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Middlebourne Council Hears Street, Culvert Complaints

By Staff | Jul 22, 2020

Middlebourne Council convened for a regular meeting on July 13 at 6 p.m. at the City Building. Items discussed included the issue with water collection on Park Avenue, speeding concerns on Stealey Street, the water project, and construction of the city building.

Council began the meeting by approving the previous council meeting’s minutes before turning to Citizen Concerns. Ellen Phillips approached council with concerns of speeding cars on Stealey Street, a problem which seems to be ongoing.

At the June 8 meeting, another resident of this street requested speed bumps be put up to discourage speeding in the area, as there are many children on the street playing. While this idea was considered unfeasible, the council approved the purchase of two signs saying “Slow Down, Children At Play.” Since that meeting, the two signs have been put up on both ends of the street.

However, Phillips expressed that while they were thankful for the signs, she feels the issue needs to be addressed more than that. Phillips, who lives next to the City Building, said that the traffic has been a longtime concern of hers, but even more so now that her 20 month old grandson came to live with them.

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get something done,” she told council. Phillips then requested the following suggestions be considered: put two stop signs up at Third and Stealey Street as well as one on Fourth and Stealey Street; reduce the speed from 25 miles per hour to 15 miles per hour; and also put in rumble strips to assist in slowing people down.

Phillips said she understands that the council voted against speed bumps, but insisted that rumble strips are nothing like that.

Mayor Steve Seago told Phillips that they wouldn’t be able to put a stop sign on Fourth Street as it’s on a hill. Council members voiced their agreement on this, saying that it creates a blind spot and could be potentially dangerous in the winter time if the road gets icy.

Phillips argued that children’s lives are important, and that they could put one up on the other side. However, council member Charlene Galluzzo explained that while they agree and want to address this issue, there are certain measures they can take and some that they can’t.

Phillips stressed that something needs done, saying she’s willing to start a petition; with the COVID-19 outbreak forcing the parks to close, she said that children are out on the street more and people are not paying attention.

Galluzzo said council also cares about the safety of children. Then, addressing the request to reduce speed, Galluzzo explained that since the town does not currently have a town police officer, they would not have a patrolman to enforce the new speed limit. She said that while it’s no problem to put a sign up, the town has no control over whether or not a driver will obey this.

Another councilman concurred and stated that if people aren’t following the 25 miles per hour speed limit, they won’t follow the 15 miles per hour limit either.

Phillips went on to say, “My other concern is that [the town] can do cosmetic work to the town hall, and you’re telling me you can’t do these few things.”

Town Manager Tena Lemasters quickly responded by stating that all of that work to Town Hall is done through grant money. “Nothing came out of the City Hall’s pocket,” Lemasters said. When Phillips questioned why the grant money couldn’t be used to improve the safety of the community, Lemasters explained that certain grants are used for specific purposes.

Phillips then questioned the charge on resident bills for the town, which she said are supposed to be used for lighting and safety on the roads. Lemasters, however, refuted this, saying that it’s to be used for lighting and street repairs.

“So everyone pays $7.50, and it has no bearing on what the community actually needs,” Phillips said. Lemasters pointed out that it lights up Stealey Street.

Another council member suggested that they could paint a sign on the street telling people to slow down. Council agreed this was a good option.

Phillips asked about the rumble strips again, but Galluzzo said they can be a hazard to kids on bikes. Phillips quickly pointed out that rumble strips are not “as dangerous” as speed bumps and that kids are more likely to play on them. To this, Lemasters responded that the children shouldn’t be playing in the street and that their parents should be watching them.

Galluzzo assured the Stealey Street resident that they aren’t arguing against her, and want it to get addressed, but they have to work within the parameters of what they can do. While Phillips relayed her understanding of this, she asked that the town consider the options she brought to council.

During discussions, it was decided that the best action for the town to take is to paint “Slow Down, Children At Play” on the hill coming up Stealey Street as well as near the City Building.

In other business, a motion was made to approve the Treasurer’s Report. The motion was carried.

Under Old Business, Lemasters presented council with Drawdown Number 19 for the Route 18 Water Project. The drawdown included requests for payment to Thrasher in the amount of $16,726.89, and Hall’s Contracting for $72,659.80. A motion was made to approve of the payments, and the motion was carried.

Also in regards to the water project, a letter of completion was signed by the mayor.

Following this, bids for a culvert to be put in at Park Avenue was presented to council. The following four bids were reviewed: Armor Seal Coating for $4,550; Hall’s Contracting for $6,000; RL Contracting for $12,000; and J. F. Allen Company for $26,7000.

A motion was made to accept Armor Seal Coating, and this motion was quickly carried.

The next order of business covered was the siding of the City Building. Tom Swiger of TMS Contracting appeared before council and went over the proposal with them to ensure that everything was correct.

Following discussion on the details of the project, Swiger explained that he had concerns of the project moving forward due to disputes with the neighboring homeowner, Ellen Phillips. Swiger said that during their last project, there were many altercations with Phillips where she expressed her displeasure with the contract company being partly on her property. Swiger said that she had also called the Sheriff’s Office on them once. It was because of this that he said something would need to be worked out as his crew would need to be on a portion of her property when putting the siding up on one side of the building.

City Attorney Gary Rymer suggested getting a temporary easement, but reported that this would take several months. He also said that they could approach her and ask for a right-of-way.

After this matter was discussed, Swiger reported that work would start sometime after July.

In other business, another citizen appeared before council to express his concerns. Virgil Canfield, a resident of Park Avenue, told council that he had learned that the town was going to put in a culvert and that the landowners were going to pay for a part of the project. “Whose crazy idea was this?” Canfield asked.

Galluzzo explained that when his neighbors brought the issue to council, they said that they were willing to assist financially. From this, council decided that the town would pay half of the cost for repair as “everybody has their skin in this.”

In response, Canfield said, “It’s not a repair. It’s a job that should have been done. I approached the mayor about four years ago and wanted a simple culvert put in. I was told that it was my problem…”

Mayor Seago explained to him that at the time, they weren’t aware they owned the road. When the matter was brought back to the council’s attention, they went and found the documentation that proves that the town owns ten feet of land on either side of the road.

Canfield then told council that he had the deed four years ago showing the city owned the land. When council member Vera Henthorn questioned why he never showed them the document, he defended himself by saying the town officials should have known, or at least checked on it.

Council explained to the Park Avenue resident that the deed was dated before Mayor Seago, and they were unaware it existed as new mayor’s don’t look back at all of those documents.

However, Galluzzo explained that they have a solution that would satisfy all parties, and would like to solve the issue now. After hearing this, Canfield said, “The solving should have been done three years ago.” It was his belief that if action had been taken when he originally addressed the issue, the solution would have simply been a culvert. However, now he says the issue will cost four times as much to fix.

“We can’t go back three years ago,” Galluzzo said. “We can take care of the problem now.”

Canfield again asked, “Why was anybody concerned when I asked about it three years ago?” He expressed to council that he has lost “a lot” as a result of this issue, and thought that it was “ridiculous” that the town didn’t fix it when the problem was first submitted, and now wants homeowners to pay half the costs. Council member Henthorn quickly defended council, reminding him that they never asked the homeowners to do that – they offered to make this payment.

Mr. Canfield then told council that he didn’t like the way the town handled the situation, saying, “No one took an interest, like I didn’t count.”

Council quickly refuted that statement, with Galluzzo stating, “Don’t think you’re not valued, because we value your concerns and we want to address this.”

Canfield responded by saying, “I wish you would have valued it three years ago before I put a pile of money in it.”

After some discussion on this subject and problems Mr. Canfield faces as result, council apologized for the misunderstanding and that the issue was “dropped and lost.” However, Canfield continued to speak passionately on the subject.

While speaking to council concerning his problems, Canfield became upset and, after using foul language, council explained to him his five minutes of allotted time was up.

After his departure, council discussed how the Park Avenue project would work moving forward as the culvert extends onto Canfield’s property. City Attorney Rymer said that the participating residents of Park Avenue would need to get an easement from Canfield before they could move forward with the project.

Under New Business, Lemasters told council that they are in need of a new dump truck. She said their current one is broken and there are no parts available for purchase. Lemasters explained that because the dump truck is used by the town as well as the water and sewer board, they agreed to split the cost of this purchase three ways.

However, Rymer said that they could do a lease purchase instead. A motion was made in favor of Rymer pursuing this option, and the motion was carried.

Also addressed by council was the request to appoint Bobby Judge to the Park Board. A motion was made and quickly carried in favor of this action.

A motion was also made and carried to approve of the budget revision.

While taking council concerns, one councilman spoke on the subject of hiring a town police officer. According to him, three individuals were interested in the part-time position: Ben Placer of the Wetzel County Sheriff’s Office; Austin Lowe of the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office; and Chris Satterfield of the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office. It was decided by council that each interested individual would fill out an application and meet with them at a later date.

It was then said that the new police car that was donated by the Wetzel County Sheriff’s Office needs detailed. An estimate in the amount of $600 was given for the removal of the old decals and putting the new ones on. A motion was made and quickly carried in favor of approving this work.

Following discussion on this, the meeting was adjourned.

The Middlebourne Council will hold their next meeting on August 10 at 6 p.m. in the City Building.