The Cherokee City Council hit a stumbling block Tuesday night in its effort to accept a Cherokee County offer to relocate the City Police Department out of the shared Law Enforcement Center and into the former County-owned Department of Human Services (DHS) building on West Maple Street.
The County and Sheriff's Department maintain that they need more space to accommodate mandated improvements to the County Jail and Sheriff's Department facility. They say they need the entire LEC building to accomplish this.
The Council deadlocked in a 2-2 vote to accept the details involved in the County deeding the DHS building to the City, forcing the matter to be tabled pending further study and further negotiations with the County.
At issue is the cost of renovating the DHS building to suit the needs of the Police Department. The Police and City Administrator Don Eikmeier favor the move, but only if the Council agrees on the dollars involved in renovating the DHS building.
After negotiations the past few months, the County has offered the City the deed to the building, plus $21,500 in remodeling to suit the needs of the Police Department. However, preliminary estimates gleaned by the City and Police Chief Steve Schuck total $29,800, plus replacing a large portion of the broken and cracked concrete sidewalk in front of the DHS building, estimated at an additional $9,000.
"It will be a public building," explained Schuck Tuesday night. "You can't have broken concrete where people could trip and fall. Then you have liability issues. It needs repaired."
The renovations proposed include carpeting, interior painting, window replacement, electrical work necessary, software and computer expenses, radio replacement, and general remodeling procedures such as sheetrocking, counters, security door, insulation, shelving, and appropriate signage.
The Council deadlocked 2-2 on the motion to accept the County's offer as is, with Council Member Linda Burkhart insisting that the City only accept the offer to relocate if it costs the City nothing. "We have a long-lasting agreement sharing the LEC that's working fine. The City doesn't have to move. Things are fine the way they are. Why should we spend extra money we don't have on this?" explained Burkhart.
The Council then voted on accepting the County's current offer and Burkhart and Mick Mallory voted against it, with Jim Peck and Dan Morrow voting for it, creating the stalemate.
Prior to that discussion and vote, new Council Member Wayne Pingel was sworn in, chosen unanimously by the Council to replace former Council Member Greg Stieneke, who resigned in August. There was no discussion by the Council on Pingel's selection.
Pingel abstained on the vote to accept the County's DHS offer, saying he needed more time to get up to speed on the details, hence the 2-2 deadlock.
Pingel was one of three residents who stepped forward in Ward 3 to serve out Stieneke's term. The others were former Council Member Ron Johnson, and resident Randy Badtram. Ironically, all three live on Craig Drive in the Ament Addition.
Although undecided Tuesday night, Johnson indicated he may create a petition to call for a special City election to fill Stieneke's post. He has 14 days in which to file the petition that must contain at least 45 signatures.
Pingel and his wife Kerisa are the parents of three sons - Cale 10, Wyatt 7, and Levi 6. He farms north of Aurelia with his father and brother and lives at 502 N. Craig Dr. He's a member of the Cherokee Volunteer Fire & Rescue, and served a two-year stint on the Calumet City Council when he lived there.
In other action, the Council authorized a repair contract for Koser Spring Lake Park East Picnic Area Road, removal of wash-out materials, repair of walking trail, and repair of flood dike breach. Low bid for the work was received from Deer Valley in Cherokee for $12,000. FEMA pays 75-percent, the State 10-percent, and the City 15-percent.
The Council also approved a battery back-up system for the Spruce Street warning siren at a cost of $6,000. The Spruce Street siren is the only one in town without battery back-up and it failed to sound during the July tornado because the electrical power had gone out.
The Council also approved the closing of Main Street for the annual Downtown Christmas Parade, this year scheduled for Dec. 2.