The Winnebago City Council was asked to approve the spending of an unusual amount of funds at its regular meeting on Tuesday, February 8 at 7 p.m.
The agenda item that received the most discussion was a claim for reimbursement of two residential sewer backup bills.
The dispute stemmed from an incident on Jan. 18 in which the main sewer downstream of a dead-end manhole near 443 Cleveland Avenue West was clogged.
“Two residential properties had sewer backup and needed to have plumbers and jetting services to alleviate the issues in their homes,” reports Deputy City Clerk Judi Hynes. “They are asking for reimbursement of bills for services rendered.”
The refunds requested amount to $822.
“At the public services (committee) meeting, I voted to pay for this”,Council member Paul Eisenmenger began. “But, from now on, I think we have to be a little more careful about it.”
Eisenmenger explained that the city is required to inspect its sewer every five years, and the one in question was checked two years ago with no major issues reported.
Eisenmenger feared that when the city is not informed of sewer problems in a timely manner, there is no way to verify how the problems occurred.
In this case, Eisenmenger suspected that further investigation might have revealed that the city-operated sewer was not the cause of the backup.
“I think we need to advise people in the city to let the city know if there’s a service issue so we can check immediately, rather than calling the companies to clean it up,”suggested Eisenmenger.
“Now we’re paying a thousand dollars for something that might not even be our problem,”he added.
“Can we ask the public services committee to write a text to clarify this?”asked council member Calvin Howard. “I’m going to vote to pay for this, but I think it’s a very good observation.”
Howard continued, “If you want to be reimbursed by the city, we could say that you have to notify the city within a day of cleaning the drain. Not a week later when anything could have happened.
“The public services committee could make a proposal on how to proceed in the future”,suggested board member Tim Hynes.
In the meantime, council has approved a motion to pay the requested refund of $822.
The Utilities Committee also brought to council’s attention several recommended improvements for the city. The improvements were advised by Bolton & Menk engineers Travis Winter and Matt Cole.
The largest proposal is for Winnebago’s Cleveland Avenue.
Resolution 782-2022 requested permission for Bolton & Menk to conduct a preliminary study of Cleveland Avenue West improvements between Highway 169 and Sixth Street NW.
“This was originally going to be a 2024 project, but we’ve moved it up to the 2023 funding window because the PFA (Public Facilities Authority) has a lot of money for applicants,”Cole explained. “It’s a full reconstruction project – very similar to the North West project area.”
“Taking steps to position the project for funding could benefit the city,”Winter added. “That’s the first step – getting permission to do some preliminary numbers.”
Council passed a motion adopting the resolution, which will allow Bolton & Menk to prepare an installation plan and report on Cleveland Avenue improvements.
Since the project would require the beneficiary properties to be assessed for all or part of the cost, council was required to schedule a public hearing in relation to the project.
Council has scheduled a special city council meeting for Tuesday, March 1 at 7 p.m. during which the public hearing will be held.
The utilities committee also recommended upgrades to the water treatment facility’s control systems. The current system is 20 years old and needs to be replaced.
The cost estimate for the upgrades is between $125,000 and $150,000, with additional engineering costs between $25,000 and $30,000.
The board was concerned about the cost and wondered if sufficient funds were budgeted this year. However, Judi Hynes indicated that she feels the budget is adequate.
“I don’t really see that would be a problem. We still have 100% of our ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds if we really get into a bind,”said Hynes. “We wouldn’t consider payment until 2023, even if we started tonight.”
“If something were to happen to the factory right now, we would have to plan some emergency work. Then we still haven’t upgraded anything,”Eisenmenger added. “It must be done.”
The council passed a motion authorizing the expenditure of $25,000 to $30,000 in engineering fees necessary to prepare the upgrade plans.
“I know we spent a lot of money tonight, but I think it’s necessary,”remarked Board member Jean Anderson at the end of the meeting.
In other matters, the Winnebago City Council:
• Adoption of a motion approving a water tower rehabilitation project, which will consist of lining the interior and exterior of the water tower as well as minor structural and safety repairs.
Cole suggested the project would be eligible for PFA funding.
• Passed resolution 781-2022, which authorizes the city to apply for a loan from the Drinking Water Revolving Fund for the improvement of its drinking water storage system.
The estimated amount of the loan is $585,000, which is the cost of the project according to the bid.
• Approved upgrades to two technologically obsolete lift station radios for $2,572.
• Approval of the adjusted price of the new Winnebago Police Department F-150.
Police Chief Eric Olson explained that the vehicle will need to be upgraded to include a center console, printer, squad lights on the running boards and additional storage space, which will increase the cost of the vehicle by around $5,800.
• Increase in the hourly wage of part-time police officers from $16.50 to $19 per hour. Olson shared that rate more closely matches salaries offered by neighboring police departments.