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December 4, 2021

11/12/2021 1:40:00 PM
Center City Council finishes street vacate request, ups firefighter pension

Two things got checked-off the “old business” section of the Center City agenda last week.  The city heard that Calendar Isle homeowners have decided to no longer pursue city takeover of their circular street and culvert crossing.  The issue of turning over the private association system has come before city council sporadically in past years, but no terms ever seem to materialize where the city can be assured the infrastructure meets generally accepted municipal standards.

And, the resolution granting a request for the city to vacate a street between the old jail and Government Center,  to allow for a plat for development at First and Lake Streets, was adopted 5-0.   Council said the city was getting 40 extra feet carved off the property and added to First Street as an outlot, which now accesses the lake. Pam Niemezycki, the landowner, can erase lot lines and the old right of way— recombining for three new lots facilitating a potential  project.  The vacation becomes effective when the future final plat comes in.

Meanwhile, the new post office mall outdoor lighting continues to be an item of discussion.

No resolution was arrived at as a mall spokesperson explained to council last week the lighting is needed for security and employee safety.  The installer (electrician) said the suggestion to attach a hood or canopy over the bright white LED light strips was tried, but didn’t yield much reduction in intensity.

Council member Ryan Pease said the lighting that outlines the entire roof of the strip mall, is beyond what’s normal. He added, it “protrudes way past the parking lot” and pressed for further options.

Apparently Center City has no code promoting ‘dark skies’ or regulating lighting. Council was asked by the mall representative if the mall is in violation of city ordinances and there was nothing to cite.

Mayor Jill Behnke suggested that the council meeting had shed about as much light on the subject as possible, and maybe the mall complaints could be brought up at a later date.
She also advised the mall owner the two bars nearby, which were highlighted as part of the reason lighting was deemed necessary, either are not open certain days, or close early on other days, adding maybe the mall could try adjusting hours the lights are on.

~ The firefighter pension annual years of service payout was increased.

The vote was 5-0 to bring the benefit to $2,300 from the current $1,800.  Firefighters are vested after five years of service.  The benefits account managed by the State in Center City’s situation, has sufficient funds now to cover the department’s entire liability and then some, it was reported.

Clerk Valerie Fox asked for some direction on water and sewer billing. Having been hired just a few months ago she is finding certain areas of her duties that are not clear cut.

For example, some massive sewer/water delinquencies built up over recent years and there also has been account estimating, where meters are deemed unreliable.

Plus, there seems to have been a decision administratively to not charge the $50 hook-up and shut-off fee for snowbirds.  The city ordinance calls for $50 to cover public works’ time to shut down the water main at a vacant property to avoid freezing and to also turn the water back on when requested.

Public Works Supervisor Eric Garner said he only does a handful each year.

The fee is to be collected, starting spring 2022, council decided and residents who have utilized this service will be notified.

The Clerk also brought unpaid fire callout bills to the council attention.

Township based calls can not be attached to property tax— but calls in the city may.  There are $10,000 in past due payments sent out by the fire department/first responders that are outstanding.

Council asked to see the list, check addresses,  and will have a workshop to review if a collection professional needs to be retained to help.

Continuing on the revenue owed theme, Garner updated council on water loss.  The city has half-a-million gallons unaccounted for, he reported. Metering improvements could make a big difference in amounts of water registering as pumped through the system, but not matching up with what’s being billed.

Council discussed and approved replacing meters and the remote radio frequency “heads” that transmit readings for properties that Garner feels are the most problematic.  He knows of several water accounts in the Dew Drop townhome neighborhood that have failing reader batteries and/or slow meters, he shared. Homeowners are encouraged to cooperate when  contacted for appointments to upgrade your equipment.

The sewer system will  benefit from the American Recovery Program Act funding.  Center City has approximately $30,000 in the bank and another appropriation in 2022 coming.

Two lift stations will get new pumps and accessories as soon as possible, using the ARPA monies and some existing balances. Cost is estimated at about $32,000.  Both are “worn out,” but being 30 years old, Garner said the city “got its money’s worth out of them.”

And, heading into winter and a somewhat slower season in public works, council learned the second public works staffer is looking at an extended health-related leave.  There will be discussion between the personnel committee and Garner on how he would like to see this leave, (the second one for this worker) handled.

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