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Sistersville Council meets at City Hall

By Staff | Nov 20, 2013

At the Nov. 12 meeting, Sistersville Council voted to choose a new location for their next regular meeting.

“Are we going to do this again next month, or are we going to move the meeting to the fire hall so people don’t have to stand?” asked Councilman Bill Rice, regarding a number of residents standing in council chambers and the hallway due to lack of available seating and space.

Despite Mayor Ann Doig’s previous statements that the charter limits meetings to City Hall, she left the decision to council, which unanimously approved moving the meeting to either the fire hall or the library.

Council approved the payment of city bills, with all in favor except for Councilman Rice. He explained that he would not sign the bills because he did not feel that he had seen all of the information. While clarifying that he was not accusing anyone of wrongdoing, he said that he would like to see the telephones sub-accounted.

When a citizen inquired about the number of cell phones the city has, Recorder Julie Schleier answered that they had 13 cell phones.

“We have a couple of phones that are asleep,” she said. “They’re not being used. We don’t pay for them.”

Resident Mark Klages asked if one of those phones was that of former Mayor Dave Fox.

“It is,” said Recorder Schleier.

“At the September 9 meeting, you said Dave Fox never had a cell phone for the city,” he said.

“I did not say that,” she said.

“Yes, you did,” said multiple citizens in attendance.

“He owned the phone, we paid the service,” she said. “Dave kept the phone and we had the service. The service is asleep.”

“Doesn’t it constitute benefitting from his position if you guys get a rebate for the cell phone bill, because he’s on the city cell phone?” asked Klages.

“What rebate do we get on it?” she asked.

“You mentioned that you get a rebate for paying by check.”

“No I didn’t,” she said. “I said we don’t pay utilities or the telephone bill with a P-Card because they charge a utility fee to do that. So if you pay a fee and you get a rebate, it kind of washes out, doesn’t it?”

“Since you’re paying the cell phone bills with a city account, are you getting a break?” he asked. “Or are you getting a break from AT&T for this being a city government?”

“We’re not getting any break,” said Police Chief Ben Placer.

“So you’re paying the same rate I am?” asked Klages.

“We just have a business account,” said Chief Placer. “(Former Water Clerk) Alexis Billings and I changed that because we (the city) were paying over $1,000 a month, and we cut it in half by switching to a business account. We picked up more available lines. We’re not using all of those lines.”

Klages also addressed concerns he had over Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests he made.

“During the last council meeting, when it was asked how we get certain budget information, it was told to the people of Sistersville that all we needed to do was file a Freedom of Information Act request,” he said. “I did that.”

He said he asked for the library, ferry, and garbage budgets for last year, as well as a list of fees that had been received for FOIA requests within the past year.

“The response I got was that it would take six hours of research at $25 an hour, plus 50 cents per page,” he said. “I’m not at contention with the fact that council has an ordinance stating that FOIA requests are subject to these fees. My problem is that everything I asked for is strictly in purview of the city treasurer. You’ve got a brand new computer system last year.”

“Two years ago,” said Mayor Doig.

“Okay, two years ago,” he said. “It’s simple select, click, and print.”

He said he had the check for the City of Sistersville’s fees and would pay them for research regarding his FOIA request.

“It does take a long time,” said Mayor Doig. “We have to go through some of the old files.”

She said that some of the old files were not in the computer, which was purchased two years ago.

“That’s okay, because what I’m asking for goes back a year,” said Klages.

“It was only this year that we could put stuff into the computer,” she said. “We have to go back and look at stuff from all last year. We have to keep all of the city business running first and then take time out to research.”

“Fair enough,” he said. “I have the check.”

Heather Weekley, director of Sistersville Public Library, inquired about the status of levy funding not spent on the library. She asked where the money went if they did not spend the amount allotted to the library.

“It goes right back into your fund for next year,” said Mayor Doig. “I saw in the paper (Star News) where it said the money went back into the general fund. That’s false information.”

Mayor Doig had been at the library meeting, but she left before the subject of unspent levy funding arose. Other city officials present did not openly correct Councilman Rice’s speculation that unspent levy money went back into the general fund. An email from the Star News to the City of Sistersville inquiring about the levy funding remained unanswered prior to publication of the article to which she referred.

“The 25 percent that’s given to you and each group is given to you because that’s how we break it up,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be 25 percent. It could be 10 percent if somebody else needs more money.”

Mayor Doig said that unspent levy money was added to funding for the next fiscal year. Councilman Rice said that in all of his years involved with Sistersville government, he had never seen the funds roll over from one year to the next.

Hanford City resident Greg Cross said the lid on his water meter was upraised, and he was concerned the pipes may freeze. His wife, Tammy Cross, said the matter had been addressed with the city repeatedly. Commissioner Grimes took their information to address the issue.

The Crosses also discussed road conditions in Hanford City following the installation of the new sewer lines. Other Hanford City residents expressed that the engineers had done a great job, but they would like any damaged sections of their roads and yards to be fixed.

“There are a lot of low spots (on the roads) and that’s going to break up the road and cause some slick spots when the weather gets cold,” said Greg Cross, explaining that water was freezing in low wet spots in the road, and he was particularly concerned about intersections.

“The whole job site will be inspected by both the DEP and the state,” said Commissioner Grimes.

Tim Meeks, there to present the drawdown report for the Hanford City Sewer Project, said that the Department of Highways would inspect the area. Commissioner Grimes said he would pass these concerns on to the project manager.

A woman in attendance questioned why the ferryboat had Wi-Fi. “For people to enjoy while riding on the ferry,” said Councilman Schleier. “It’s a Wi-Fi hotspot. It was offered to us for free, so we took it.”

Resident Audist Pancake requested a public meeting in regard to starting a Park and Pool Board. She said that she would like to get preparations for the park and pool underway prior to summer.

On the agenda, council took action to approve a recent proposal by Olive Branch President Linda Henriksen, who suggested that a portion of the county dog tax annually be returned to Sistersville go toward assisting their nonprofit, no kill animal shelter. It would help them with the costs of spaying and vaccinating stray animals.

“Residents of the city actually pay $6,” said Councilman Mitch Corley of the county dog tax. “Out of that, we get $3 back out of every $6 paid. I don’t see a problem letting the Olive Branch have that money to assist with the animals in town.”

“I think that would be a very good idea,” said Mayor Doig.

City Commissioner Grimes discussed the accumulation of city workers’ vacation hours.

“I’m having trouble letting these guys use all of their vacations,” he said, citing times when they were short-staffed and needed workers. “It’s been the previous city policy that if they don’t use it, they lose it.”

He said that city workers have had vacation times scheduled but chose to work them when the city needed assistance.

“I would like for these guys to have the opportunity to be able to cash in unused vacation time at the end of the year,” he said. “They’ve given the city years of service to get that vacation time.” Council tabled this proposal for further discussion.

The Sistersville Planning Commission (SPC) announced that they had begun working on holiday decorations.

“We started working on Christmas decorations Saturday, Nov. 2, so we’re making some progress,” said SPC Secretary Barbara Vincent. She also announced the annual Christmas Parade will be held along Wells Street on Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. Lineup for those in the parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Little Sister Well on Riverside Drive.

Chief Placer informed council that rates for SuddenLink internet were increasing by another $3 a month. He explained that WVHotSpot, the same company providing free internet on the ferryboat in exchange for advertising, can provide the same internet service at a cheaper cost. He also said that they could pick up Internet at the City Park for the live monitoring of the cameras there.

Council approved the signing of a one-year contract with WVHotSpot.

Mayor Doig read a proclamation to make Nov. 24-30 Christian Heritage Week in Sistersville, and council approved a motion for her to sign it.

Council approved a total of $150,360.90 as the Hanford City Sewer Project’s monthly drawdown report.