WHARTON — Wharton Village Council held a lengthy discussion at Monday night’s regular meeting about a payment it is withholding from contractor Underground Utilities for work Mayor Steve Koehler previously said was insufficient; however, council members decided to table the issue until the next council meeting.
The mayor received a letter from UU owner John Bores that requested the village pay all but 10 percent of the $101,042.12 still owed to UU on the condition that the company will return this fall to till and re-seed areas with which village officials are unhappy.
The re-seeding was part of the village’s new sewer project, which Koehler said cost more than $1 million.
“As we know, Underground Utilities has been after their money. It is a fairly sizable amount,” Koehler said. “They drafted up a letter, signed by the owner of the company, stating they will come back in the fall and till and re-seed the areas that I am unhappy with — not just come and do what they did to it last time, which didn’t fix anything.”
Council member Melissa Kauble said she wanted village solicitor Scott B. Johnson to look at the letter before council takes any action.
The phone number listed for the Carey attorney was disconnected and Johnson could not be reached for comment.
“My feeling is, knowing … how pushy they (were), how arrogant they (were) about it, I don’t trust them,” council member Jim Lease said. “I know (the letter) binds them, but the contract was supposed to bind them, too.”
Koehler said he wanted council to consider whether the end is worth the means.
“If we do not release what they’re requesting, we will see from their attorney,” he said. “No question about that.”
Council members decided to table the issue until they can make up a list of all parts of the project they are unhappy with.
“We may be a little village, but right is right and wrong is wrong,” Kauble said. “I have a problem with being stepped on just because we’re a little village. … I think we need … to be specific with what we want and by no means nasty and give them the amount that we are comfortable with releasing and see what they say.”
Kauble suggested scheduling a special meeting to discuss the issue. Koehler said the company has been finished with the project since May and he would invite a representative from the company to attend next month’s meeting.
“I (am not) having another meeting just to discuss this,” he said. “What’s another month?”
Village worker Bryce Walter said maps are being corrected for resident Barbara Fite’s property after the Poggemeyer Design Group project to put in a new sewer system.
“Things went better for Barb Fite,” he said. “When you look at the maps, her lateral was supposed to be in an alley. We dug back there and we found another map … that showed it right on the side of her house; so that saved her a little bit of money, but not what she was hoping for.”
In other business, Koehler asked council members if they wanted to put a levy on the November ballot.
“It would help fill in the gaps in the budget, with state funding being reduced,” Koehler said.
Clerk-treasurer Wendy Stauffer said she would ask Wyandot County Commissioner Ron Metzger for assistance with the levy issue. Koehler said council could hold a special meeting to discuss the levy further before next council meeting.
“I don’t see where there’s any magic funds just going to fall into our lap,” Koehler said. “The casino money, in theory, everybody should get a percentage of that. Big communities are getting a larger chunk.”
Koehler said council also must consider the cost of putting an issue on the ballot.
Council voted unanimously to begin the process to request funds from the county commissioners’ community development block grant for paving Sandusky Street.
“In a year or better, we’ll do (Sandusky) Street. We’ll get it ground and paved,” Koehler said. “That’s a big project. I would think we ought to have enough to put 50 percent towards that.”
Walter said cleanup from the June 29 storm has been going well, although there are “a couple things” still to be done.
“For example, the big tree west of the ball diamond, I figure you probably want to have it dropped,” Walter said. “If somebody knows anybody in town, we’ll give (the project) to a town person.”
Koehler said the tree by the ball diamond is not “in danger of falling down tomorrow.”
Council members decided to wait to take down the tree until the village applies for relief funds.
“Two people asked me after the first rain we had, how come the dirt (came) up from cracks on main street (Sandusky Street),” Walter said. “I told them, it’s not like they can go in and clean the cracks. A couple people thought it would seal.”
Koehler called the sealing project a “temporary fix.”
“The cracks are too numerous,” he said. “Some of it is residue from the seal coat. Once it got wet, it came back up out of the crack, rather than dirt coming up into the street.”
Kauble asked if the village could apply for county Federal Emergency Management Agency relief funds. Walter asked Stauffer to contact the county commissioners about the funds.
“Ask them because what we need is an emergency response from Wyandot County to help small communities, but nobody in here is a lifelong person,” Walter said. “There were some places that had to go through and take pictures of everything, what they hauled, and document man hours and stuff. Hopefully, there is something out there for us.”
Koehler reported Wharton-Jackson Township Fire Department volunteer Roger Pfeiffer is attempting to form a committee to help emergency response teams in and near the village during natural disasters or large-scale storms. He said the committee will create a list of area residents who have oxygen tanks or who otherwise might need assistance during power outages.
“Everything I thought went well there because that’s (the Environmental Protection Agency’s) job, to a certain extent, to watch (tree limbs near electric lines),” Walter said. “We had trouble with another grinder pump out there just on the east side of Keith Kauble’s house. … It’s still under warranty. If they don’t cover it, maybe we will say we need to put in low-voltage protection. When we do have brown-outs, we need to make sure (residents) shut their power off to their house inside.”
By ALISSA PAOLELLA