Engineer makes small concession on sewer project


News editor

Peabody city councilmen Tim Petersen and Peggy Phillips were absent from Monday's meeting and missed the announcement by city administrator Jeff Benbrook that sewer project engineer Al Reiss had finally agreed to accept the city's accounting of his final bill.

The admission that the city does in fact owe him $1,259.73 rather than $3,500 as he previously insisted, was only a small victory for the mayor and city council.

Reiss still is unwilling to review or address the five project deficiencies that linger two years after the completion of the project. The city also has never received "as built" plans of the sewer plant which were to have been part of the completed project.

Additional problems that have arisen since the project ended have created financial difficulties for which there is no recourse through the project engineer.

Benbrook noted that Reiss' communication to the city had been forwarded to the city attorney who is reviewing the city's options.

Later in the meeting, the council was informed that a new wrinkle in the saga of the "never-ending sewer project" is on the horizon. Public works director Darren Pickens announced during his report to council that within a year the Omni monitoring equipment at the lift station on Prairie Lawn Drive will be obsolete when systems such as that are required to go digital.

The company in charge of the monitoring equipment maintains a contract with AT&T, but AT&T does not service this area, rendering the monitoring system ineffective. Pickens told the council and mayor he is looking into possible solutions for the problem.

He also noted that he has contacted EBH Engineers, currently under contract with the city of Hillsboro, to come review the sewer situation and perhaps offer some resolution to the remaining problems.

In other business, the council:

— heard from Jim Rippe during community comments that he has concerns about the number of new traffic signs recently installed around the city. He said he was not sure they were properly backed by city ordinances and that many were hidden by plant growth and overhanging tree limbs. Later police chief Bruce Burke reviewed law enforcement justification for the additional signs and council placed the trimming issue on the "to do" list for public works.

— heard an objection by Janice Woodruff concerning a potential plan to pave over Olive and Vine streets. Woodruff wanted to go on record as being in favor of protecting the brick streets.

— agreed to replace gravel in the alley of the 700 block between Vine and Olive displaced when the alley was dug up in March to replace a sewer line.

— reviewed an agreement written by Tom Schmidt, between the city and a 30-member park support group interested in developing and promoting proper landscaping and maintenance at city park, Santa Fe Park, and the Peabody sign at Ninth and Walnut streets. Council agreed to approve the contract as written and to consider a $500 to $750 line item in the next budget to pay for some supplies.

— instructed Benbrook to provide a list of licensed and insured private contractors to Maxine Seibel so that she would be able to hire roofers to fix the roof on the garage at 108 N. Maple.

— heard a presentation by Rosemary Saunders of Ransom Financial Group about options available to retire some of the city's debt. No action was taken.

— heard a presentation by Tom Stivers and Jim Ralston of APAC Paving Company about repair of city streets. Stivers showed council members core samples of different streets. The examples showed the materials used by the city during the past 100 years.

The bid to repair Locust Street from the south park boundary to Ninth street, including some curb and guttering work was $301,254. No action was taken.

Council members requested bids for smaller projects on other streets. APAC representatives will return with more bids and information.

— approved selection of seven volunteers willing to serve on a planning commission. Hannah Berns, Jay Cook, Bob Marshall, Curtis McBride, David Ragland, Jim Rippe, and Milton Toy all were approved.

— received a fire department publication about a cadet program for review and comment at a future meeting.

— were reminded of the next budget review meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the city building.

— approved a merit raise of 50 cents per hour for lifeguard Erika Riggs after she passed her Water Safety Instructor's course.

— approved, following an executive session, an offer of employment in law enforcement to Jeremy Miller, effective July 17 at $12.50 per hour and to Jeremy Wilkerson, effective July 1 at $13 per hour. Both men will be moving to Peabody.

— reviewed a staggered curfew schedule in force in the city of Hillsboro which requires younger youth to be home at an earlier time. No decision was reached.

— heard from Pickens that three more pine trees at city park are badly diseased and will need to come down. Pickens also detailed vandalism and destruction to the roof of the park rest rooms. No action was taken on deciding what materials to use to replace the damaged roof.

— agreed to changes in the wording of the city's water shut-off letter. The new notification will mean that anyone who has not paid their water bill by 8 a.m. (the day it is due) will be charged a reconnect fee.

— heard that Benbrook is working with Alltel to reduce the city's cell phone bill. By connecting all the city's phones in a group plan, the city may be able to realize a savings of $150 per month.

— changed the title of employee Stephanie Ax from city treasurer/billing clerk to deputy clerk/treasurer.

— discussed employees who voluntarily resign and their eligibility for re-hire. Council, mayor, and Benbrook went into executive session to discuss personnel. On return to open meeting Larry Larsen made the motion that Michael French left the employ of the city of Peabody on a voluntary basis in good standing with the city. The motion was seconded by Leslie LaFoy and carried 2-0 with Steve Rose abstaining.