7/22/2022 12:59:00 PM Center City special session tackles old business
by DENISE MARTIN
Center City’s full council was on-hand for a “special” meeting Monday this week.
The two hour session updated city officials on a number of situations—except for the Hursh Ironworks at County Roads 9 and 12 and its continued operations. The city attorney reported he had nothing new on the city’s attempt to shutdown the complaint-creating industry after council deemed it in violation of zoning, near Pioneer Lake.
The day following this meeting, however, the city attorney requested a closed meeting with council on pending litigation. Council meets at 5 p.m. July 25. City clerk Valerie Fox, meanwhile, had some news on the water metering equipment and the existence of warranties.
The metering heads are costing $100 approximately and dozens need to be switched out to replace equipment that is no longer registering on the remote handheld reception devices. The public works crew is looking at tackling immediate replacement of bad equipment in at least 47 non-transmitting locations.
The newly discovered warranty information could net the city partial reimbursement from the meter company, depending on ages of equipment. The warranty may be applicable as long as 15 years. The company is sending details.
Council stressed the metering deficiencies must be addressed immediately.
Residents too, are asked to cooperate.
Quite a few have been unable to send in actual numbers from their meters, or even call and make an appointment for city staff to enter the home and get a physical reading. Residents need to understand this will be done at no charge and may even result in a savings. The clerk explained some issues with accounts with non-functioning metering, being charged an “estimated” use.
These accounts are potentially being billed more than what their actual water usage is. Without physical meter numbers there is not much that can be done to verify and re-set gallons and correct the fees.
Council member Mark Wolcott suggested the number of accounts where access to the physical meter numbers has not been possible, needs to be tallied. The city needs to have a better handle on gaps in actual use and estimated billing for the budgetary impact to be identified.
The sooner the metering process gets corrected the more hours staff can devote to doing regular city business. This impacts the budget too. The council heard that the city clerk may need to boost hours from the 35 in her contract, because issues have been requiring lots of attention.
The whole staffing compensation picture will get a better look during budgeting discussions. She was advised to try to keep hours to 35.
In a matter that carried over from the last council session, the council opted to not pursue paying costs in surveying a parcel for a home that has been using city-owned land in violation of outdoor storage ordinances. The owners say they do not know where their property lines are, and at the regular council session the possibility of the city participating in doing a survey was discussed.
Council member Ryan Pease commented that he heard remarks in the last several days from people who also would love the city to cover costs for surveying their lots. Mayor Jill Behnke agreed it is not good policy to spend money on a private survey and set a precedent, and the council concurred.
National Park Service staffer Barrett Steenrod brought council up to date on the bike trail project.
The NPS recently rated very highly the Center City application for assistance planning a trailhead for the Swedish Immigrant Regional Trail. NPS through its rivers and trails program has been meeting with local trail boosters.
Steenrod said in the next month or so information (survey) will be gathered from the community. The opinions and suggestions will be assessed by a committee of local volunteers and “the sentiment’ of the community determined.
Either he will continue walking the city through the planning process or not, he explained.
If Center City completes this planning and fleshes out the future of the Swedish Immigrant Regional Trail with an access point in town— it could position itself for future recreation and outdoors activity grants.
He stated Center City is in an “amazing position right now.”
The discussion will continue at Center City Days and via a survey being developed.
Council was supportive of leaving the location of a trailhead up for further review. The trailhead “can be so much more than just a parking lot,” Steenrod stated. City owned property by the Marien Dock & Lift business has long been eyed for a trailhead but it also has great promise as a commercial use that would pay taxes.
Council member Madonna Higgins said she is totally supportive of trails but she thinks the city should sell this site and look elsewhere. “I don’t want to give away land for a trail,” she explained. Council members Lloyd Vetter and Mark Wolcott verbally supported the concept of marketing this site.
Mayor Jill Behnke said she’d defer to letting residents have input in the decision.