July 30, 2008

Beware Of Possible Clean Up Scams

Posted in City News at 10:42 am by thevoicesofstuart

Peggy Schlichter

I received a email from a resident who was given conflicting information from their insurance company about the coverage available for water damage cleanup.  The received a phone call from someone saying they represent their insurance company offering them several phone numbers to have all the water damage cleaned, repairs done and giving a 5 year warranty against the possibility of further water damage.  No specifics were given on what this miracle cure is that has a 5 year warranty.  Luckily the resident had already talked to their local adjuster and knew that their insurance did not cover the damage.  If they had not known this before the call they would have assumed that it was covered and the insurance would pay the bill.  They would then have been liable for the clean up bill from this company when the insurance refused coverage.

Please make sure that you have talked to your local adjuster before obligating yourself to any outside help.

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July 28, 2008

Good Morning Flooded Basement

Posted in City News at 1:21 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

Well, I sure did not expect 5+ inches of rain last night and neither did my basement.  At 3am I had a foot of water and by 6 am it was up to two feet.  At least by then the lightning and rain had stopped and the electricity was back on.  After stretching the hose out to the street (no storm sewers here) and wading around setting the pump in the basement I started it pumping by 6:15 am.  It is now 1:15 pm and it has been pumping for 7 hours and it has only gone down 4 inches.  That tells me that water is still coming in that tile.  With a 500 gph pump I had hoped that it would be down further by now.  It looks like I am going to have to dig up that old tile line and remove it for some distance south of the house.  This ought to be so much fun since all the utilities enter the house in the same place.  This is not a job I am looking forward to.

Anyone else get a surprise this morning?

July 25, 2008

State Ombudsman Office Publishes 2007 Report

Posted in General at 4:20 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

Here is the link to the Ombudsman Report. There is lots of good information about their services and highlights of cases worked last year.  The report also provides phone numbers to the various specialists that are available to answer questions and help in resolving issues.

July 17, 2008

Guest Editorial

Posted in City News at 9:56 pm by thevoicesofstuart

This editorial was submitted by email today.

Guest Editorial

July 15, 2008

Green Bags

Posted in General at 6:00 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

The Stuart Municipal Utilities in cooperation with the Southern Iowa Municipal Electric Cooperative Association is passing out “Green Bags”.  I found mine on the front porch after a call from a friend who knew I never use the front door and would probably never find it for weeks.

What a great idea and thanks to the Stuart Utilities.

The bags are made for reuse and is made from durable non-woven polypropylene.  It folds up for easy storage and is machine washable.

Start looking if you have not found it yet.

Luck, It Is All In How You Look At It

Posted in General at 1:37 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

A man in New York has water that ignites and burns coming out his faucets.  At first blush this sounded like an urban legend making its way through the internet.  After doing a little searching to check I found that it is really true.

I guess it is all in how you look at it to decide whether it is good or bad luck.

I don’t know about you but I would have never believed it with out seeing this clip.

The Council Meeting

Posted in Council Meetings at 12:59 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

After sitting through another three and a half hour meeting last night I am going to just go down the agenda and hit the highlights.  I just cannot make myself listen to it all over again this morning.  So here goes.

Mr. Waddell was not present for the meeting.

Mick And His Trees – Mick Askren asked the council if they would assist in the payment for the removal of the trees that are in the right-of-way that are leaning over his house.  He informed them that he has arranged for them to be removed Thursday for $800.  He was informed that if they are not diseased, dying or dead they are his problem.

Ruan Securities – A Letter of Intent was approved for the arrangement of short term financing for the Aquatic Center and City Hall, Library and Police Station.

Aquatic Center and City Hall, Library and Police Station Projects Update  – Mr. Forrest Aldrich informed the council that the engineering work for the Aquatic Center was on track and progressing nicely and gave kudos to the Aquatic Center Committee for all their help in moving the project along.  He asked the council if they wanted the sidewalk to the west included in the construction and they approved that to stay in line with city code for new construction.  He then asked the council if they had a preference to the architect he should use for the city buildings.  He pointed out that he had been approached by another architect that the council dealt with during the evaluation of the Masonic Temple but his firm had used Mr. Dan Sloan on many other projects.  The council asked for his recommendation and he thought it best to use Mr. Sloan since he has a proven track record on other projects.  The council agreed.  Mr. Aldrich then asked the council if they had decided where the library was going yet and was informed that they were still pursuing the option of placing it with the elementary school.  That Messieurs Crawford and Belden were attending another meeting with the school on Wednesday.  Mr. Belden brought up the list of items from the school board has requested the city pay to have done during the school construction.  He informed the council that the cost of new road, utilities relocation or installation is estimated at $800k.  The council acted surprised that they were being asked to pay for these items.  Mr. Sherman stated that they did a bond issue for the construction and it should be covered by that. Mr. Aldrich then informed them that there is not much they can do with that project until they make that decision.  He also asked about the water storage tanks behind the city hall and library since it will affect the design of the new buildings.  The mayor informed him that she has yet to send the letter to the insurance company to get the determination if removal will affect the cities insurance rates.

2008 Street Improvements – Mr. Aldrich presented the council with a price tag of $700k to fix all of the streets in town for their consideration.  The estimate was based on a inspection survey done by himself and Mr. Airhart and by using a per foot estimate for materiel costs.  It did not include any installation of curb and gutter streets.  It is just for fixing what exists.  The council was surprised and dismayed at the cost.  Mr. Skip Schultz presented the council with financing options using different portions of the State per capita street money and property tax assessment.  When asked if there were any financing options for using TIF money for the project I was told no.  Mr. Airhart informed the council that if very much or all of the per capita money is used it may hinder other street services.  The council then decided to ask for a new prioritized list starting with a lower total and indicating add-ons with their respective prices.  No decision was made on this topic.

Recreation Trail – The Certificate of Completion was approved for the trail.

Dell Oil Snow Removal – Mr. Bump made a short presentation to the council informing them that based on his research the December citation was not valid and recommended that the council rescind the citation.  The council approved the recension.  He then informed them that the code will be reviewed and changes proposed during the re-codification process for their review.

Sidewalks – Mr. Gerald Waltz asked the council exactly what the law was on sidewalks.  The council informed him that they cannot force  sidewalk installation on non-curb and gutter streets because it could not be graded properly until the street was redone with curb and gutter.  He then asked when they were going to install curb and gutter streets.  He was told they would be eventually.  Mr. Waltz then asked about enforcing the repair of existing sidewalks and making them handicapped accessible.  The council agreed that there are problems with existing sidewalks.  He pointed out that there are many houses on curb and gutter streets who do not have sidewalks, new construction where sidewalks were not installed and existing properties who have removed and not replaced the sidewalks.  Mr. Bump then recommended that they start addressing the problem by identifying the high volume areas and sending the owners a letter giving them one year to install sidewalks.   Mr. Ashour pointed out that the identification of the sidewalk deficiencies has already been done.  The mayor pointed out that nothing has been done with the information.  Mr. Ashour stated that some of the work has been done.  Mr. Sherman informed the council that some cities have a single contractor bid on the sidewalk work and typically that can be cheaper than an individual cost.  Then the owner can choose if they want to use the contractor or have it done themselves with their own contractor.  Mr. Bump pointed out that from the interstate to downtown is done.  Mr. Waltz disagreed and pointed out that there are numerous areas where the sidewalks are not flush and have several inches of fall, that the low spot by the apartments pools with water in the winter floods the sidewalk and freezes into a big sheet of ice.  He also pointed out that there are new sidewalks done during the Division Street Project that tilt back into the properties instead of to the street in violation of city code.  He then pointed out that you do not walk and see those sidewalks so you assume they are okay and they are not.  There are sidewalk access ramps that were installed incorrectly and have high centers you cannot take a chair over because they have high spots that center out the chair so you sit there stuck.  He pointed out that there are about 20 people in town in wheelchairs now that the condition of the sidewalks affect and there will be alot more in the next 10 years.  The council made no decision on the matter.

Rescue Director Employment Agreement – The council approved the new employee contract for the Rescue Director.

Sewer Audit Contract Renewal – The council approved the renewal of a three year contract for the auditing of the sewer fund.

Beer Garden Permit – Johnie’s requested permission to have a beer garden permit for behind their establishment.  The council discussed the requirements of a 8 foot fence with a gate that opens outward and supervision of the area.  The state requires a letter form the city that the area has been inspected and conforms with the requirements to begin usage.  The council discussed the requirements and stressed that the area must be monitored by the business.  The council passed a motion to allow Mr. Ashour to sign the letter to send to the state.

Police Department – Robert informed the council that there has been 10 inquiries about the two open positions and that there is only one he deems good enough to consider but they are not certified.  There were no certified officers applying.  Mr. Belden then presented the council with a reworked pay schedule for the police department raising the starting pay for the positions and a recap of pay for the surrounding cities for comparison.  The whole discussion then turned to why can we not keep officers, why the last two left, did their leaving have anything to do with pay, will increasing the pay do any good, do we really need 4 officers or can we get by with three, if we use three officers are we prepared to pay for on-call time, what is the difference in the pay for other cities and ours, do we really need 24/7 coverage and why can we not keep officers.  All the same answers still apply to these questions.  We can not keep young officers because there is little to no chance for advancement, there is nothing special to draw attention to furthering a law enforcement career, yes we need 24/7 coverage, no we are not prepared to pay for on-call time, the difference in pay for the other towns is because their officers pay 20% of their insurance costs which equates to what we pay with all benefits paid by the city.  Mr. Belden continued to press for a re-vamp of the pay scale and the council asked them to continue looking at the issue for further discussion at a later date.  Robert asked the council if it was okay to stagger the hiring so that they are not hit with paying for two certification trainings in one fiscal year.  He was told that was up to him to stay within budget.

New Business

Mr. O’Keeffe raised the issue of who is responsible for maintaining abandoned or undeveloped alleys.  The mayor stated that it was the property owner responsibility.  Mr. O’Keefe then asked which property owner.  The mayor then stated that she has a streeet on here and could not build a garage on it but she had to keep the grass mowed.  Mr. O’keefe the stated that he has a neighbor who won’t cut it because it is an alley but he parks a camper on it.  Has the alley been abandoned by the city.  It is suppose to go all the way through but you can’t because of the camper.   Mr. Bump stated no.  Mr. Sherman asked if the city plows it and was informed no they do not.  The mayor asked if he needed an answer right now and Mr. O’keefe answered no and I am not holding my breathe.

Mr. Belden raised the issue of all the areas the school is asking to city to pay for and asked the council how they wanted them handled when they go to the next school meeting.  At the last meeting they attended the school gave them a list of issues totalling approximately $800k for infrastructure changes, new installation, movement of existing utilities and the closing of Main Street between 2nd and 3rd.  Mr. Sherman asked if we really wanted to do that now.  Shouldn’t we wait until they are ready to begin construction.  It was determined that they would prepare the resolution with an effective date for passing at a later meeting as a regular agenda item.  They were instructed to inform them that they have no problems with closing the street but not until construction starts.  Mr. Belden then recapped that for the other items they needed to get on the agenda to discuss them with the council.  Only generalities will be discussed at the school meeting.  The 28E agreement can be discussed on the sharing of the library and a draft made for the August meeting.

July 11, 2008

Agenda, July City Council Meeting

Posted in Agenda at 6:39 pm by thevoicesofstuart

Here is the agenda for the Monday night Council Meeting.

Agenda, July City Council Meeting

July 7, 2008

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae Feeling The Credit Crunch

Posted in The Economy at 8:22 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

If you remember I did a post on the bank cash reserve problems and the problems the large insurers were having in maintaining their ability to maintain solvency as more and more claims were made against their policies.  I also did a post on the government’s plan to decrease the cash reserves required for Freddie and Fanny.

Now it appears that both problems are ganging up on Freddie and Fanny resulting in their stocks falling 18% and 16% respectively.

Here is a quick look at the latest bank cash reserve status.  Remember (3) is the cash shortfall amount in millions and term auction credit is the number of times and amount of short term money loaned by the Federal Reserve.

July 3, 2008

Celebrating the 4th Of July

Posted in General at 7:27 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

The 4th of July is probably my favorite holiday.  The picnics, parades, patriotic music and fireworks.  For me it is always a day for just plain enjoying the fact that I was born in the freest country in the world.  And believe me I have lived or visited countries that have no where near the personal freedoms we enjoy.    Although with some of the legislature being passed I am beginning to wonder if I will be able to continue saying that in a few years.

Our founders gave us a republic and said it was ours as individual free people as long as we can hold on to it.  From that time forward this country has known times of prosperity, hardship, economic depressions, wars, conflicts, social change and growing pains.  But never during any of those times have the people of this country doubted their love for their country and the struggle it took to make it so.

Independence Day is the celebration of all those events that have made and shaped our country into the land of the free and the home of the brave.

For you history lovers here is the Official US History.

For the kids here is a fun site that has downloadable games, clip art and coloring pages.

For all of us music lovers here is a short history of the origins of those patriotic songs.

And if you just want to listen to a few of our countries patriotic songs turn up the speakers and enjoy.

Enjoy your 4th of July, Independence Day Celebrations.

Maybe I will see some of you at the parade in Earlham tomorrow.

July 2, 2008

Library Board Dismisses Director

Posted in City News at 10:53 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

With a 2 to 1 vote during Friday night’s Special Meeting of the Library Board Katie Phippen was dismissed as the Library Director.  The last minute Special Meeting was called because the Library Board had to complete her performance appraisal and set the wages for the next fiscal year before June 30th.

In a phone interview yesterday Katie stated that she was blindsided with a list of complaints of which there had been no mention during the last year, at any of the regular board meetings, of any shortfalls in her performance.  Some of the complaints included: failing get up and leave her office to greet Friends of the Library who came in the door even when a librarian was at the desk, inappropriate work attire,  failing to deliver books to the Care Center and submitting fraudulent time sheets.

When Katie denied the fraudulent time sheets she was presented with a list of dates where she was told that she was not at work but her time sheets reflected that she was.  She countered with just because you drive by and do not see my car does not mean I am not working.  Just because you call and I am not here it does not mean I am not out doing library business.  My car has been in the shop a lot lately and was dropped off before work and picked up after the library closed.  I have also been walking to work to save gas.  Where is the proof that I was not working.

At the end of the board discussion of her performance Ms. Mendelson made a motion to dismiss Katie as the Library Director and the motion was seconded by Mrs. Sherman.

There were 4 board members present and they voted:

Foy – No

Mendelson – Yes

Sherman – Yes

Doud – Abstain

After her dismissal Katie still stayed at the meeting and fought to get a $.40 an hour raise for the other librarians.  They will now make $8.40 an hour after having worked there since 1995.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

As always these are my thoughts and mine alone.

This whole action strikes me as a repeat of last years trumpeted up charges presented at Katie’s performance review.  It also makes me wonder which of the two who voted to dismiss her is waiting in the wings to step in and supposedly save the day since summer reading is scheduled for this afternoon.   Any one care to guess?

While I understand that no one is perfect I probably visit the library more often than just about anyone else in town including everyone of the board members combined.  I have watched Katie press for the transformation of the library into a pleasant, mildew, dust and mold free environment.  I have seen her scoop mud and water from the basement.  I have witnessed her shortfalls but I have also watched her work to address them and have noticed a marked improvement during this last year.  Something that the board has never bothered to do.  They show up for the meetings and raise cane about something they have not witnessed.

I made this same argument last year and reminded the board that they should at least read the Trustees Handbook on how they should manage a director.  Apparently it was a waste of breath.

I for one will miss Katie.  I would also like to tell my readers that I have personally thanked her for all her hard work.  For all the books I have asked her to chase down and borrow for me.  For not having to go home and suffer from asthma attacks.  For bringing a wide range of new books.  For increasing the patronage numbers to qualify for more state funding even though it is still being withheld because the building is not ADA compliant.  For transforming the library out of the dark ages into a place the town can be proud of.

Thanks again Katie.