The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
by Jeff Tee, Oquawka
The Oquawka Village Board held their regularly scheduled meeting on January 8th in front of a large audience. Village Clerk Jacquie Smith was absent.
Hal Jern stated he was there to support Clifford Adams in his bid for Oquawka Police Chief. The position became open last month when Keith DeJaynes resigned. Clifford is currently employed by the village as a policeman. Several others spoke in support of Clifford including fellow police officers as well as personal friends from around the area.
I asked the board if they could speak a little about "closed session". I wondered what would be a requirement to enter a meeting into closed session and what happens when they come out of closed session, such as, are they required at some point to disclose what they discussed. Village Attorney Youngquist answered that there were numerous possible reasons to enter into closed session as stated in the "open meetings act" and the discussions that take place in a closed session are not disclosed to the public. He also said no action could be taken in a closed session.
Brian Collier gave the board an update about a property that he recently bought. He said they had done some clean up on it and tore down a building. He also said the main house on the property was scheduled to be tore down next summer. He went on to say that according to the property survey, there is a pine tree in the middle of the alley that the village might want to take down. Eldridge asked Collier if he would get with Jeff to show him the tree.
John Newton then spoke to the board about a number of American Flags around town that are being flown in a tattered state. He said he understood there was nothing that could be done by the board but he wanted to publicly address the issue. He said he was happy to see so many flags but felt that the damaged ones should be taken down or replaced out of respect.
Ron James then stated he was there to discuss insurance but that he didn't appear to be on the meeting's agenda. Eldridge asked if he had called ahead to be placed on the agenda and Ron stated that he had. Eldridge said he could go ahead. Ron stated he had the renewal packet of the village insurance. Trustee Nancy Bundy asked if they could do this since it wasn't on the agenda. Eldridge said they could hear the presentation but couldn't pay for it until it was placed on the agenda next month.
Ron stated he had sold his agency to Porter Insurance last summer and they had retained him to stay on for a year or more to make the transition easier. Therefore Ron is still the village's agent. Ron said overall the insurance has gone down $925 from $31,843 to $30,918. Ron stated this does not include workman's comp because that is a separate policy. Trustee Brenda Tee asked when this policy renewed and was told that it had renewed automatically in December.
Eldridge asked if everyone had a chance to go over the new employee handbook. Brenda stated she had just handed them out today. She said she would like to see any changes to be made talked about at the work session and voted on at the February meeting.
Eldridge asked about selling the old road grader that they don't use. After some discussion it was decided to put the grader out for bid.
Youngquist stated he needed to meet with Clifford since he would be his witness in upcoming court cases now that DeJaynes is no longer here. He said other than that he has been working on the Oquawka Fire Protection District purchase agreement.
STREET AND WATER
Supervisor Jeff Peterson stated that on top of normal activities, the Christmas lights had been taken down and that they had fixed a water leak last week.
Brenda told Jeff that she had been contacted about the boat docks at the municipal harbor. The caller said they had been left out since the last flood and wanted to know if they could be put down or if they were up for the winter. Jeff said they had been left up due to ice. Brenda then asked if the posts at Tteardrop Park could be taken down. After some discussion it was decided that they would leave two posts up in case they needed to string a cable across the entrance due to flooding.
Brenda then asked about the process to place a water service across a village street and the cost to repair the street after it had been tore up. Brenda stated there were five directional boring contractors in and around town and wondered if that would be a cost effective alternative to open cutting the street. Eldridge asked if they could table that subject until the work session.
Zoning officer John Newton said there was nothing for December but for the year 2018 there were 21 permits issued and $2,542.60 in permit fees collected.
Clifford mentioned a tree on village property had been illegally cut down and that DNR and a person from the Forestry Service was coming next week to investigate.
Nancy asked what could be done about dogs running at large and Clifford quickly responded get the dog catcher to work after dark. Nancy said it's the same dogs that are getting complaints and she is afraid someone is going to get hurt. Clifford said he agreed and unfortunately people are aware that the animal control officer won't work at night so they let their dogs run. Nancy asked about going to a county board meeting since that is who employs the animal control officer.
Hal Jern spoke for Fire Chief Troy Jern since Troy couldn't be at the meeting. Hal stated there were 82 fires last year and the number of fires over the last three years has "gone down immensely" Hal also thanked Donna Dunn for her hard work and service in helping to get the Oquawka Fire Protection District going.
Chris Sipes works for the Henderson County Housing Authority. He told the board that he's having issues of people driving across sidewalks at the county housing and asked if the village could vacate the alley or allow him to put up a cable to control the problem. The board agreed he could cable the area off.
Donna Dunn asked if the draft of the purchase agreement was available. Eldridge said he had it on hand and was going to pass it out and discuss finalization in closed session. He said after that he thought he could release it to her if the attorney agreed. Donna added that they have insurance lined up and a loan lined up and they were waiting on the purchase agreement before they could go forward. Andy asked if the state fire marshal was going to certify the district upon the execution of the agreement. Andy went on to say that they couldn't operate as a fire protection district until the fire marshal certified them to do so Donna stated she believed they had been given that certification. She said they were in compliance with everything they needed. Andy said the State fire marshal issues a certification that says you are ready to start putting out fires.
He asked if she had that certification. Donna said she didn't have a paper that said that in particular. Donna again asked if she could get a copy of the draft agreement. Andy said that's up to the board.
Donna said so you don't know if we can get it tonight. Andy said it's up to the board. Brenda said so if it's approved tonight, she can have it tonight, that's what she's asking. Andy said yes.
ADOPT AND PASS THE ORDINACE AUTHORIZING THE SUBMISSION OF THE REFERENDUM FOR THE CLOSING AND DISOLUTION OF THE OQUAWKA VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
Andy said according to state law there has to be a referendum on the ballot to dissolve the Oquawka Fire Department.
This has to be submitted for the April election and has to be adopted tonight to be on the April ballot. He said until the voters of the Village of Oquawka approve the dissolution of the fire department, the department can not close.
Trustee Jason Howard asked if this ordinance was just to put it on the ballot. Andy answered yes. Howard made a motion to approve the ordinance. Trustee Shawn Lain seconded. Motion passed with all trustees voting yes.
Donna asked what would happen if the referendum on the ballot didn't pass. Andy answered "The village can not cease it's provision of fire protection services". Trustee Tammy Bundy asked what would happen if it didn't.
Andy said "The village can not cease it's fire protection services". Mick Olson, who was in the audience, said "to add to that, it gets really complicated." Andy said you could contract for services but agreed it would get very complicated.
Brenda asked about the wording on the ballot. She said the wording seems backwards and she's worried people will vote wrong by mistake. She went on to say that they all need to talk to as many people as they can to explain the wording on the ballot. There was also talk of putting an explanation in the paper.
Donna asked again what happens if it doesn't pass. Andy stated The village can not cease providing fire protection services without an approval by the voters of the village. Shawn said if we can't cease fire protection then we couldn't sell our fire trucks. Trustee Scott Ray said they could lease the trucks. Mick asked Andy to provide some clarity on contracting services. He asked if it didn't pass, would the village be able to pay the district to provide the service.
Andy answered yes. Mick asked if the village could operate it's own fire department inside the boundaries of a fire protection district. Andy said he didn't know the answer to that because he had never seen any case law like it.
Mick said so in the very unfortunate and unlikely event that this doesn't pass, the Fire Protection District could provide service to The Village of Oquawka for the fee of $1. Andy said yes.
Eldridge asked for a motion to go into closed session for the discussion of property sale, village personnel, and legal matters. Motion granted.
River Rat News
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