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Fox resigns, Doig takes charge

Large turnout questions continuing issues with water bills

September 11, 2013
BY ALEX KING - Staff Writer , Tyler Star News

To complete the unfinished term of Mayor Dave Fox until the March election, Sistersville Council appointed Councilwoman Ann Doig as mayor at its regular meeting on Monday evening. The meeting was held in the Sistersville Fire Hall rather than the City Building, and more than 60 residents attended. All council members were present.

Mayor Fox's resignation came about because of his address change to a residency outside of Sistersville. His move to the Wheeling area was first openly questioned at the Aug. 12 regular meeting, at which time council determined to add the appointing of a mayor to a special meeting already planned for Aug. 19. However, that meeting did not occur because a quorum of council members was not established.

Fox was not present to resign Monday evening, but he submitted his resignation prior to the meeting. The resignation was unanimously accepted by vote of the council, and nominations for the position followed. Other than Doig, who was nominated by Councilman Bill Schleier, former mayor and current Councilman Bill Rice was nominated by Councilman Mitch Corley.

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Prior to the meeting, residents continue to fill the Sistersville Fire Hall to take part in public forum and witness the appointing of a new mayor.

Council members voting in favor of Doig were Colin Marrin, Richard Long, Schleier, Jason Hood, and Doig. Council members who voted in favor of Rice were Craig Pritchett, Corley, and Rice. With a five to three vote, Doig was appointed mayor and sworn in thereafter by Recorder Julie Schleier. When it came to approving her as mayor, all council members were in favor and none opposed.

While some of the citizens present expressed their desire to weigh in on the appointing of mayor, Recorder Schleier answered in regard to charter specifications, which state that council appoints someone to fill the position.

"This is within council," she said. "You will have a chance in March to elect your mayor."

Residents were required to sign in when they entered the meeting room and signify whether or not they would like to speak during the public forum by writing a "yes" or a "no" beside their names. Recorder Schleier, who conducted the meeting and public forum section prior to Doig's appointment as mayor, answered many of these questions, which largely concerned issues with water bills.

Ronald Wilkinson said that he has visited the city building for three months in a row to have issues straightened out with his water bill and he is expecting the issues to continue next month.

Recorder Schleier cited glitches caused by the transition from the old billing system to a new one.

"If you just come and tell us what's wrong, we fix it," she said. "Did we not fix your water bill?"

Wilkinson stated that although they did fix it, the problem was still ongoing.

"We'll check on that for you," she said.

Audist Pancake, who said that she pays her bills on time, questioned why she received a termination notice for water service.

"I just received for our business, Making Miracles, a termination notice that you are going to shut my water off this week," she said . "I would like to know why."

"Did you call the city today?" asked Recorder Schleier.

"No, I did not," said Pancake. "I was in Morgantown. This makes it very rough on my business when I make my payments. I would like to hear an apology for everybody who has had their water bills messed up in the last few months. It's made it very difficult for a lot of the people in the city."

"We have apologized to anyone who comes in, and I'll apologize now to you," said Recorder Schleier. "If you come in, we'll look at it and see why you got that notice. Like I said before, we have a few glitches in this water billing program that we're trying to get straightened out."

"I accept your apology," said Pancake.

Teresa Wilkinson also discussed issues she has had with water bills.

"This is kind of ridiculous," she said, stating that there are people who only get paid once a month. She suggested that if the city is able to put money into boat docks and a walking trail, they should be able to help with people having problems with water bills.

"We have helped by offering a deferred payment plan," said Recorder Schleier.

Councilman Schleier responded to Wilkinson's concerns, clarifying that those city projects were paid for using grant money.

"Grant money is what built those boat docks, and a lot of other things in town were completely done with grant money from the state," he said. "That money is designated specifically for a certain project. We can't use it on anything else, unfortunately."

Wilkinson continued to address the water billing issues and termination notices, and Councilman Schleier stated that they are still working on glitches in the system.

Pam Hodgman cited PSC regulation 4.3.1 and asked when Sistersville would be in compliance with the Public Service Commission (PSC). According to 4.3.1, water rates must be printed on water bills.

Hodgman also questioned how someone could receive a water bill without having applied for one, signing an application or having their photo ID on record with the city building.

"When you move into a property you're supposed to come down to the city and fill out a water application and give us a copy of your driver's license " said Recorder Schleier.

She also answered Hodgman's first question.

"We are in total compliance with the PSC on everything we're doing," Julie Schleier said.

Mark Walker questioned if former Mayor Fox had turned in any city property he might have been using for city-related purposes.

"I'd like to know, with the mayor's resignation effective today, has he turned in the city cell phone, keys, and credit cards?"

"The mayor doesn't have any credit cards, the mayor doesn't have any keys to city hall, and his cell phone belonged to himself," answered Recorder Schleier.

"Thank you," said Walker.

Beri Fox addressed conflicts that may arise from "outdated" sections of the city charter.

"In light of the recent controversy over the charter and what it says and doesn't say, and how that affects us, I would like to ask council to make revisions of certain sections," she said.

She suggested a revision to section six, qualifications of officers and mayor, in order to avoid confusion over residency questions in the future.

"The West Virginia Code does address that," said Flannery. "So although your charter does not address it specifically, the West Virginia Code does state that unless otherwise provided in the charter, the mayor has to be a resident."

When Fox asked about section 10, which does not recognize that women can vote, Flannery said that the Supreme Court overrules any unconstitutional provisions.

Flannery then explained the process for correcting the charter.

"There's an expedited procedure for amending the charter" she said. "It requires a public hearing, and if anyone objects to it, it's put to the vote of the citizens."

She said many charters are outdated and redoing the codified ordinances would be an expensive process.

Councilman Rice explained that ordinances can be added to the current city charter. He said that in 2002 it would have cost $10,000 to re-codify ordinances and at that time they did not have the available funds.

Fox expressed a fund raiser could be held to cover such charges.

In an unrelated matter, United Methodist Church Pastor Bill Dawson, who headed the Heroes Day event on Sunday, expressed his gratitude to the council and members of the community for their support and participation.

"I just wanted to thank the city for allowing us to have the Heroes Day celebration yesterday," he said. "The crowd that came out, we appreciate the support, and hopefully we can do this again as an annual event. Again, thanks for the support, and thanks for allowing us to use the city park. We had a great time."

Deviating from the agenda and addressing a list of questions passed to both the public and council members prior to the meeting, Councilman Rice addressed issues he had been made aware of when he and Councilman Corley met with employees of the Sistersville Public Library.

"They say they can't get any cleaning supplies or any toilet paper for the building, that the city won't give them any money. I looked at the last two short budget reports for the city. We should be in the 2013-2014 budget right now. The last one that I'd seen, they had $7,674.23 left in their account. Their budget for the year was $18,000."

"They've received supplies for over 40 years," he said. "When was the decision made to stop doing this?"

Among other library matters brought into question were repairs that reportedly still need to be made. One such repair would include a leaking roof, which according to Rice has caused damage to a wall in the multi-purpose room which was recently remodeled using funds from an anonymous donor.

"Who fixed up the all-purpose room?" asked Doig.

"I was told it was fixed up with a $10,000 grant from money someone donated," said Rice.

"Who did it?" she asked.

"I don't know who did it," he said.

"I'd like to know who did it," she said. "It'd be nice to know."

Other repairs demanded were for a rotted window and hazardous lighting. Some of these repairs are reportedly necessary in order to put the library in compliance with the insurance company.

Rice went on to ask how much money the library is supposed to get from the levy and how much in their account is designated for book expenditures.

"I've got the information right here for them," said Doig. "I talked to Beverly Henderson today." Henderson is co-chair of the Library Board.

"It's only taken a year, but thank you," said Henderson.

"That's been months coming, I get," said Rice.

Doig said that if the library had regular meetings, they could accomplish more. She also said that they had no control over a lot of their paperwork because lawyers took the books.

Rice informed council that the library would like to have a copy of the city charter and codes.

Recorder Schleier said that the charter and codes were at the Secretary of States Office and online.

Next, Rice mentioned a recent demand from council members for keys to the library. Doig stated that the incident with the keys arose when library employees began complaining.

"They had never given us a set of keys," said Doig. "We asked and we asked and we asked, and we were nice about it. I asked at one meeting and they said 'The next meeting I'll have a set of keys for you.' The next meeting, three months later, there was no set of keys."

"Why do you need a set of keys?" asked Rice.

"First of all, the city owns the building and should have a set of keys," she said. "The insurance company said that."

She also questioned how city workers would have access to the library at times that would not interfere with people using the library.

When asked who in the city had the set of keys, City Commissioner Daniel Grimes stated that they are now in an envelope on his desk. He also expressed that, while they have made efforts toward repairs, funds may be a problem with the type of repairs that are needed.

Sistersville Police Chief Ben Placer stated they have received numerous complaints of an employee's husband in the library at two, three, and four o'clock in the morning.

"Patrolman Owens actually stopped this gentleman leaving the library at three o'clock in the morning and had a conversation with him about what he was doing in the library," said Chief Placer. "He was told not to go back into the library at three o'clock in the morning."

"We do not have keys," he said. "That person's vehicle has been at the library at two or three o'clock in the morning. I do not have access to check the building."

"I don't have a problem with the police department checking the building," said Rice. "I don't think the councilmen should have keys to the library."

He stated that he was worried about too many people having access to records in the library containing peoples' personal information. He also readdressed the fact that cleaning supplies were not being provided to the library.

"At one point we were providing so many cleaning supplies you could have cleaned an army barracks," said Doig.

"They were disappearing," said Recorder Schleier of the supplies.

Councilman Jason Hood suggested that the person visiting the library at three in the morning may have taken some of the cleaning supplies.

"There's been a lot of problems at the library," said Doig. "We're trying to work things out, but if you don't get cooperation, how can you work anything out? Beverly and I talked today. She needed certain information. I got it."

Doig also stated that City Commissioner Grimes planned on attending the next Library Board meeting in order to get a timeline on certain repairs.

Rice also asked if the city has at any time taken out loans that council was not aware of in order to keep the ferryboat running.

"Not that I'm aware of," said Recorder Schleier. "We're working on our $100,000 drawdown from the state."

Rice requested to be taken off the Finance Committee, which he said he was put on two months ago by Mayor Fox.

"I'd like you to take me off that tonight and put someone else on it," he said. "I do not feel that I get enough information as to where the city stands or where the departments stand, how much money's left in them, what's been spent, and everything else."

While clarifying that he was leaving the Finance Committee because he did not want to get in trouble in the future, he said that he would join another committee if the city asked.

Except for Councilman Bill Schleier, who verbally abstained from voting because he is the husband of Recorder Julie Schleier, council voted unanimously in favor of rescinding her $2,500 a year raise. No other information was given about why they were rescinding the raise approved during last month's regular meeting.

The council held the second reading to delete, in its entirety, Part 13 of the codified ordinances for the purpose of repealing zoning regulations within Sistersville.

When the need for a public hearing was brought into question, Flannery stated that one had not actually been required. Furthermore, she said that the hearing was already effective on Aug. 19, even if a quorum failed to establish for that meeting.

Councilman Mitch Corley was the only one to vote against the deletion of Part 13.

Officer Rob Haught, who has been serving part-time on the Sistersville Police Department, was unanimously approved as a full-time officer. In the past Haught served as the city's Chief of Police.

Tim Meeks of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council appeared to read a drawdown report for the Hanford City Sewer Project.

"The total amount requested in the drawdown is $136,539.18," he said.

Council unanimously approved his drawdown report, which was then signed by the newly sworn in Mayor Doig.

Connie Boyd, president of Sistersville Planning Commission, said they are still looking into possibilities for a mini golf course at the park. She also expressed interest in assisting with the newly recreated Park and Pool Commission. As well, they will be working on beautification and helping Bob Gilmore with lights in the park.

Richard Long spoke of the possibility of installing volleyball nets in the old high school gym. According to him, the nets and the poles have all been donated, and now they need inserts installed.

"We've got a nice gym and we need to use it for something other than basketball," said Long.

He reported that the installation of inserts may cost a few thousand dollars, and members of the Planning Commission asked for an estimate so they could present the number at their next meeting.

Council approved the payment of $395,230.11 accounts payable and $498,559.28 payroll for the Sistersville General Hospital. They approved the payment of $16,833.55 in invoice listings and $58,866.53 for credit card bills.

When a few residents questioned the amount charged to purchase cards, Recorder Schleier explained.

"We put every single thing we can on the P-card because we get a rebate," she said, stating that the city receives a one percent rebate when they use the purchase card. She said that the money then goes into reimbursements for the general fund.

Minutes of the Aug. 6 special meeting and Aug. 12 regular meeting were approved.

Council noted that while Sistersville gained a mayor, it lost a council member. Doig taking over as mayor opens her Third Ward position, the filling of which will be discussed at their next regular meeting.

Mayor Doig said that she will try to be available in City Hall for at least a couple of hours every day.

 
 
 

 

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