Is now the time to buy HPD a new vehicle?

Council members are divided

Ultimately at its May 5 meeting, Holyoke City Council approved the purchase of a $38,466 Chevy Tahoe for Holyoke Police Department, but the decision wasn’t unanimous.

Police Chief Doug Bergstrom brought the matter to the council last Tuesday. He explained that the City budgeted $30,200 for a Dodge Durango to replace one of the department’s older vehicles this year. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, manufacturing plants have been shut down, and Bergstrom was told that it might be the end of 2021 — or later — before a Durango ordered now is finished.

Another option he presented to the council is a police-package Tahoe that’s already in stock in Denver. Though over budget, it is available.

Council member Gene Bittner immediately spoke up. “The way that times are right now, people can’t pay their bills, other businesses are having trouble, I think it would be irresponsible if we bought that Tahoe.”

Council member Scott Murray also had concerns and asked about the vehicles already in the fleet.

Officer Mary Winterrowd’s vehicle was purchased last year. Bergstrom’s was purchased three years ago, and Commander JR Myers’ was purchased four years ago. Older vehicles not currently in use include two cars and a pickup. They will likely be relegated to other departments in the City or put up for sealed bid.

“Just because we have something budgeted doesn’t mean we need to spend it,” Murray said. “If they need one they need one, but if they don’t need one, let’s save the money.”

Council member John Schneider pointed out that the budget also accounted for a fourth officer, who has yet to be hired, so that’s money budgeted that isn’t being spent.

“I know we probably could do it, but I’m just looking at the people that are just struggling in this community,” Murray said. “It just doesn’t sit well with me.”

Though Bittner and Murray were opposed, the majority gave the go-ahead to purchase the Tahoe.


Library, park reopening among City’s recent COVID-19 updates

At last week’s meeting, Holyoke City Council also moved forward with several other items relating to COVID-19. To continue to cut down on in-person contact, the May 19 meeting was canceled. Council members also passed Resolution No. 4-2020, creating a policy for electronic participation for city council meetings during emergency situations.

Attorney Al Wall emphasized that passing the resolution doesn’t mean the council has to have its next meeting remotely, simply that it is an option.

Heginbotham Library was also given approval to reopen to the public under a safety plan submitted by library director Kathy Bornhoft. As of May 7, the library is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Curbside pickup will be available for people who have called in to request books. Only two patrons are allowed inside at a time, and children under the age of 17 are not allowed to enter without an adult. Masks and gloves are required.

The City’s parks have also been reopened with limitations. All playground equipment is still off-limits. The parks are open from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and visitors must maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

Council members received information about Help Holyoke, a fund set up to support local business owners and employees during the pandemic. The matter was tabled to allow more time to look into it before deciding whether the City will make a donation.

Also tabled at last week’s meeting was a question of whether to reimburse vacation days voluntarily taken by the City’s licensed water and wastewater operators who are trying to limit contact with each other as a COVID-19 precaution. Council members opted to hold off on making a decision because they don’t know how much longer coronavirus restrictions will last.


Bid accepted for airport project

With multiple projects and grants in the works for the airport, the city council continues to keep things moving. Superintendent Mark Brown reported that bids for the fog seal and re-mark project were opened via video conference with Armstrong Consultants on April 29. American Road Maintenance’s $185,917.70 bid was the lower of the two received.

Including the engineering fee for Armstrong Consultants, the cost of the project is $273,913.70, which will be covered by a grant.

At the May 5 meeting, council members voted to allow Mayor Orville Tonsing to sign a notice to proceed with that project once the grant is in place. Council members also agreed to allow Tonsing to sign a professional service agreement with Armstrong Consultants for the airport master plan and to ratify Tonsing’s and Wall’s signatures on a grant signed the week before.


Officials report

Brown reported that the electric department handled a power outage May 4 and has been trimming trees interfering with power lines. The department will also be installing LED street lights, like the ones previously installed near the Peerless Theatre, along both highways in town.

The water and sewer department has been fixing broken meters, cleaning storm sewers, working on sprinkler systems and rodding sewers. The department also laid sod on graves at the cemetery. Brown noted that the handheld meter reading system is getting set up.

Street crews finished crack-filling and have been patching streets and at the airport. They also finished spreading grass and have been picking up tree branches from storms.

The parks department fertilized the parks and got the sprinkler systems on, and the cemetery was fertilized as well.

Brown noted that he is working on the City’s website and asked council members to take a look and give their feedback.

He also reported that Ron Koberstein started summer work May 1, and the council approved his wage at $12.25 per hour. Hunter Bergstrom started May 4 at $12 per hour, and John Zilla began May 12 at $12.50 per hour.

Bergstrom reported that HPD, including code enforcement, handled or generated 493 calls for service April 2-30. There were six animal complaints and six municipal code violations.

Clerk/treasurer Kathy Olofson reported that the City received a draft of the 2019 audit. Scott Szabo will soon schedule a time to present the audit to the council. The City also received the first-quarter Conservation Trust Fund deposit of $5,482.82.

Olofson noted that the credit card system has been operational since the end of March. While the office remains closed, credit card payments can be made online. Once the office reopens, there will be a terminal at the counter as well. So far, a couple of police fines, a building permit fee and about 10 utility bills have been paid online.

A council member had previously requested that Olofson find out whether the highway user tax fund has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Olofson reported that the total from the first four months of this year was within $250 of the total from the same time period last year. The lodging tax, on the other hand, is down about $7,000-$8,000 so far compared to last year.

Though not at the meeting itself, recreation director Victoria Dunker told Olofson that a decision hasn’t yet been made about whether there will be a summer baseball season.


Other business

In other business at the May 5 meeting, council members:

— Approved the 2019 annual highway finance report.

— Approved a waiver of personnel policy No. 22 for Jason Redman.

— Opted to continue with the current Colorado Employer Benefit Trust health insurance plan.

— Approved May 29 and May 30 special events permits for the Phillips County fair board and waived local fees.

— Approved the Colorado Retirement Association plan and trust agreement.

— Allowed transfer of sick leave to a fellow employee.

— Approved, effective April 24, the additional incentive of $2,080 to the base pay for Myers for having a master’s degree specific to law enforcement.

Holyoke Enterprise

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