Highway to close for railroad work this summer
At the Tuesday, April 4, meeting, City Superintendent Mark Brown informed Holyoke City Council that roadwork at the Holyoke railroad crossing has been scheduled.
He received notice from the State that NKC Railnet will be redoing the railroad crossing this summer. In late June and early July, a portion of Highway 385 will be closed for up to four weeks to accommodate the work, and traffic will be diverted to county roads 37 and 41.
Holyoke City Park will now be closed from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. daily. Those wishing to use the park during those hours may receive a free permit from the police department. Violation of the curfew is punishable by a fine of up to $300.
At the beginning of the April 4 meeting, a public hearing for the City Park curfew ordinance was held. No one from the public was in attendance, and the ordinance went to a vote without any discussion.
Council members Brian Akey and J.C. Peckham were absent. Scott Murray voted in opposition of the curfew, but the ordinance passed on a 4-1 vote.
Vacation time paid
On the recommendation of its auditor, the City addressed Chief of Police Doug Bergstrom’s 318 accrued vacation hours.
When the police department had only two officers, the council suspended its policy, allowing them to go over the regular 200-hour limit for vacation accrued. Now that the department has more employees, the council voted to reinstate the policy.
They also discussed whether to pay Bergstrom for his excess hours or to allow him a window to use the hours before losing them. Bergstrom said he would prefer to use the vacation hours, but the council found it unlikely that he could use them up without causing problems with other officers reaching their limits. Sgt. Mark Werts noted the addition of a fifth officer to the department would help alleviate the problem.
Members voted to pay Bergstrom $3,613.59 for his extra vacation hours, putting him back at 200.
Cellphones to be reimbursed
Eight City of Holyoke employees will now receive a $35 per month stipend to help cover the costs of using a personal cellphone for City business.
First brought to the council by rec director Victoria Timm, the issue of reimbursing the cost of a cellphone used for work was revisited. To date, several City employees have used their personal cellphones to conduct work calls, without being reimbursed. Brown noted that he and six on-call employees receive work pages sent to their personal phones. Timm will also be using her cellphone for much of her work when she is out of the office at the baseball field.
Council member Steve Moore reported that additional work phones could be added to the plan that covers the police department phones. Phones used by Holyoke police are owned and paid for by the City. It was pointed out that doing so would require those employees affected to carry two phones — a personal and a work phone — at all times.
A policy that specifies that employees of the City may receive a monthly stipend to pay for business-related costs when using personal cellphones was presented. City Attorney Al Wall noted phones used for official business could be checked for transactions relating to work, and that would mean the employees’ personal business on the phone might be seen.
Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Olofson pointed out that the policy has been worded to make participation optional because the Colorado Open Records Act may apply to personal information kept on the cellphones.
Noting the convenience of using an existing personal phone over purchasing and carrying a second work-only phone, the council approved the cellphone policy.
With the new policy in place, council member John Schneider moved that the City reimburse Brown, Timm and six on-call City employees each $35 per month for their cellphone bills, effective March 1, and the council approved that as well.
City council will be holding a number of workshops to go over policies and procedures in the coming weeks. The first workshop is scheduled immediately following the next city council meeting Tuesday, April 18.
Wall will lead the workshop, reviewing open meeting procedures and happenstance meetings of three or more council members.
Dates and topics for additional workshops will be announced as they’re scheduled.
Brown noted the City, along with the Communications Center, will be testing sirens Monday, April 24, at 10 a.m.
He also reported two power outages since the last meeting. The first, a citywide outage Saturday, March 25, at 4:15 a.m., was caused by a raccoon on the City’s main transformer. Power was restored by switching to the Highline Electric transformer. At the time of the meeting, repairs were still being made. An insurance claim has been filed. The second power outage was Sunday, April 2, in the 100 block of East Jules Street.
Electric crews continue to replace poles and have changed out 15 of the 42 damaged ones.
Water and sewer crews continue to work on the alfalfa sprinkler system. They replaced a toilet at the park bathroom and have been working on the pool and ballpark bathrooms. They did a sewer tap for 304 S. Coleman Ave.
Street crews have been picking up branches and cleaning storm drains. They also rewired the chip spreader. Seal coating is scheduled for the week of July 24, and the City will be taking bids to haul rock for the next meeting.
Crews were called to the pool Tuesday, March 28, because the basement had flooded. They pumped out the basement that night and got fans running to dry it out. The next day, they pulled pumps and rebuilt them.
Dickinson Land Surveyors has completed the zoning map for the city, and utility maps are almost done.
Rick Unrein from CHS Grainland donated eight high school students that the cooperative purchased at the FFA/FCCLA service sale to the City for a community project. Brown suggested they work on landscaping near the ballpark.
Bergstrom reported the police department handled or generated 183 calls for service between March 16-29. Including code enforcement, they made one arrest, wrote seven citations and one report, and gave out 28 warnings. Code enforcement handled four animal complaints, one dog at large and 11 ordinance violations.
The police department was also involved in the Every 15 Minutes program March 27-28.
Timm reported that a rec department Facebook page has been made and an online store for equipment and apparel is up, generating additional revenue for the program. The 16-18 Babe Ruth Midwest Plains Regional Baseball Tournament, held in Holyoke last summer, donated new baseball uniforms to the program. There will be all new uniforms for baseball and some new softball uniforms added to the existing inventory.
Timm is seeking local business sponsors for the T-ball and machine-pitch programs.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, city council:
—Tabled discussion about repairs needed on East Denver Street. Brown will research alternatives to their current contract prior to the next meeting.
—Renewed health insurance from Colorado Employer Benefit Trust for City of Holyoke employees. Council members and the city attorney may also choose coverage from CEBT, paying 100 percent of their own premiums.
—Purchased 30 tons of red infield dirt for the baseball field for $1,140 and accepted a quote from Nick Ferguson to haul the dirt to Holyoke from Golden for $510.
—Approved a travel request for Officer Joe Marcum to attend Taser instructor school.
—Set wages for Gary Huss as a new hire in the electric department at $15 per hour.
—Increased the asset capitalization policy. Previously, all fixed assets with a purchase value of $2,000 or more were required to be inventoried and tracked as an asset of the City. That amount was changed to $5,000.
—Heard from Cathy Schull of Progressive 15 about House Bill 1242, the transportation bill.