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Council Holds Regular Meeting

By Staff | Feb 20, 2019

Sistersville’s city council addressed several matters at its regular monthly meeting, held Feb. 11.

Mayor Bill Rice first referenced a Robert’s Rules of Order class he and Recorder Heather Rice had attended. Mayor Rice explained how the two had learned the Pledge of Allegiance and opening prayer should not be said after council starts a meeting; thus, Sistersville Council will ensure the Pledge is always stated prior to the meeting. Rice explained there had been issues elsewhere in the state in which a person had contacted the ACLU and complained about such.

Mayor Rice further noted there were other points of interest he and Recorder Rice had garnered from the meeting, stating “We will work through some other things.” Rice later noted that the two had learned only a motion and vote was needed for council to pass matters, as a “second” is optional.

In other matters, Mayor Rice explained issues residents Tom and Robin Weekley were having with water entering their basement. Rice explained debris from pine trees were plugging the drainage. Furthermore, the water presently must move uphill to be properly drained.

Rice explained he had requested three to four weeks until city workers can address the issue, as the weather might be more favorable at that time. Rice said the city can do some excavating in hopes of the water flowing back toward the drain.

Or, Rice explained, the city could also install a concrete curb to impede the water from flowing into the Weekleys’ basement.

Council then proceeded to approve the minutes from January’s meeting, including an amendment suggested by Councilman Charles Heinlein, who wished to note in the minutes that council had approved that he would draft a letter to legal entities regarding multiple criminal offenders living and being on the streets in town.

Under department head reports, water plant operator Jason Rice said he really did not have any new matters to report. He explained the plant might soon need a $3,000 part for an upgrade. He explained once this is acquired along with fencing around the water plant, the city should be done with improvements.

He said he had not received any updates from FEMA, besides an e-mail inquiring about how the city wanted to accept anticipated FEMA funds. The city has been anxiously awaiting these funds to recoup equipment losses from previous flooding.

Council then discussed matters to take involving the boat docks, and whether to remove them so they are not damaged by floodwater. Mayor Rice said if the city isn’t going to open the boat docks this year, or they are not going to receive FEMA funding, the city might want to consider removing the docks for the year. He noted a mussel survey needs conducted in the area, prior to any work being performed.

In a related matter, Councilman Greg Gage reported the ferryboat pilot has taken another job; however, “he’s not submitted a formal resignation letter.” Gage said he believed the pilot was trying to bide his time to see if he can service the ferry for the season, or if he has to devote his entire time to his new job. Gage explained he was trying to figure out the pilot requirements from the Coast Guard, as the current pilot was “grandfathered in with his license.” He said a new pilot would need to be under the new rules and regulations. However, Gage said he was struggling to receive notification of the requirements, and he attributed this struggle to the recent government shutdown. It was noted it was hard to acquire a pilot, due to wages.

Mayor Rice suggested council might try to acquire grant money to be able to pay higher wages for the position, in hopes of making the job more attractive.

In another matter, Mayor Rice suggested the city remove unnecessary fencing currently located around the park and install it around the water plant instead. The mayor explained the only concern he had heard was regarding the fence along the roadway. It was suggested this specific area remain in place for safety reasons. Mayor Rice said he felt using the park’s unnecessary portions of fencing would be an alternative to purchasing new fencing to install around the water plant, which could then be shut down once the city’s current water project is completed. He suggested the city acquire some estimates for new fencing prior to the next council meeting.

Under matters related to parks and pool, Linda Henriksen requested a separate Sistersville Park and Pool account be created solely for fundraising monies, separate from the account used to pay bills. She explained this would make funds easier to track. She said the Park and Pool committee is planning to conduct a great deal of fundraising, and these funds would go to improvements to the park.

Henriksen also expressed concern about flooding in the area of the park’s garage. She said she didn’t know if playground equipment was still in the garage, but she expressed concerns that the equipment would be affected by floodwaters. Mayor Rice stated he would look into the matter the very next day.

Henriksen then reported she had just found out the pool has a crack in it. She said when it doesn’t rain, there is no water at the affected area of the pool. She said the committee was researching better alternatives to fix the pool, as every year the crack is patched. It was noted the Sistersville Park and Pool Committee is reaching out to New Martinsville Parks and Recreation, which had a similar problem with its pool.

She explained that even if the crack was patched for the upcoming year, the committee would at least have some knowledge to build upon.

Councilman Heinlein offered some suggestions, including a material called Abocrete.

Henriksen was asked if she was considering a liner, and she replied in the affirmative.

In other pool-related matters, Henriksen said the committee is accepting applications for lifeguards. She also requested a time clock machine, to better track time for payroll.

City Attorney Krista Fleegle requested a committee meeting in the future to address the city’s public nuisance ordinance, prior to it being presented before council. She noted the ordinance is extensive.

Related to ordinances, council approved the second reading of the ordinance to increase garbage rates. A motion to adopt the ordinance was also passed. It was explained residents will see the rate increase on next month’s garbage bills.

The the new rate for residences is $19.89 per month. Business rates are as follows: one pick-up per week, $28.93; two pick-ups per week, $72.33; three pick-ups per week, $150.68; daily pick-up, $421.91.

Council then debated whether the ordinance addressed raises for the police force. Mayor Rice and Recorder Rice stated they did not recall a raise for the law enforcement. However, Councilman Gage said he thought council did vote on the matter.

Heinlein noted the minutes had stated Greg Gage proposed a 10 percent raise in police fees to cover raises across the board. Heinlein said the minutes did not say if the matter was taken to vote.

It was determined Recorder Rice would listen to her recording from that meeting to determine whether or not the council had voted on the matter.

It was also stated that Sistersville’s five-year levy is due for renewal. Mayor Rice said he had previously asked then-recorder Chad Edwards if an election for the levy was needed it 2018, as an election for the excess levy is always conducted on an election year. He said Edwards had said the levy was not necessary until 2020. Rice said, “This is not the case,” noting the excess levy expires June 30. Recorder Rice noted the special election would be a couple thousand dollars, to account for polling places, ballots, and poll

Mayor Rice said Delegate David Kelly was assisting the city with organizing the election and had put the city in contact with an individual from the Secretary of State’s office.

Council gave its approval for a special levy election. If the levy passes, proceeds will benefit the fire department, library, park and pool, and streets.

Noting the topic of levies, Councilman Phil Konopacky expressed his concern that the city’s fire department might be “double dipping,” inferencing the fire fees that residents pay, along with funds the fire department receives from the county fire levy passed in May 2018. Konopacky said he didn’t believe the fire department was supposed to begin receiving the county levy money until July.

Council then debated as to whether these two types of funds go toward different needs. For instance, Councilwoman Bonnie Hizer said city fees go to upkeep, and levy money goes to equipment, and the bill for such is presented to the commission.

Konopacky reiterated that he had no problem with the fire department and appreciates what the fire department does; however, he was concerned about residents on limited income and the possibility of residents making payment twice, nothing the fire department also responds to calls outside of city limits.

It was decided that council would request Commissioner Eric Vincent’s presence at a meeting, along with representation from the fire department.

Councilman Heinlein also suggested the mayor invite the prosecuting attorney, as he noted Prosecuting Attorney Furbee had expressed interest in meeting with council.

“I think it will be good for Mr. Furbee to come and clear up any issues and questions we might have,” Heinlein explained.

At January’s meeting, Heinlein had expressed frustration with the judicial system, including frustration with bond amounts, repeat offenders, and alleged offenses involving a felon in possession of a firearm.

Heinlein’s recommendation to council was that a letter addressing those issues be drafted, which council approved.

In other matters, council voted to reappoint Ann Helmick to the hospital board. A vote also passed to allow the use of the city’s Willison Family Center for chapel services for the Sistersville High School Alumni celebration, along with the city streets for the parade

Council also passed a measure to transfer several of the city’s accounts to Peoples Bank, from WesBanco. It was noted Peoples Bank is more accessible.

Mayor Rice also reported that there were no new updates on the city’s water project. He said Timmy Meeks of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council had sent a text, notifying Rice that the design work was progressing, while Meeks was working with Steptoe & Johnson for interim financing.

Council approved the payment of bills, with the purchasing card amount being $9,918.80 and the city’s bills being $29,823.15. Councilwoman Bonnie Hizer explained she did not have the hospital bills for approval.