The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

La Harpe Council

Landlords may seek fewer water meters, one pays minimum of $525 for 15; Could be $35 if one meter's okayed


La Harpe-Jan. 25th

Fewer people spoke during the public comment section of the latest La Harpe City Council meeting than at earlier meetings.

Those who did speak touched on the familiar subjects of water bills and Mayor Ryan Kienast's water bill for his apartment building.

Some residents continue to question why the water billing ordinance was changed. The council voted in November to remove Section A from the ordinance.

Council member Marcia Stiller explained it was to stop some home businesses from being billed more than other home businesses.

Council member Josiah Neff, resident Dave Clover, and Water Superintendent Tim Graves pushed Kienast on his water bill for his apartment building and why it did not have a water meter for every apartment. They also questioned again why his water bill was lowered back in July.

Clover asked if the apartments the Mayor owned should have their own separate water meters for each apartment, and was not answered.

Brian Covert asked how difficult it would be to install water meters for each apartment. The Mayor responded that his building was not applicable to the Ordinance.

He asked that it be put on the next Agenda to discuss having the persons who had their water rates changed in July to pay the back water charges from July to November, which is when the new Ordinance went into effect.

One apartment building owner spoke at the meeting, Connie Williams, owner of West Side Apartments.

Williams told the council that her apartment buildings have 15 total water meters. Twelve water meters are for the apartments, one per apartment, while three others are in each building for the laundromat and outside water use.

She said she pays $35 per meter that is connected, even if the apartment is empty. She said it was her choice to keep the water on in unoccupied apartments rather than have the meter disconnected.

Graves asked that other apartment owners be put on the agenda to speak to the council at the next meeting.

Another resident asked how people were getting information about other people's water bills.

Kienast said people filing Freedom of Information Act requests receive information about water bills except the person's name and account number.

Stiller supplied information about the state requirements for water department employees to receive licenses from the state as a correction to what was reported at a previous council meeting.

She said a Class A and a Class B license required a high school graduation and three years of experience.

The Class C license required a high school graduation and one year of experience.

A Class D license required a high school graduation and six months of experience.

Resident Max Owsley filed a FOIA request with La Harpe FOIA officer Lucretia McPeak for a multitude of items, including a copy of all city ordinances, job descriptions for every city position and elected official, the current employee handbook, the organizational chart for the city's hierarchy, and more.

He also asked for all correspondence in text message, email, and all other forms of communication between City Attorney Kurt Dittmer and all city elected officials, employees, and anybody else with ties to city government that contained the words "water billing."

Just prior to the filing he read words he had typed with his request. It was difficult to hear so his typed speech is as follows:

"Observation: There are two separate factions competing. Out there and within the council...what usually happens, one faction will just hold out longer than the other with no real resolution. Reason and Maturity usually does prevail. I would like to see a resolution between the factions to keep this city government honest, lawful, and trustworthy."

Then Owsley went on saying:

"Council, Alder people, elected officials of La Harpe, contractual servers, and the fine representative of the Law Enforcement community, I am here to express my very grave concerns on the actions and non-actions of and for La Harpe City Government.

"I appreciate Law Enforcement availability. There may be a time there is a concern for public safety for the gallery at hand.

"In previous open meetings, it has been requested to have all city ordinances combined into one organized reference. "We The People" would like to inquire where they can be viewed at?

"We The People" ...want to see you and contractual servers to the city, all held accountable and responsible for your action and non-actions concerning City matters.

"Council, you were elected to provide a sovereign form of government for us "We The People" ...under common law. At this time, you are not doing what the citizens expected from you at election time.

At this time, you are heading towards TYRANNY. "We The People" ...will not let such things happen here.

"As you are all sitting there as a whole, you are a direct reflection of what is wrong with this Republic. "We The People" ...will not tolerate this.

It all started at the Corporate Level of Government:finally making its way down to this community. Do not test or pressure us "We The People"

"I urge each and everyone of you sitting there, do not vote to be any part of the Illinois Municipal League. This would be the beginning of the end for the Community as we know it. I would be more than happy to discuss this at a later time.

"We The People" are upset, angered with the way Open and Closed Meetings are being conducted, to such a point:a "Request to Review" is being filed with the Office of Illinois Attorney General's Office.

"We The People" will not allow such a thing to happen here.

"We The People" have filed a FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT with the Information Officer. I would like to read a brief of it (which he read and then said)

"Expect more requests to follow in the future."

"We The People" ...will not go silently into the night:

(After reading his list of FOI requests, Owsley ended with)

"I look forward to hearing from you in writing within five working days."

Lacie Thompson asked what was going to happen to in-home businesses, since the Ordinance was changed. She asked how many businesses were affected. She was told, only 2 (beauty shops). She then thanked Graves and voiced her appreciation to him.

Lindsay Shoemaker asked what authority was given to change the water rates for Kienast and Kreps from July to November. Kienast referred him to the city attorney. The city attorney did not want to answer that question.

Holly Willdrick thanked the council for what they do and challenged members to treat everyone like they would want to be treated.

Willdrick said she had lost a customer at her business because of "where she sat" at the last council meeting. She did not speak at that meeting.

"I was told that since I did not support my community (by remaining silent at the meeting), they could not support me."

Willdrick implored audience members and the council to live up to a message on the electronic sign at the La Harpe Community Club House that says that La Harpe is "A Nice Place To Live."

In other news, the council approved the low bid of $485 by Wever Tree Service to cut down, remove, and clean up a tree in the cemetery. The stump is not to be removed.

The council approved the low bid of $100 by Akers Tree Service to trim dead branches out of a maple tree on city property on Main Street and remove dead limbs that fell due to a wind storm.

Kraft said he heard that someone felt that they were unable to bid on the tree removal projects. He asked this person to get in touch with him.

Kraft asked that two flag poles be replaced at the edge of town at the Berms after they were blown down in a wind storm. Prices for replacements are being gathered for the next meeting.

Graves asked at the last council meeting that the council advertise for the replacement for Daniel Carpenter at the water department. He asked the council why it was not done. The Water Committee will discuss the issue at its next meeting.

Treasurer Marcia Neff pointed out an error in the cemetery mowing contract. The contract start date was listed as 2015 instead of 2016. She asked if it was supposed to be a 2-year contract as in years past. The council decided to correct the start date and leave it as a one-year contract.

Kienast told the council he would keep the mayor's signature stamp wherever he wanted. He has been going to city hall to co-sign payroll checks with Neff when she texts him that the checks are ready for signatures.

Kienast asked her if the current process worked for her. She answered that it did.

Kienast said he would give her notice if he was going to be out of town and that someone would be assigned the task of using his stamp to sign payroll checks in his absence.

The council approved Graves attending a training class in Springfield in March.

The council approved Police Chief Justin Livingston hiring two part-time police officers. One part-time officer quit after finding a full-time position. Livingston asked to be able to hire two, so he had three part-time officers to fill shifts. Both part-time officers Livingston is looking at hiring have worked in La Harpe before and have their required training.

A brief discussion on moving from 2 full council meetings each month to one meeting each month, due to the cost of renting the La Harpe Community Club House for meetings because of the large attendance. Marcia Neff suggested looking at holding future meetings at the city owned senior citizen center to save money.

McPeak said Summerfest will be July 21 to 23 and La Harpe Classic Car Show is scheduled for Aug. 6 this year.

Street Superintendent Wayne Humphrey agreed to help read meters. Josiah Neff said he had heard complaints from some people that their water bill was higher than expected. It was guessed this was because Graves could not read all the meters in one day (without help and Carpenter who was fired). Kienast said he had asked Humphrey and David Little to stop reading meters because there were four people at that time doing the job. Little was going to be asked if he could go back to helping with meter reading, too.

McPeak told the council that the city has received all of the Motor Fuel Tax funds it was owed by the state.

The council is considering eliminating committee meetings, adding the item to the February 8 agenda. It was decided to cancel all committee meetings between now and the next full council meeting.

Aldermen present: Amy Palmer, Dave Mershon, Marcia Stiller, Kenneth Foster, Josiah Neff, Darrell Kraft, Treasurer- Marcia Neff, City Clerk-Lucretia McPeak, and Mayor-Ryan Kienast. Also present were: Tim Graves, Monalisa Graves, Kurt Dittmer, Dean Spangler, Wayne Humphrey, Doug Endres, Justin Livingston, Justice Shoemaker, Sheriff Scott Bentzinger, Naomi Lipper, Angie Shoemaker, Melissa A., Christy Vincent, Donna Mershon, Paul Anderson, Wayne Yetter, Jan Stokke, Karlene Kurtz, Bette June Mapes, Beverly Anderson, Shirley M. Anders, Caroline Owsley, Max Owsley, Dan Gillett, Courtney Graves, Mike Rodeffer, Cassidy Burt, Chad Burt, Holly Willdrick, Lacie Thompson, Bart Thompson, Michelle Brown, Jana Finley, Jason Siegworth, Shaun Thompson, Barry Wright, Nate Todd, Ben Hitz, Dave Clover, Connie Williams, Larry Hobby, Carl Reeder, Amber Pence, Niki Maske, Bill Burt, Delbert Kreps, Ashley Flynn, David Carpenter, Dakota Miller, Nate Trout, Daniel Carpenter, Willo Carpenter, John Louden, Lindsay Shoemaker, Shirlene Jones, Shelby Jones, John Link, Donna Wood, Richard Wood, Harry Fark, Tiffany Foster, Brian Covert, Dallas Neff, Lacey Covert, Roger Hughes, Andi Trout, Peg Webster, Sherry Ragain, and Greg Ragain.