City to help purchase ice rescue equipment

    Prioritizing the safety of citizens and firefighters, Holyoke City Council committed $2,500 to the purchase of ice rescue equipment for Holyoke Volunteer Fire Department at the April 4 city council meeting.
    At the March 20 meeting, firefighter Bob Heldenbrand went to the council with a request for money to go toward the approximately $5,000 purchase of ice rescue equipment. Similar requests made to Holyoke Lions Club and the Holyoke Rural Fire Protection District were still pending at the time of the most recent city council meeting.
    Discussion of covering one-third or half of the cost, as well as where the money would come from in the budget, came to a head with a plea from council member Scott Murray. Speaking of the worst-case scenario at the pond, he asked, “What are you going to tell parents, grandparents, the community? We spent the money somewhere else?”
    Though there are a few nearby trainings and other equipment that will need to be budgeted for, the council recognized the importance of the ice rescue equipment and committed $2,500. Council members were also sure to note that HVFD could always ask for more, should the requests to other organizations be denied.
Library sidewalk bids tabled
    The City received bids from Rojo Contruction, Wirges Construction and Edwards Concrete Productions to replace the sidewalk and install a handicapped-accessible ramp from the street at Heginbotham Library.
    Council member Gene Bittner, however, said that after looking at the existing sidewalk, he doesn’t think it needs replaced entirely. “It’d be a waste of money to replace what’s good,” he added. Council member John Schneider pointed out that if they’re going to be spending money on the sidewalks, they need to do it right.
    Council members tabled the issue so Bittner and City Superintendent Mark Brown can determine what sections need to be replaced and new bids can be sought.
    Murray, who is the council member assigned to the library board, reported that he intended to be at the upcoming board meeting. In the past, he said, he’s had some trouble communicating with the board and sometimes didn’t even know when meetings would be held. “I think it’s time I step in and represent in a good manner,” he said, aiming for better communication between the city council and the library board as they move forward.
O’Neals file motion to drop appeal
    Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Mayor Orville Tonsing provided a follow-up to the March 29 special meeting of the city council. At the special meeting, the City accepted an offer of settlement from Rupert and Claire O’Neal with regard to their lawsuit.
    The next day, Tonsing reported, the O’Neals filed a motion to drop the appeal. “I, for one, am relieved and also am very happy with the rulings,” Tonsing concluded.
Rec department’s background screening policy accepted
    At the recommendation of recreation director Victoria Timm, the council accepted a background screening policy for the department. With a policy established, Timm explained, it won’t be up to her to make a judgment call about any background screening results.
    Employees, coaches and volunteers for the rec department will have a mandatory criminal background screening to be paid for by the City. The policy outlines crimes that will disqualify an individual, which include:
    —All sex offenses.
    —All felony violence offenses.
    —All felony offenses other than violence or sex within the past 10 years.
    —All misdemeanor violence offenses within the past seven years.
    —Two misdemeanor alcohol offenses within the past five years, or three or more offenses within the past 10 years.
    —All misdemeanor drug offenses within the past five years, or two or more offenses within the past 10 years.
    —Any other misdemeanor within the past five years that would be considered a potential danger to children.
    Timm also reported that the department’s soccer season is underway and baseball registration will be open soon. She also noted that the first youth golf clinic is scheduled for April 21-22 and registration is still open. Dates for the following clinics will be May 19-20 and July 14-15, with a junior golf tournament July 16.
    The recreation department will also be making a donation for youth to participate in the Bolder Boulder in exchange for their help with the department’s June 23 Dandelion Daze 5K race. Timm also told council members that she intends to have proceeds from the 5K race go to a charity. “People like to walk or run for a cause,” she pointed out.
Citizen concerned about state of neighboring yards
    Last Wednesday, council members discussed a letter the City received from Erin LeBlanc regarding the state of three of her neighbors’ yards. In her letter, LeBlanc said that Bruno (Robert Therriault) has a mess in his backyard that has been an ongoing problem for at least the eight years that she has lived there.
    Recently she also saw him having a large bonfire while the wind was blowing 21 mph. Upon calling the comm center, LeBlanc said, she was told that police had already been there but he had a fire extinguisher and hose nearby.
    LeBlanc pointed out another neighbor, Todd Waln, whose property has a pile of vehicles, a large motorhome, and a trash pile of pallets, windows and other equipment. She also said that Gary Kumm, the neighbor across the street, has hoarding outside and several dozen cats.
    “I am appalled that more is not done about these situations,” LeBlanc’s letter said. “I am upset that those living in town are able to keep property in such a mess, and that on a windy evening someone can have a raging fire in his backyard, not in a fire pit or any proper containment.”
    Police Chief Doug Bergstrom told council members that he has since been in contact with all three individuals and deadlines have been given for significant progress to be made. Tonsing replied that if they don’t comply, tickets should be given. “When we get done with them, we’ve got more,” Tonsing said of the three yards in violation.
Officials report
    Brown reported that the electric department has been out at the airport, removing fence and working on lights. Water and sewer department continues rodding sewers, and streets crews continue crack-filling.
    He also noted that the City’s portable air compressor broke down. The City will see a charge for the rental that they needed for a few days while the air compressor was repaired.
    Brown also reported that he was approached by Joey Larrabee to see if the City is interested in acquiring his hangar at the airport. Brown said that he thinks it would be an ideal spot to store the fuel truck, and the matter will be put on the agenda for the April 17 city council meeting.
    Bergstrom reported that the Holyoke Police Department, including code enforcement, handled or generated 257 calls for service from March 15-28. They made two arrests, wrote 13 citations and six reports, and gave out 53 warnings. Code enforcement handled two animal complaints, one curfew violation, three dogs at large and 19 ordinance violations.
    City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Olofson reported the results of the April 3 municipal election. Bittner, Steve Moore and Brian Akey were re-elected to the city council.
    City Attorney Al Wall reported that he received additional information about codification and will be reviewing it. Within the next month, a three-hour meeting will need to be scheduled to discuss ordinances.
Other business
    In other business at the April 4 meeting, city council:
    —Passed Resolution No. 2-2018, designating HVFD as the emergency response authority.
    —Approved an exception request from Holyoke Postmaster Steve Starkebaum for the post office’s new sewer rate since it was calculated during a time when there was water leakage, which has since been remedied.
    —Hired Newman Construction to remove and dispose of old fence and install new fence around the wastewater facility for $16,530.
    —Made a donation to the 2018 Holyoke High School post-prom party.
    —Donated one youth summer swim pass to the Dragon’s Wagon Preschool fundraising auction.
    —Allowed meal and vehicle expenses for Bergstrom to visit academies for recruitment of a fifth officer.
    —Agreed to have Brown advertise the old crack-fill machine for sale, as he received an inquiry from D&M Contractors in Van, Texas.

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