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City Council Rescinds Latest Version of La Harpe Water Billing Ordinance

The La Harpe City Council unanimously voted to rescind the latest version of the water billing ordinance and put the previously removed Section 1-A back to original status.

The vote drew a round of applause from audience members at the LaHarpe Community Club House Monday evening.

Water billing has been a contentious issue since a new ordinance was passed in November.

Council member Josiah Neff said the city was losing about $12,500 a year, because some apartment renters were not being charged for a meter for each apartment.

The meter charge is a base charge for water and sewer. Once the water usage exceeds the baseline amount, the user is charged extra for the extra water.

Neff gave an example of a building with four apartments and a laundry room.

The charge for this was $61.80 for one month. With Section 1-A back in place, the charge would have been $170.

"They are being charged for the gallons of water used, but they do not pay for sewer," said Neff.

"As the treasurer, it concerns me. We need the revenue," said Marcia Neff. "We have to pay the bills in the sewer and the water departments."

Neff said Section 1-A treats each apartment like it has a meter whether it does have a separate meter or not.

The only time the apartment would not receive a separate meter charge is if it is unoccupied, and the building owner requests the meter be turned off.

Josiah Neff and some other council members indicated they wanted to address the issue of home businesses being charged differently than other homeowners.

"First, I think we need to put Section 1-A back in the ordinance," said Josiah Neff. "We can look at other issues in the future."

Eric Moe, vice president/division manager at McClure Engineering Associates, Inc., gave the council good news when he announced the city had been approved for a Community Assistance Development Program (CDAP) grant to replace aging cast-iron water mains on the south side of the city.

The grant is for $450,000, with an additional $150,000 in matching funds from the city.

Moe said that construction should start in late summer or fall this year. The project should be completed by the spring of 2017.

"I will warn you, it will be a mess," said Moe. "It is either going to be muddy or it is going to be dusty. There won't be any in-between."

A few intersections will have pavement cut, but most pipes will be bored under the road.

Once the new water mains are in place and have been tested and flushed, the water flow is switched from the old mains to the new ones.

The old mains are then capped and left in the ground.

Moe said the project will not affect city water pressure.

It will increase the water flow, so the normal water pressure of 20 psi is maintained even during heavy use.

The council approved purchasing two new aluminum flag poles for $69 per pole.

The flag poles that were blown down in a storm are aluminum and held up well over the years. The council also approved having electrical issues fixed at the berms.

A vote to eliminate the monthly supervisor's meetings ended in a 3-3 tie.

The supervisor's meetings were started over a year ago to help increase communication between city employees and council members.

Voting to eliminate the meetings were Josiah Neff, Amy Palmer, and Darrell Kraft.

Voting to keep the meetings were Kenneth Foster, Marcia Stiller, and David Mershon.

Mayor Ryan Kienast was absent, so there was no one to break the tie vote. The issue was tabled until the Feb. 22 meeting.

Three other issues were tabled at the meeting, including an independent water and sewer audit, the 27th Annual Rural Economic Development Conference in Springfield, and adopt rules to run the city.

Water Superintendent Tim Graves asked the council when someone would be hired to replace Daniel Carpenter, who was fired.

"I've brought it up at the last two meetings to hire somebody," said Graves.

Council member Marcia Stiller, Water Committee Chair, said the committee has been unable to meet since the last full council meeting.

She said they will meet and decide what to do. Graves said he has worked overtime due to the lack of a second water department employee. He plans to begin tracking those hours.

Graves asked that since the water Ordinance was going back to the original, would the water billing go back to the original billing. He was told "yes" by the council. He also asked to be informed of the meeting when they decide to hire a new water employee. He was told he would be informed.

The city's ESDA trailer needs to be moved from its current storage location with the fire department.

The fire department no longer has room for it. Josiah Neff said there are some things wrong with the trailer's equipment that need to be addressed along with a new storage location. The fire department and city employees are coordinating the trailer's move.

Council member Kenneth Foster asked Street Superintendent Wayne Humphrey to look at C Street near the railroad tracks where several pot holes have taken over a section of street. Humphrey asked for blacktop from Motor Fuel Tax to fix potholes. It had already been budgeted for.

The public comments section of the meeting featured one speaker who asked if anyone besides council member Josiah Neff had completed the Open Meetings Act test. No one had.

Illinois law requires anyone newly elected to a public office to pass the OMA training within 90 days of taking the oath of office.

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m.

Alderman Neff made the motion to appoint Alderman Stiller as Mayor Pro Tem in Mayor Kienast's absence. Alderman Mershon seconded the motion which carried.

Answering roll call were: Amy Palmer, Dave Mershon, Marcia Stiller, Kenny Foster, Josiah Neff,

Darrell Kraft, Marcia Neff, and Lucretia McPeak, Absent was Mayor Ryan Kienast.

Also present were:Tim Graves, Monalisa Graves, Kurt Dittmer, Dean Spangler, Wayne Humphrey, Eric Moe,

Doug Endres, Justin Livingston, Paul Anderson, Brian Covert, Courtney Graves, Justin Graves, Dave Clover, Beverly Anderson, Barry Wright,

Wayne Yetter, Lacey Covert, Michelle Brown, Jana Finley, Larry Williams, Connie Williams, Chad Burt, Tiffany Foster, Danny Gillett, Bill Burt,

Amber Pence, Niki Maske, Donna Wood, Richard Wood, Shelby Jones, Shirlene Jones,

Ken Brown, Bart Thompson, Jason Graves, Jason Siegworth, Justice Shoemaker,

Lindsay Shoemaker, Nate Todd, Willo Carpenter, Daniel Carpenter, Cassidy Burt, Jonah Burt, Max Owsley, Bette June Mapes, Delbert Kreps, Larry Hobby, Dallas Neff, and Jerry Brown. The meeting adjourned at 8:06 p.m.