WEST ALEXANDRIA — Council discussed overdue utility bills, staffing concerns, and possible improvements to the village’s parks during its regular monthly meeting Monday, June 21.
Village Administrator Adam Beneke raised concerns about overdue water bills.
“We ran that whole stretch where there were no shutoffs, and no penalties, because of COVID,” Beneke said. “We just need to get people back in the swing of things.”
Beneke indicated that the village would begin enforcing shutoffs for residents who fail to abide by a payment plan. Councilmember Zach Shafer asked why delinquent residents hadn’t been shut off already, with Mayor Jeff Hickey indicating that municipalities make more money by charging late fees, as well as that water service to homes with young children can’t be shut off.
Council president Ashley Myers suggested compiling a list of delinquent residents whose overdue balances are at risk of being assessed against their property taxes and drafting a resolution assessing those fines to be read and passed during a public meeting.
“I think we should do it that way,” Shafer agreed.
Beneke indicated he would need to consult with village solicitor Aaron Glasgow as to whether information of that nature is considered a matter of public record.
“That’s why some villages do it,” councilmember Dan Utsinger said. “It’s a Scarlet Letter.”
Smith Park improvements
Village resident Lisa Childs, who teaches second grade at Twin Valley Community Local School District, addressed the council about efforts to improve Smith Park.
“I’d love to have something right there in the middle of town that the kids can enjoy and take pride in,” Childs said, indicating that an improved park would be a good place to take students for in-class outings and short field trips.
Childs suggested adding a splash pad and picnic shelters to the park, among other improvements, as well as buying newer, sturdier playground equipment.
“The kids in this community really need something,” Childs said.
Childs also raised concerns about safety in the park.
“I don’t know if it’s a safe area – it’s not very clean,” Childs said, indicating she’d heard stories about drug use and discarded needles being a problem in the park.
Shafer and Utsinger felt that safety concerns were overstated, with Shafer referencing “$5-6,000 worth of perimeter lighting” recently installed in the park. Utsinger, meanwhile, attempted to address concerns about drug use.
“[Police Chief] Tony Gasper has done a good job of cleaning that up,” Utsinger said.
Council member Holly Robbins indicated she was in the process of pursuing grant funds to build a splash pad, as well as a potential walking path, in the park.
Village employee Rod Rehmert raised questions about who was going to be responsible for maintaining these planned improvements, however.
“We keep adding more and more stuff for two people to do,” Rehmert said, indicating that the village is severely understaffed, with workers already stretched thin maintaining the grounds of the new wastewater treatment plant and performing various other duties.
Mayor Hickey agreed, indicating that council “really needs to consider adding another full-time employee” to the village’s payroll. Council later voted unanimously to advertise two new part-time Service Department positions at a rate of $12-15 per hour.
Village Council meetings take place the third Monday of each month at the Fire & EMS office, located at 8 Marty Ln.