Owen Council to move forward with water bill notices for those past due

By Cindy Cardinal
Posted 5/22/24

The Owen Common Council held their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 14. Tom Jirschele and Andrea Mahnke commented during Public Comment.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Owen Council to move forward with water bill notices for those past due


The Owen Common Council held their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 14. Tom Jirschele and Andrea Mahnke commented during Public Comment. Jirschele said that Jim Bohl owed the city thousands of dollars and there are huge discrepancies on taxes. He also asked about an update on what is happening with the tire plant. Mahnke asked how one can have a conversation about an issue as two-way conversation is not supposed to happen during Public Comment. She said she has emailed questions and received no response from the city.

The council went into closed session with their attorney (by phone) to discuss the case former city clerk Michelle Kind filed against the city. They were in closed session approximately 25 minutes and announced that they had conferred with the attorney when they came into open session.

Alderperson Bob Wilczek had asked that a City Hall update be put on the agenda. He just wanted to know how things were going for city staff. They replied that they are working on the 2023 audit. The city will get $2,700 from the recycling grant. They talked to the insurance company about the dog park. It will be covered. They are working on a full rate case application to the PSC. They have been working on the tax charge-back to Kerry Ingredients, new liquor license forms, bank reconciliations, and the PSC report. They talked to the attorney about the Business Park Agreement and that will have to be discussed in a closed session. They have been working on an open records request and are waiting for a reply from Brian Reilly at Ehlers. The auditor contract for 2023 is for $22,000. They are earning between $500 and $1,900 a month in interest.

An update was given on past due water bills. They are down to 33 people who haven’t paid. Alderperson Pam Jaffke said if they aren’t making any payments for months, then they are not trying, that those are the people whose water needs to be shut off. The door hangars are a good reminder for people to stop in and pay. The council felt that notices should be sent to those that are past due. They have the option to set up a payment plan. DPW Chad Smith said that door hangars do get noticed. He said that more people are not paying, but less money is owed than in the past. Smith said that if they do shut off water, they will have to coordinate it so people don’t get shut off and go without water over the weekend without an opportunity to pay their bill. Alderperson Ray Kilty asked if people could be forced to pay monthly. Smith said everyone is supposed to be quarterly, but they can still make monthly payments. Alderperson Wilczek asked about accepting online payments. The council voted to have the clerk send 10 day notices to those who are behind by $500 or more and if they don’t pay or set up a payment plan within 30 days, do the door hangars. At that point, the bill will have to be paid in full or the water will be shut off.

Family and Medical Leave Act time was approved for Loralee Petersen.

The issue with Kerry Ingredients taxes will be on the agenda monthly for updates. Alderperson Jaffke said she has contacted her state representatives about the issue.

Under Committees a couple of items were brought up. The clerk needs a check register from the Downtown Revitalization Committee (DRC) for the auditor. Committee secretary Cindy Cardinal said she can send the register for 2023 and a 2024 year-to-date. Going forward Cardinal will include the information when she sends the minutes. Carrie Heltsley is sending enough information for them to reconcile the Centennial Committee checking account. Use of the city’s tax exempt and Federal ID numbers was discussed. The tax exempt number can be given to a city council member for committee purchases. Some places already have the number and it isn’t a problem. They will have to figure something out for the Fair Committee as there is no city council member on the committee.

Under Public Works Report, DPW Smith said the water main flushing went well. He is working on information for the PSC audit. They had a high water bill complaint filed with the PSC. It was found that the person’s hot water heater was leaking. The PSC found on behalf of the city and said they had gone above and beyond in helping the property owner find the problem. They found what they thought were two hand dug wells when they were doing cross connection inspections. One was not a well. At the wastewater plant, they cleaned the contact tanks and are working on weed control around the ponds. Smith got a quote from Visu-Sewer to line 4th Street sewer pipes at a cost of $23,393. Not a lot of people came to the Clean Sweep this year. He was not sure how much affect the rain had on things. The sign is up on Highway 29 by Curtiss. Street sweeping is done, goose eggs are being oiled, and the storm drains on Central were cleaned. They are working on alleys and potholes. Mid Country Homes is still interested in building in Countryside Estates. Public Works will be doing some work at the History Center (former city hall) to try to correct the issue of water in the basement. They will charge the historical society for time and materials.

The Campground Rules Ordinance was approved and will take effect upon publication.

DPW Smith said the Welcome to Owen sign (on Hwy 29 near Fairground Ave.) was in bad shape and not worth fixing. He suggested replacing the sign and the planter. The Council approved for him to check with the tech ed teacher to see what they could do about making a new sign. He will also meet with the DRC about help funding the project.

Under the Mayor’s Report, Mayor Jalling said he was excited to see what Jeff Petersen is doing at Crowley Park. Owen will have its own Field of Dreams when the project is complete.

Land rental in the Business Park was discussed. It was agreed that the current renter of the rest of the land can rent the additional 16 acres that are available at the price listed in his contract.

Under Other Reports, Clerk Tracy Rau said that Prevail Bank recommended that the city not do a line of credit. They will look at a short term loan instead as the unexpected expenses for the 2022 audit and the Jirschele/Mahnke settlement are 10% of the entire city budget and couldn’t have been planned for. Alderperson Wilczek said that Jeff Petersen will take care of the upkeep on the ballfield at Crowley and his plans won’t affect the dog park. The dog park is staked out. They have a price of $7,500 for the fencing. They are also planning on putting in a parking area. A bug zapper was ordered for the Mill Pond Park and another for Crowley Park. Tom Mauel will be putting in a butterfly garden by the sign at the entrance to Crowley Park.