Asel questions Westphalia mayor’s double-duty as city clerk

By Theresa Brandt, Staff Writer
Posted 5/4/22

In her first meeting since being elected, Westphalia Alderman Lori Asel questioned Mayor Tammy Massman about her secondary role as city clerk and progress in filling the position.

“What is …

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Asel questions Westphalia mayor’s double-duty as city clerk

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In her first meeting since being elected, Westphalia Alderman Lori Asel questioned Mayor Tammy Massman about her secondary role as city clerk and progress in filling the position.

“What is the status of the city clerk position?” Asel asked. “Are we looking? Is it being advertised?”

“At this point, I am comfortable doing both,” said Massman, who was appointed city clerk at the November meeting with approval by aldermen.

“But I think we are eventually going to need a city clerk,” Asel said.

“It would have to be a justification of the board that you are dissatisfied with my services being rendered as city clerk and make a motion to post the position,” Massman said.

“It’s not that I am saying that you are not doing a good job,” Asel continued. “I just think we should have a separate person doing the city clerk position.”

“The only thing I fear with you doing double duty is if something would happen to you,” Alderman Delbert Wieberg added.

“With my term coming up next year, I will tell you, if there is another candidate to hold this spot (as mayor), I would remain as city clerk only,” Massman said. “That would be my position as of today.

“It is not improper for me to hold both positions,” Massman continued. “This was an approved position last fall. I would essentially have to be fired by the board in order for the city to post the position.”

“So, there have been no outside candidates apply?” Asel asked.

“Prior to Kerry’s (Bax) retirement, we had one application,” Massman said. “That application was denied. There hasn’t been a single other applicant. I volunteered and have held the position since. You would have to fire me to say the position was open.”

In other business at the April 26 meeting, aldermen agreed to pay for repairs for five grates that were part of the driveway assistance program that Westphalia has undertaken over the last couple of years. The city will cover the cost of the repairs to bring the grates up to the standard that was unofficially set when the first driveway was put in at St. Joseph Catholic Church. 

“The one here at St. Joe, the first one that was put in, had an embedded angle (in the concrete),” Wieberg said. “I went to investigate, and several don’t have the embedded angle.”

Aldermen also approved an amendment to the policy that allows for the cost-share of the resident’s driveway and outlines specifications for how the grates would need to be built in the future.

Wieberg identified grate systems in five residents’ driveways that were part of the cost-share program that were missing the solid bar and the embedded angle on the metal grate.

“I think, if you keep driving over the quarter-inch bar (on the grate), it will eat on the concrete because it doesn’t have the embedded angle, and it’s wearing on the concrete,” Wieberg said. “If you have the full metal piece, it evenly distributes pressure on the concrete.”

Massman agreed that the five driveways that Wieberg had identified were all built by the same contractor.

“We defined that the driveways needed a grated system without specifications,” Massman explained. “Each contractor is doing them differently.”

“We need to provide a shop drawing along with each application to make sure that they are all the same,” Wieberg said. “We put money in but didn’t get out of it exactly what we wanted.”

“The driveways were supposed to be mimicked off of the one at St. Joseph’s,” Massman agreed.

Aldermen and mayor walked out to the street, and Wieberg picked up the grate on St. Joseph’s driveway. He showed the others the embedded angle in the concrete and the solid bar of metal that framed the grate. The board walked down the street and found a grate system that Wieberg had been discussing. Without the solid bar of metal to frame the grate, the metal grate was beginning to show signs of wear. When Wieberg lifted the grate and showed that it did not have the embedded angle in the concrete, they could see the beginning of wear marks on the concrete. 

Wieberg believes that these grates can be fixed on-site. Mayor Massman will email a copy of the city’s current policy to aldermen for consideration.

• Aldermen approved Mid Mo Operations to purchase three $40 alarms for the lift stations, install a new rubber piece on the clarifier, and the cost of labor to install all these pieces not to exceed $400. 

Curtis Wheat with Mid Mo Operations noted that they had priced more expensive alarms at $450 each, but they believed the cheaper ones were better options. 

“You can replace a whole lot of alarms for $450,” Wheat reasoned.

In other sewer system news, Wheat reported that they had still not heard back from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about the sample variance that Mid Mo Operations had submitted to reduce the amount of sampling and tests required for the sewer plant. 

“We thought this would be a really simple process,” Wheat said. “We are assuming that they are short-handed and busy chasing bigger fires.”

Wheat reported that everything at the plant and lift stations looked good and that his company would be pulling quarterly samples.

Mid MO Operations has sprayed weed-killer around the plant and lift stations, and additional chemicals have been ordered.

Wheat said he believes that land application of sludge would be needed sometime in May. Mid MO Operations plans to price out the difference between land application and hauling the sludge somewhere else for disposal.

“We are going to price out which one is best, but I don’t see how it would save any money to haul it off,” Wheat said.

He noted that the manhole inspections and repairs will continue. Gaskets needed for some of the repairs have been ordered but there is no timeframe from the manufacturer when they might be delivered. 

“We know it needs to be done by the end of the year,” Wheat said. “We’re going to take our time and make repairs as we go along. We can always go back and replace the gaskets.”

Wheat noted that there might be no reason to map the sewer system electronically, as previously discussed.

“If you guys are good with the maps, we probably are,” Wheat said. “They are close enough we’ve been able to locate everything so far.”

Wheat noted some more significant repairs would be needed for the diffusers in the future but that those projects can wait until all the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds have been disbursed.

Massman noted that she had filed the first report for the ARP money that had already been received by the April 30 deadline, and the money has not yet been allocated for any project.

“Our advisement has been to try to find a project you would use all of the funds, instead of smaller projects, to make the reporting easier,” Massman said, estimating the city will have all the APR funds by October.

“Nothing needs attention today,” Wheat noted. “If something comes up, we’ll deal with it at that time.”

• S&P Management has sent a formal request to the city to reconsider the current sewer rate that the apartment complex is being charged. These rates are set for city residents based on average fourth-quarter water usage. During the fourth quarter of 2021, the company noticed an increase in water usage due to several water leaks and two toilets running constantly. Then in January, the company’s sewer bill jumped from $472.15 a month to $727.07 per month. Apartment building owner Sharon Suess requested that the sewer bill go back to last year’s charge and remain at that rate for the rest of 2022.

Mayor Massman passed around billing statements for the apartment complex that seem to corroborate the letter’s explanation of the rate hike.

Aldermen Wieberg was unsympathetic to the call to reduce the sewer bill. “The water usage should have been her first notice that something was wrong,” he said. “The sewer bill is established by the last quarter’s water usage, so if you have a leak during that time, you will be billed that amount for the next three quarters.”

Massman explained that the reason that the fourth quarter is used to set the usage for the year is because since customers are not filling pools or watering lawns or gardens, it is the most accurate period to collect water usage.

Alderman Ben Holterman asked if this was an issue that came up a lot.

“No,” Mayor Massman said. “If this would have happened in April, May, or June, it would have never come to our attention.”

“But we did have to absorb the water into our sewer system,” Wieberg countered. “Do we even know if it has been fixed?”

Alderman Stanley Heckman made a motion to deny the customer’s request to change the sewer bill. In seconding the motion, Wieberg noted it was a hard lesson for the property owner to learn.

Heckman and Wieberg were in favor of denying the request, and Holterman and Asel voted against the measure.

“She’s already paid the bill,” Holterman said. “If this happened in July, the sewer bill wouldn’t have changed.”

“She would have seen an increase in the water usage, but the sewer bill would have remained stagnant,” Massman agreed. “She would have paid the additional charge for the water, and she is not asking credit back for that.”

“She has addressed the leaks,” Asel said. “I feel like the first quarter is kind of a punishment for dealing with it happening. Maybe we can give her forgiveness going forward but not refund any money from the first quarter. The usage is down, so it looks like she has fixed the problem.”

Holterman also questioned the number of tenants this year compared to last.

After some consideration, Massman decided not to vote to break the tie, and the motion failed. 

“I want to look into this further and see if we can request a full year of water usage,” she said. 

Holterman also asked if aldermen could find out the tenant rate now and last year, as well as the repair bills for the apartment complex’s water problems during the fourth quarter of 2021.

“It would be good if we could see the full picture,” Asel said.

S&P Marketing will be required to pay the assessed bill this month, and aldermen will reconsider the request at next month’s meeting when new information is presented.

• Aldermen approved a request from Westphalia Hills to hold its Fourth of July Extravaganza on June 24. 

• Asel and Holterman were sworn in as new aldermen.

• Westphalia has received all business license renewals, and all have been paid in full.

• The city has received the annual renewal for insurance from Missouri Public Entity Risk Management Fund (MOPERM) for a cost of $5,895, which is about 10-15% higher than last year’s premium. Massman will request a separate quote that will cover the city for cyber breach coverage.

She noted that a lot of the city’s reporting is done online, though the city does not utilize online banking.

“I mean, everything is electronic when we report W-9s, payroll, wages, the files we upload to the accountant,” Massman explained. “The carriers have had an increase in information breaches and cyberattacks, and that is not an item that is typically covered.”

Massman will fill out the questionnaire and bring the quote to the next meeting.

• Aldermen tabled Ordinance #22-01, which would put on the April 4, 2023, ballot whether Westphalia would forgo annual municipal elections for six years if the number of candidates filing equals the number of seats up for election. The ordinance has been in place for the last six years, and by statute, would need alderman approval to put it forth for voters and voter approval to go into effect.

Aldermen will research the ordinance and its implications and revisit the tissue at the May meeting.

• The handrail along the sidewalk at the intersection of Main Street and Castlerock Road has been scheduled for repair.

• Wieberg asked aldermen to take some time and look at the problems that Dale Logan had brought before the board at the last meeting, at which he complained that runoff water from the street was washing out his yard. He suggested that milling down the new streets at City View Lane and North Maries Avenue might solve the problem.

“I think he has the wrong idea,” Wieberg said. “Milling the road down isn’t going to fix his problem. What has happened is the culvert has rusted out under his upper and lower driveway, which has started to undermine the concrete poured above it, and it’s running down through the yard. If you don’t fix the culvert, it’s going to continue to be a problem.”

Wieberg did not have an easy solution for the problem and did not know who should pay for repairs. 

“Something has to be done, or eventually it’s going to undermine the street,” Wieberg said. “It’s going to be a big ordeal.”

• Aldermen approved expenses for the month as follows: city fund ($3,076.26), sewer system ($7,680.72), and the special road district ($384.40).

• The city had the following receipts for the month: city ($8,592.26), sewer ($9,607.21), and special road district ($142.17).

• Westphalia had the following ending balances in their accounts: city checking ($169,718.12), sewer system checking ($34,787), special road district checking ($51,164.02), and special road district savings ($5,111.88).

• The city holds the following certificates of deposit: city ($439,137.24), sewer system ($521,561.98), and special road district ($521,710.91).

• The next meeting will be held on May 31 at 6 p.m.

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