City upkeep

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, June 14, 2017
The city council met Tuesday, June 6, where it discussed a billing error, several unmowed lawns, Maxson Street construction and water filtration.

To begin, a $120,000 billing error in the city’s electric utility is currently being reviewed and audited by BHMG Engineers, Inc. upon recommendation by the state auditor.

The billing error was discovered several months ago, and will soon result in a visit from the state auditor. The auditor will be looking for similar irregularities in the city’s other utilities.

“We’re just going to get everything looked at,” said City Manager Lawrence McNaul.

As a result, the city is postponing a search for a new city clerk. Former clerk Missy Carter was terminated from the position during a special council meeting Monday, May 22.

Instead, the council approved City Treasurer Lee Geertz as the Interim City Clerk, given her familiarity with the city and its finances.

“We want to get all these audits and accounts looked at,” McNaul later told the Index. “We need to get our hands wrapped around our operational procedures right now.”

During the next six months West Liberty will be undergoing several audits of its utility accounts, financial processes and procedural views.

Next, concern over unmowed yards was raised by Council Member Diane Beranek, stating she has been approached by several community members regarding the topic.

“It’s not just that it’s unmowed, it’s gone to seed because it’s unmowed,” she said, specifically identifying properties along First Street, Third Street and Columbus Street.

The properties in question are vacant, so care is left up to the real-estate agents or banks involved. However, that doesn’t always mean timely yard upkeep.

“We do go out and mow it,” said City Manager McNaul of the city’s response. “We send them a notice, wait, then public works will go out and do it. It’s not cheap.”

The properties were sent a notice and had 10 days to respond. If nothing happens, the city goes out and mows the property at full cost to whoever owns the land.

“We need to be more aggressive with the nuisances,” he added. “We’ve been in a transition with the role in who was doing it.”

The lawns in question are causing the most fuss because they’re located along the highway, making them clearly visible to pass-through traffic and the rest of the community.

McNaul stated he would be having a special meeting with the city attorney later in the week, the goal is to get much more serious about nuisance yards such as these.

In fact, he wants the city to begin fully utilizing its nuisance ordinances to their full extent, which has not been occurring as of late in the City of West Liberty.

“If people have neighbors they can call the city, it doesn’t come back to who has made the complaint,” said Council Member Melody Russell about reporting nuisance yards.

Next, construction to widen and improve Maxson Street is ongoing, with crews shutting down the intersection of Maxson and Elm Street by the high school to daytime traffic.

“They’re essentially just starting on the west side, they’ve been doing sanitary and sewer,” said City Engineer Leo Foley. “They’re having all kinds of conflicts, as typical, with water.”

The sanitary portion of construction will continue on that end of the street for the next several weeks. The old pavement was completely torn up on the western portion of Maxson.

The council approved a first pay estimate totaling $88,790 for All American Concrete for Maxson reconstruction, which is estimated to cost a total of $1.8 to 2 million when all is said and done.

The complete overhaul of the street includes new sanitation, above ground electricity, widening the road and general expansion to accommodate traffic.

It’s one of the largest street projects to occur in West Liberty for the past several years. It’s completion date is set for December, though there is hope it will be completed sooner.

Despite its size, construction crews were able to cement the west corner of Maxson to allow the Hot Rod Power Tour to cruise through West Liberty Monday, June 11, unhindered.

Finally, West Liberty water is beginning to taste a little better thanks to Reverse Osmosis (RO). The filtration system is just about up and running full-time.

The Water Treatment Plant has been running a series of checks and tests in order to make sure all of the equipment is running properly. The RO system was built and shipped in from Florida.

While iron removal filtration has been up and running since 2014 in West Liberty, this secondary filtration system is expected to soften the water.

“Next week I can see them putting water into your distribution system. They’ll probably have some hang ups, start for a while, stop for a while,” said Foley. “I think you’ll start seeing water next week.”

This means city water should, as a whole, begin to taste better. Even without this secondary filtration city water is within the legal safety limits.

In Other News…

-There will not be a city council meeting on July 4, which falls on the first Tuesday of the month when city council meetings are typically held. There will only be one meeting in July on July 18.

-The city council meeting time may get changed from 7:30 to 7 p.m. Meetings will still be held the first and third Tuesday of every month, but the council will vote on a possible time change at their next meeting.

-The council approved a vendor/voucher claims list in the amount of $121,305.13 Less Payroll as well as its regular council meeting minutes from May 16, 2017.

-Council Member Joey Iske asked if a stop sign could be put up at the corner of Miller and Eighth Street. She was informed that the city cannot, in this case the decision is up to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

-The Downtown Task Force received permission to close down Spencer Street between Third and Fourth Street on Saturday, June 24, for its upcoming Celebrate the Arts event, which will include art gallery walks with several businesses.

-The council approved a resolution confirming the approved budgeted inter fund transfers of sums for Fiscal Year 2017 for the City of West Liberty.

-A contractor contacted the city about building a cell tower for Sprint, but has yet to call the city back according to McNaul. The Iowa Utilities Board does not allow towers to be placed within city limits.

-Stop signs will be placed at the corner of Fourth and Spenser by the public library per request from the library board. For the past several months the city has pedestrian walks to educate and slow down traffic.

-The process behind nuisances and nuisance properties will be “worked on” according to City Manager McNaul.

-The council set a work session for 6:30 p.m. regarding financial records to be held prior to the typical city council meeting on June 20, 2017.
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