Council covers a lot of ground

Ashley Smith · Wednesday, April 26, 2017
The West Liberty City Council met for nearly three hours last Tuesday to discuss a water shut-off, construction delays at the waste water plant, a crack in the pool, two closed sessions and more.

Carolyn Lampe, a resident and business owner in West Liberty, addressed the council during public comments regarding discrepancies in a memo issued by Lawrence McNaul at the council meeting on April 4, 2017.

The memo explained that in March, the city shut off water service to Lampe’s property on N. Columbus Street, following a neighbor’s complaint that the pipe supplying Lampe’s building was leaking water. The supply pipe runs through the basement of her neighbors’ house.

“The memo says that the service line predates known city records,” said Lampe. “But the city did the work and they laid those lines 65 years ago.”

“If there are no records of it, that doesn’t speak very well of the city,” she said.

The memo also stated that her neighbors told the city Lampe had not responded to their correspondence about the leak.

“She sent me a threatening letter in January, and I took this letter immediately to my lawyer the next day,” said Lampe. Her lawyer then contacted her neighbors’ attorney.

Lampe also alleged that she was given no advance notice that her water service was to be suspended.

“Not a notice, not a warning, not a heads up,” said an emotional Lampe. “To say that they gave me notice is a falsehood.”

Mayor Robert Hartman emphasized that the issue of Lampe’s water supply line is a civil issue.

City attorney Amber Hardin confirmed that the city does not have the authority to send police officers into a property to force the issue.

“This is a property issue between two property owners,” said Hardin before reminding the council that they are currently under litigation from Lampe and her attorney.

“I understand that not having control over your water - it’s very frustrating,” Hartman said. “We’ll let the litigation work its way out.”

Other council business included the passage of several resolutions. The loan agreement for the Maxson Avenue improvement project and the 2016-2017 budget amendment passed unanimously.

City Engineer Leo Foley updated the council regarding the Waste Water Treatment Plant project.

“April 13 was the deadline it was supposed to be done,” said Foley. “They are obviously not done and they’re at about 80 percent.”

Automatic Systems, a third-party company responsible for installing the plant controls, is delaying the completion of the project, according to Foley. The contractor claims construction will not be complete until June 15.

“It’s not like he’s doing anything wrong, he’s just moving very slowly, because the Automatic Systems people aren’t in there yet,” said Foley.

Hiring another company to complete the control work would not be ideal at this point in the construction process, Foley explained. But there are other aspects of the project that the main contractor should be completing while waiting for the controls to be finished.

Another option could be pursuing litigation for the significant delay in completing the project, said Foley, but a court case would likely take even longer.

The contractor realizes he is at fault in this situation, said Foley. “I convinced him that it would be in his best interest to not wait. There’s things he can do over the next month while waiting for those controls,” he said.

“I think we can negotiate for some mutual benefits,” he said, suggesting the potential addition of some upgraded valves to be paid for by the contractor in exchange for the construction delay.

City Manager Lawrence McNaul announced that a crack in the Kimberly Pool, which was repaired two years ago, has reopened. The previous repair had been made with an epoxy.

“We can use the same epoxy, which did really well for two years, or we could cut out a section of concrete and replace it,” said McNaul.

The council voted to extend open burning through April 30, noting that several rainy weekends have prevented some residents from burning their yard waste. Council member Diane Beranek also suggested some alternatives to the weeded drainage ditch on the west side of Garfield Avenue.

“There are wildflowers that are specific for erosion control,” she said, “and they’re not terribly expensive.”

A preconstruction meeting with All American Concrete will be held on April 26 regarding the Maxson Street improvement project, and a neighborhood meeting for residents of the street will be held the following evening at 5:30 pm.

The council will seek more information before announcing a venue for the meeting.

The city utility committee met with CMH2 last week, which manages the Waste Water Treatment Plant, and voted to extend a one-year contract at no increase.

“With that, we’re still going to move forward with the cost analysis study to see about doing some comparisons,” said Foley.

Instead of employing CMH2, the city could eventually staff the Waste Water Treatment Plant with city employees, although the costs, risks and legal ramifications of that change are unknown.

“We’ll get that into a quick study so you have it, find out what other grade 4 operators are being paid in the state, and then you can compare it apples to apples,” said Foley.

Finally, the council entered a closed session for discussion of pending litigation, followed by a second closed session regarding the potential termination of city clerk Missy Carter.

The council concluded the meeting without announcing a decision in either issue. Requests for comments were declined.
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