upon an easement being obtained, payment of half the sewer line cost, having it surveyed and paying closing costs. John Walstad seconded the motion. Shanon Pitman abstained from the vote with the remainder of the council voting in favor, 4 – 0.

The council then revisited the matter of the recycling dumpster. Jason Eckart stated he would like a few more months to find a suitable solution to dumpster that was costing the town $24,000.00 annually. He wanted to try reducing the cost before just removing the dumpster. Ohmer granted Eckart thirty days to continue his research. The council agreed to the extension.

A new job description was the next item on the agenda. David Clouse is set for retirement and the town needs an assistant utilities superintendent. David and New Focus HR helped craft the job description. Eckart asked for approval of the job description so the position could be filled. Ohmer asked David what he thought of the job description. Clouse thought it was adequate. Scott Andrews asked if it included and all other duties as necessary. Shanon Pittman motioned to accept it with John Walstad seconding the motion. The motion passed 5 – 0.

Jason Eckart then moved on to an initial ordinance violation letter and ordinance process plan approval. He presented a template letter for council approval. He hoped the letter would help those who were elderly or otherwise unable to clean up nuisance violations on their own. He hoped to work with them to find a solution to problems. Matt Galbraith did not like the letter. He called it fluff and stated he would be submitting his resignation if it was used, citing an ordinance violation letter should contain three things: the violation, the ordinance number, and a compliance date. Eckart responded that the blanket letter was to be a step before an ordinance violation is sent by Galbraith. Shanon Pitman commented that she felt the ordinance 2205 violation letter was too harsh. Jason felt it was a necessary step before the violation letter to help those who were elderly and unable to care for things themselves. The matter was tabled until April.

Joe Seal then asked the council for an alley closure. An auction for the estate of Ed Stone is being held on April 15 and 22. He asked to close a portion of the ally at Cross Street and Hackway. Ed made a motion to approve the closure. Shanon seconded the motion. Ohmer gave latitude to move the date in case of rain.

Scott Bourland of Grace Baptist Church then addressed the council. He wished to note the church was not asking the bank to leave and they were unsure of their future plants. A new building was not in their immediate future.

Matt Galbraith gave a quick update. There is a new pole barn going up in the 100 block of Jackson Street. A large pole barn is going on in the 600 block of Jackson Street since the lot line has been removed. He had a meeting with a homeowner in the 400 block of Harrison Street regarding fencing. Norman Funeral Home got a permit to put a three-car garage in on the lot by the log cabin.

The meeting was adjourned.