Cherokee's City Council Tuesday approved a $177,751.10 bid from Schoon Construction of Cherokee for the costs for Sewage Lift Station improvements, including the rebuilding of the South Highway 59 lift station and part of the force main, and the installation of a grinder at the Beech Street lift station.
The action came after the Public Forum portion that kicks off the Council meetings was cut short by the loud crack of the gavel by Mayor Mark Murphy after resident Mike Morrow became belligerent while asking the Council why Cherokee didn't make recycling mandatory like other communities do.
Morrow spoke in the Public Forum to express his concern about the landfill filling up because the City does not require mandatory recycling at curbside like other towns. Currently, recycling is encouraged by the City and County, the County Landfill Commission, and the County's Sanitary Services, but is on a voluntary basis for residents.
The feisty action began when Morrow insisted in interrupting any Council member who tried to speak to the issue. Then, when City Administrator Don Eikmeier tried to explain the City's position on recycling, Morrow kept interrupting him. Mayor Murphy then tried to diffuse the situation and Morrow interrupted him. With that, Murphy slammed the gavel and said "This discussion is over!"
Morrow then left the meeting while muttering that he would put a letter to the editor in the newspaper.
With order restored, the Council proceeded with the agenda and addressed the appeal of a Notice to Abate a nuisance at the property of Margo Boon and Jean Lyman at 233 E. Willow St.
The City has been working with the property owners since last spring to abate a nuisance on their property. Despite having worked with the owners all summer, minimal progress has been made in the mandatory clean-up. An official abatement notice was issued August 30 and on Sept, 10, the owners requested a hearing on the matter. The hearing was set for Tuesday's meeting but because the owners' attorney said he could not be present, they requested a delay of the hearing.
Council Member Mick Mallory said the owners have had plenty of time to abate the nuisance and the City should move ahead to clean up the property and assess the costs to the property owners.
However, a motion by Council Member Linda Burkhart to grant a two-week extension to Oct. 12 for the hearing was seconded by Council Member Wayne Pingel, and then defeated in a 3-2 vote, with Mallory and Council Members Jim Peck and Dan Morrow voting against the extension motion.
Near the end of the meeting, at the request of City Attorney Wally Miller Jr., the Council voted again to clarify the earlier action and the Council acknowledged that the property owners were served proper notice of the nuisance abatement, were notified of the date of the hearing, and that there was a specific finding that a nuisance does exist. The Council then authorized proceeding with the abatement of the nuisance on a 4-1 vote, with Burkhart voting against the measure.
In other action, the Council approved a resolution for a Smart Planning Grant to supplement the cost of the City updating its Comprehensive Plan, which was last done in 1979.
If approved, the grant would cover 50 percent of the estimated $28,000 cost to update the Plan. The City would provide approximately $2,750 in soft costs (City staff assistance) and $11,250 in tax dollars, as proposed to come from the General Fund.
Mallory spoke against the costs, saying that the Plan could be updated "in house" and that money saved. However, Burkhart and the rest of the Council agreed that the City staff is at bare bones now due to tough economic times for municipalities and to add such a complex and detailed workload would be "pushing the staff to limits."
"We need to commit to this. It's a priority," added Burkhart.
It is Eikmeier's and the City's contention that an updated Plan would create future funding and grant opportunities for the City.
The Council then approved the Resolution on a 4-1 vote, with Mallory voting no.
The Council will convene in a special workshop meeting Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the City Fire Department to assess CFD facilities and equipment. The CFD eyes future expansion to house vehicles and equipment. Tuesday's meeting is open to the Public.
The Council also received an update on the Bacon Aquatic Center finances after the 2010 season, with figures showing the operation finished in the black for the first time in several years.
The Council and City officials commended the pool staff and City Recreation Director Dave Ellis for their successful year and for their efforts in trimming expenses and operational costs.
With a few outstanding bills still to come, the City pool showed $87,155 in total revenue for the season, and $86,436 in total expenses for a net of $719.