Members of the Benld City Council on Monday night voted to accept a bid of $6,805 from Vandeventer Engineering, Fenton, Mo., to replace a meter at the city sewage lagoon, learned of steps being taken to abate a public nuisance in the 300 block of West Central Avenue and briefly discussed altering a city ordinance to stiffen penalties for property owners who fail to clean up accumulations of trash and debris.
The relatively brief meeting lasted about one hour with about half of that time devoted to an executive session with City Attorney Rick Verticchio to discuss litigation.
The new lagoon meter will replace an older, failing meter that measures sewage entering the lagoon from Sawyerville. Vandeventer was the sole bidder for the project.
“We have to do it,” said Ald. Dustin Fletcher, who moved to award the contract.
Mayor Jim Kelly reported to the council that he wants to amend the city ordinance regarding public nuisance properties to strengthen penalties for trash and debris to match penalties imposed for overgrown grass and weeds. Last August the council approved an amendment to the ordinance to stiffen penalties for failing to cut grass and weeds. Under that resolution, persons cited for overgrown grass or weeds could have the complaint dismissed if they resolved the problem within a specified period of time. If the problem isn’t addressed, the city takes the matter to court to seek the imposition of a fine. Upon a second offense, the property owner is required to appear in court and the city seeks imposition of the maximum fine of $500, which can be reduced to $150 if the property owner brings the property within compliance within a specified period of time. Upon the third and subsequent offenses, the city now asks the court to impose the maximum fine of $500 with no opportunity for the property owner to have the fine reduced.
“I want this done so we have some teeth in this so we can enforce it,” Kelly said.
I want this done so we have some teeth in this so we can enforce it, Mayor Jim Kelly said.
Verticchio presumably will prepare an ordinance proposal on which the full council will act at a later date.
Kelly also reported that the city is taking steps to abate a public nuisance in the 300 block of West Central Avenue where accumulations of garbage and debris have created a breeding area for rats. The city was unable to immediately identify owners of the property after the Macoupin County Public Health Department inspected the property in response to a citizen complaint. Earlier this month, the city petitioned the court and secured permission to abate the nuisance and place a lien against the property for the cost of the abatement. The court order initially prohibited the city for actually entering the home, but that order was amended once the infestation of rats was discovered. Kelly said Garella Pest Control has been retained to start trapping rats but he indicated completely controlling the infestation will not be possible until the trash and debris is removed from the property.
Kelly advised resident Candice Katchmar to work with Ald. Lance Cooper and Ald. Fletcher after she appeared before the council to complain about stormwater backing up into her basement following heavy rainstorms in the past two weeks. In the first incident, rising water damaged the home’s water heater and caused other damage. She said she wasn’t surprised by the first incident, but said did not expect the second incident this past weekend.
Fletcher said Maintenance Supervisor Jim Savant checked the sewer in the area of Katchmar’s home in the 600 block of Fourth Street and found that “everything was flowing as it should.” However, he said Savant reported sticks in the sewer that could be causing the sewer to back up in heavy rains. Kelly told Katchmar the city has discovered in the past that sticks can get into the sewer from residents, usually children, dropping them into standpipes. When that happens the back up may occur several houses away from the home where the sticks entered the system.
Katchmar expressed doubts about residents dropping sticks into the system and stated it was more likely that there is a breach in the sewer line, possibly along the creek running behind her home that has allowed debris to enter the system. She said she was appearing before the council to offer her assistance to the city in resolving the issue, including allowing city workers to use her property to access the creek.
Complicating the issue, according to Kelly and Fletcher, the creek is considered private property and persons owning property along the creek are responsible for maintaining it. “We have access to the creek where our streets cross it,” Kelly explained, “but we would need permission from each property owner” to work along the bank behind individual homes.
Verticchio said the city could pursue the issue as a public nuisance if property owners are failing to maintain the creek bank by cutting and removing brush.
“That’s sort of what I’m alleging,” Katchmar said, adding that she believes the sticks are coming from the creek as a result of flooding. “Other folks along the creek are experiencing problems in the last two weeks.”
Fletcher said Savant plans to jet the sewer when weather permits. In the meantime, Kelly said city officials would check to see if the city has video of the sewer from the last time it was surveyed.
In a related matter, Kelly said engineers from HMG Engineers are surveying sewers in the area in anticipation of applying for a sewer improvement grant.