ELLIOTT — The heat inside Village Hall due to a non-working air-conditioning unit did not deter 13 residents from attending Tuesday night’s meeting of the Elliott Village Board, and the heat nearly matched the heated words of one resident objecting to his water bill.
Longtime resident and former village trustee Bill Sallee vehemently disagreed with his water bill and the fact that his water was due to be shut off over its nonpayment.
Sallee presented board members with a spreadsheet detailing water meter readings, billings and payments as his proof against the amount that the village’s water biller, Diane Ehlers, says he owes.
Sallee also was irritated that the board’s president, Josh Rouley, had earlier backed Ehlers’ opinion on the matter. Rouley said he did not have all the information at that point and apologized to Sallee, but Rouley also admonished Sallee for trying to interrupt his response.
After reviewing the spreadsheet’s documentation, board members agreed that Sallee was being overcharged and unanimously approved a motion to accept payment of $26.80 to settle his bill.
It appeared the incorrect billing may have stemmed from estimated meter readings during the winter that were carried forward incorrectly. Sallee showed that more than once, followup readings were unrelated to previous readings. Sallee also offered a photo of his current meter reading.
Rouley said he could see that Sallee did not owe the amount being charged, but Rouley said he could not explain what caused the discrepancies. Rouley reminded residents that Cooperative Advantage, a service of E.J. Water Cooperative of Dietrich, will assume the village’s water billing as of Sept. 1 because Ehlers will be moving to Indiana along with her husband, former village board president Russell Ehlers.
Rouley said he will contact Diane Ehlers to make the adjustment to Sallee’s account before information is transferred to Cooperative Advantage.
Two bills put on hold
After newly appointed Treasurer Joann Scheurich presented a list of bills to be paid, board members disagreed with paying two of them at this time.
The first was a bill of $500 from Donahue & Associates of Champaign, representing charges for engineer Joe Pisula to attend village board meetings from January through March. The firm was previously involved in engineering plans for the water tower’s repainting.
Trustee Ed Godsey said he felt the bill should be held for payment until more information could be obtained about the charges, since he felt the firm already had been fully paid.
Trustees also objected to paying Viking Painting the negotiated and previously agreed-to amount of $23,791 for costs incurred before the village terminated the firm’s contract to repaint the water tower.
Objections stemmed from concerns by newly appointed trustees of whether the contract had a termination clause that had been properly followed or even whether the entire contract had been properly executed. No one had a copy of the contract at the meeting.
Rouley, who was involved in telephone negotiations to lower the cancellation cost from $27,755, said he believed the bill to be valid, but Rouley also agreed it would be prudent to have the entire matter reviewed by Village Attorney Ellen Lee of Eckhardt & Lee in Gibson City.
Rouley said Scheurich still did not have the ability to write and sign checks because bank rules require all board members to sign a copy of the minutes from June indicating she had been duly appointed and sworn in. Needed signatures were obtained at this meeting.
Former treasurer criticized
Rouley said there were also other issues that had delayed Scheurich’s ability to perform her duties. Rouley said there were delays in getting former treasurer Cheri Daughenbaugh to follow through on closing out her duties and transferring the village’s fiscal records.
Rouley was frustrated because Daughenbaugh would not return his phone calls. Rouley said he even visited her residence and place of employment in an attempt to hasten her cooperation.
Financial records first needed to be submitted to the village’s auditing firm, CLA (formerly Clifton Gunderson) of Champaign, and these were due by the village’s fiscal year end of April 30. However, Rouley said that Daughenbaugh finally submitted the records 1 1/2 months later.
The Daughenbaugh family was involved in moving their family home from Elliott to Gibson City during the May-June time period. Cheri Daughenbaugh did not attend the board’s June meeting, but she did submit a report of fund balances and a list of bills to be approved.
Scheurich was only recently able to pick up the village’s financial materials from CLA, but she is struggling to be up to speed on the village’s accounting system without promised assistance from Daughenbaugh. Therefore, no treasurer’s report was given at the meeting.
Former longtime treasurer Ruth Reiners, who trained Daughenbaugh, said she would contact her. Reiners emphasized that Daughenbaugh is legally responsible until the current audit is completed and accepted.
New clerk appointed
Rouley said that Gloria Lynch was the only resident to respond to a notice in the local post office seeking applications for the village clerk’s position. The position was formerly combined by the previous board president with that of the treasurer, a move that current board members disagreed with.
Lynch is a 21-year Elliott resident, and Rouley said he believes she will be a valuable asset to the board. Trustees unanimously affirmed Rouley’s appointment of Lynch, and she was sworn in as village clerk.
Water report given
Paul Theesfield of Melvin gave the monthly water report. Theesfield said 411,600 gallons of water were used in June for an average of 13,720 gallons per day.
Theesfield also asked if the village wants to follow through on previous plans to install a visible volume gauge behind a glass window to show how many gallons of water are in the tank at a given point in time — a feature designed to be of particular help to firefighters.
Trustees agreed this option could proceed, despite the fact that other water tower work will not.
Rouley said a satisfactory number of household income surveys were obtained, and the application for a water system improvement grant has been submitted. Rouley said the grant was reviewed by the village’s attorney, who found no issues with it.
Theesfield said he still needs to compile the costs of water production and submit that to E.J. Water Cooperative. The information will be used to determine future charges. Rouley said he will work with Theesfield on obtaining and calculating the information.
Rouley said the village does not intend to make money on selling water, but it does not need to lose money, and officials need to know whether current rates are accomplishing that.
System suggested for labor
Rouley said he felt the current procedure that allows any number of part-time maintenance workers to use village equipment and submit invoices for payment of their labor needs to be supervised and the work approved beforehand.
Trustees agreed, and workers are now to contact the appropriate village trustee or the village board president for approval before doing work.
Rouley’s leadership praised
Resident Nellie Kinder praised Rouley, a former trustee, in his new position as board president. Kinder said she was impressed with how he handled the meeting and with his willingness to allow trustees and residents to voice their opinions.
Rouley has been guiding the village since May, following Russell Ehler’s abrupt resignation in April. However, Rouley indicated he has had little information to go by and said he has had trouble locating nearly everything he has looked for.