Gene Bittner

Bittner fills city council vacancy

    After J.C. Peckham’s Aug. 15 resignation left a vacancy on the Holyoke City Council, two residents submitted letters of intent for the position. Gene Bittner and Thom Elliott were in attendance at the Tuesday, Sept. 5, meeting for the council’s vote.
    Council members Scott Murray, Steve Moore and Brian Akey, as well as mayor Orville Tonsing, voiced their choices, and Bittner was selected in a 3-1 vote. He will be sworn in at the Sept. 19 meeting.
    
County administrator shares building funding  strategy
    Council member Kevin Scott, who was absent from the Sept. 5 meeting for medical reasons, had previously asked Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer to speak to the council about the County’s funding strategy for the Phillips County Event Center built in 2008-2009.
    Schafer provided a funding history of the $3.7 million Event Center. While the City’s goals of building new fire and police buildings have obvious differences from the County’s projects, Schafer hoped to offer some insight for council members’ consideration. He emphasized that a valid cost estimate is essential.
    He recommended visiting sites with similar buildings to see firsthand what features they like and dislike. Schafer also noted that buildings that serve multiple purposes have the potential for funding from a wider variety of foundations. To conclude, he offered some advice, should a request to raise taxes not be approved by voters.  
    
Fire hall plans discussed
    Josh Young and Lance Murray of the Holyoke Volunteer Fire Department were in attendance to discuss building plans at the Tuesday meeting.
   Young presented an estimate from Buildings by Design for a total steel structure. The company from Brush built Haxtun’s fire building. Young noted that the $1.6 million design is a bit smaller than the one previously presented by University of Colorado engineering students.
    When asked if the plans, which currently have six truck bays, could work with five, Young said that the cut could work but would be problematic in the future. He suggested making other cuts, such as to the meeting space, before removing a bay.
    City Superintendent Mark Brown noted that he will be looking into an option of saving the concrete from demolition of the old building on that site and having it crushed for City use. It would be an additional upfront cost, but it would result in a usable product.
    
Sports, classes added to rec department offerings
    Recreation director Victoria Timm reported on several projects underway. The new flag football program has 22 participants from grades 1-4 in its first year. She noted that there have already been requests to extend the age range to include older participants.
    Four teams have signed up for the women’s volleyball league that the department has taken over. Timm also reported that plans are in the works for a cooking class at Ballyneal and a Jan. 15 3-on-3 basketball tournament in conjunction with the Dragon Booster Club.
    Progress on the little baseball field will soon be taking shape as well. Timm made an arrangement with Woody’s Pivot Service to remove the grass in the infield. With the help of two City employees, labor will be traded for the grass. Improvements to the field will be an additional resource for the rec department’s summer ball teams, and down the road, Timm hopes to host tournaments using both fields.
    
Officials report
    Brown reported two power outages since the last meeting. The first affected the 400-800 blocks of South Reynolds and Coleman avenues. On Aug. 31 the entire city briefly lost power. The electric department continues work on the mini park, and Brown said that lighting should be completed soon. Next they will begin installing soffit and fascia and will soon begin the surrounding concrete work.
    The water and sewer department is still working on the backflow program, and Sargent Irrigation is making repairs to the R-1 well on Sherman Avenue. The street crew has been patching streets and mowing city property. Murray asked how much longer patching streets will take, as he has received some complaints. Brown noted that progress continues to be made, but there is still much to do.
    Brown also reported that Andrew Ross from Nebraska Municipal Power Pool will be at the Sept. 19 meeting to discuss a contract due next October.
    Police Chief Doug Bergstrom reported that the police department handled or generated 281 calls for service from Aug. 10-29. Including code enforcement, they made four arrests, wrote seven citations and 12 reports, and gave out 34 warnings. Code enforcement had three animal complaints, one dog at large, 18 ordinance violations and two weeds violations.
    City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Olofson reported that the City’s total assessed value is $16,671,020. The Phillips County assessor will have the final assessed value Dec. 1. The City also received the 2017 severance tax of $1,148.45 and the 2017 mineral lease at $1,153.62 from the State.
    Olofson also had a copy of the Venture to Northeast Colorado magazine so council members could view the City’s ad.
    
Other business
    In other business at the Sept. 5 meeting, the council:
    —Opted to wait until the next meeting, when there will be a fuller council, to make a decision regarding adding a fifth police officer. Moore provided council members a breakdown of first-year costs for a new officer, which total $126,000.
    —Withdrew from the November coordinated election.
    —Decided to pave the 200 block of West Kunkel Street with concrete at an estimated cost of $50,000.
    —Made a $15,000 donation to the Holyoke Golf Club for maintenance, as it has done since 2011, after hearing from Jason Redman of the golf board.
    —Discussed the Holyoke Gun Club’s request for a donation toward the Kevin Scott benefit. As the City has declined to donate to other nonprofits in the past, council members decided not to but agreed that they would be willing to volunteer their time individually.
    —Asked Olofson to seek additional quotes for recodification of the Holyoke Municipal code for the next meeting. She already has a quote from Municode.
    —Noted Scott’s absence and decided to wait until his third to address approving an extended absence due to medical reasons.
    —Approved special event permits for the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce for the Oct. 15 Bridal Expo and Oct. 28 Big Boy Toy Show, both at Phillips County Event Center.
    —Hired Sharlene Benson as a lifeguard with water safety instructor certification at $10.05 per hour.
    —Held a 20-minute executive session to receive legal advice from attorney Al Wall and to determine positions for negotiation.

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