The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Mayor Kienast and City Council hit troubled waters in heated meeting with residents and former mayor

Two weeks after a contentious council meeting, residents packed the La Harpe city hall council chambers to voice their opinions on current issues.

The largest crowd in over a decade, about 25 people, attended the council meeting Monday night to voice concerns and ask questions about changes in water and sewer billing for multiple occupancy buildings, housing a Peace Corp Fellow at city hall, remodeling an unused downstairs area at city hall as a new council chamber, and the current friction between the mayor, council members, and city employees.

The meeting began with the council approving an amendment to the water and sewer billing ordinance to clarify the proper billing procedures for water and sewer usage charges.

The approved Section I (a) now reads as follows:

"Each living facility or business facility in a building under one roof which has multiple occupancy shall be billed according to (b), (c), and (d), below."

The vote was 5-1 in favor of the amendment (Ordinance 2015-13), with council member Josiah Neff voting "No."

Neff questioned whether the amendment was necessary at the last council meeting. He did so again at this meeting with others asking questions about a possible conflict of interest regarding Mayor Ryan Kienast's ownership of a multiple occupancy building.

Kienast and Delbert Kreps own the only two such buildings in La Harpe that do not have water meters for every apartment.

Daniel Carpenter, an employee of the water and sewer department who was speaking as a resident, asked why an ordinance that had been in effect since 1968 was no longer clear in 2015. He also pressed the council on why a water bill was changed before the amendment was passed.

"Can someone tell me who brought up the ordinance and why it was changed?" asked Carpenter. When no one answered Carpenter, Kreps asked the question again. Still no answers were given from Mayor Kienast, or any council members.

Kreps said he received a refund on his water bill, and he does not like the new way of billing that allowed that to happen.

"I'm paying less money than I was before," said Kreps. "Why should other people subsidize my water bill? I don't agree with that. I think it is a conflict of interest and pretty close to illegal when you change a bill to support a member of the council."

Former council member Brian Lovell also spoke out on the water issue, saying Kienast needed to provide an answer.

Brian said, "Will you quit doodling and answer Daniel," and Ryan replied, "No, I will not."

Former Mayor Ken Brown echoed that sentiment.

"When people ask you a question, you should be able to answer them," said Brown. "If you don't have an answer, say so and then go find the answer.

"You have to lead them (council) as mayor. If Josiah has a question, if Dan has a question, answer them."

Carpenter also asked about the changing of committee members for a second time this year. He claimed the Illinois Municipal League said it was illegal unless there was an emergency. This issue was brought up at the Nov. 9 meeting by Josiah Neff. City Attorney Kurt Dittmer reiterated that the committee changes were legal.

Brown used part of his speaking time to voice his disapproval of the committee assignments.

"Josiah has never been in ESDA. He has no business being the ESDA Committee Chair," said Brown.

The council approved remodeling the downstairs garage area at city hall to become the new meeting room.

The move allows the meetings to be handicapped accessible without having to move meetings downstairs to the police station or to a different location like the senior citizen center.

City hall is on the National Historic Registry, which can effect what work can be done to the building.

Council member Darrell Kraft said the proposed changes can be made.

He spoke in favor of the remodeling, saying the city would have to pay for the city hall building even if they moved to another location to be handicapped accessible.

The city has two or three bids for the work, but Kraft said the project may need to be re-bid due to the length of time since those bids were submitted.

Neff was the lone "no" vote. He spoke against spending money on the project at the last meeting.

The city has to amend its budget, because the funds for the project were originally budgeted for putting a new roof on the stage in the city park.

A third major source of discussion was allowing a Peace Corp Fellow to use city hall for office space during an 11-month period, which begins in January. The council approved it with Neff again the lone "no" vote.

The Peace Corp Fellow was requested by Love LaHarpe, a volunteer community organization that formed last year as part of LaHarpe's participation in the MAPPING program through the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.

"We recommend communities who go through the MAPPING process follow it up with a Peace Corp Fellow," said Giselle Hamm of the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs. "It allows a greater level of success."

The $25,000 cost for the Peace Corp Fellow is paid for by a USDA grant of $20,000, with the other $5,000 being raised by Love LaHarpe. A laptop computer was donated for use.

The Peace Corp Fellow's job is focused on economic improvement. Karen Mauldin-Curtis, program manager at the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs/Peace Corp Fellow program, said the Peace Corp Fellow has three major guidelines:

The Peace Corp Fellow can seek grants, but they cannot be federally funded, and they must relate directly to the above three guidelines.

Neff asked if the city was going to give any other groups free space at city hall. He also asked about paying for telephone and Internet service the Peace Corp Fellow would use.

The council brought to vote having two signatures on all payroll checks.

The two approved signatures are the treasurer's and the mayor's. Motion was made and carried to add 2 signatures to the payroll checks, with a 4 to 2 vote. Palmer and Neff voted no.

Jack Curfman, county director of ESDA, gave the council an overview of what he does and insight into the ESDA program. This turned out to be a lengthy question and answer session.

He talked about the relationship between the county ESDA office and the municipality representatives, the classes and training they offer such as weather spotting classes, the guidelines for receiving help from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and more.

In response to an audience question about countywide preparedness for disasters, Curfman said the next countywide training drill is tentatively scheduled for May 2016.

The scenario is an F4 tornado moving across the county.

The windstorm that hit LaHarpe on 11-11-15, took out the Park Lane lift station. It is working fine now.

Graves requested approval from the council to spend $400.00 on the Archer Avenue street lift station.

After a motion, the council approved spending $400 on a dialer for the Archer Avenue lift station.

Once it is in, W. L. Miller can install it along with completing three other projects: replace a blower and a fuse terminal at the sewer plant, put in a relay to alternate usage of two raw water pumps at the water plant, and install a central panel and level gauges at the uptown water plant.

Council member Marcia Stiller asked if any of the plants had surge protection because of the number of times the city has had to replace burnt out pumps.

Water Superintendent Tim Graves said he thought there was protection already, but he would ask about upgrading it.

The bids for the cemetery mowing contract were published. They are opened at the Dec. 14 council meeting.

City Clerk Lucretia McPeak was approved as the city's (FOIA) Freedom of Information Act officer.

The council approved Stiller making arrangements for two city employees to go to Springfield in February 2016 to be certified for a spraying license. This is for training of use of hazardous material such as used in spraying weeds around La Harpe. The cost is $170.

Stiller said a representative from the city's insurance agency would be at the January 11 meeting to review the city's policy.

City Hall will be open for the La Harpe hometown Old Fashion Country Christmas celebration from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on December 1.

The next city Supervisor meeting is December 3rd at 4:00 p.m..

Resident Justice Shoemaker asked if a codified ordinance book existed that included ordinances passed since 1992.

The codified books are available at the library.

Ordinances passed after 1992 are also available but not in a bound book.

The city is looking at codifying the more recent ordinances, but the process is expensive.

Police Safety Chair Kenneth Foster said the police car is continuing to experience electrical problems.

Aldermen present: Amy Palmer, Dave Mershon, Marcia Stiller, Kenneth Foster, Josiah Neff, Darrell Kraft,

Treasurer- Marcia Neff,

Clerk-Lucretia McPeak,

Mayor-Ryan Kienast.

Also present were:

Jack Curfman, Tim Graves, Monalisa Graves, Daniel Carpenter, David Carpenter, Brian Lovell, Delbert Kreps,

Kenneth Brown, John Louden, Bart Thompson, Lacie Thompson, Karlene Kurtz,

Justice Shoemaker, Elaine Rhabal, Bette June Mapes, Gary Stiller, Rebecca Quivey,

Max Owsley, Dean Spangler, Gisele Hamm, Karen Mauldin-Curtis, Brian Covert,

Kurt Dittmer, Dan Gillett, Wayne Humphrey, and Doug Endres.

When former Mayor Kenny Brown was asked by Mayor Kienast if he had anything else to say, Brown said "yes", he wanted him to excel as Mayor, but said this isn't the way to run a meeting.

Brown reminded Kienast that he had indicated before he was elected that he wanted to follow in his footsteps, but that he had done nothing in his footsteps, and that he hadn't bothered to call him nor ask him any questions.

Brown also mentioned all the new locks that were added or changed, and the number of keys that Mayor Kienast had in his possession.

Brown said, in 35 years, he only had 3 keys, and he kept them all right here (in City Hall).

Brown didn't see why Kienast had so many keys and didn't think it was necessary for him to have one at the water department since he was not a licensed water department operator.

He went on to give him several more tips to be better at his job and lead the council more productively.

Brown said "this was my first meeting (since retirement), but it won't be my last".

Next council meeting will be December 14, at 7:00 pm. The public is invited to the open meeting at La Harpe City Hall.