Meta aldermen agree to remove three elms from the ballpark

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 5/24/23

At their May 10 meeting, Meta aldermen agreed to have three trees cut down at the ballpark.

Reiterating last month’s suggestion, Alderman Otto Wankum said the trees at the ballpark need to …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Meta aldermen agree to remove three elms from the ballpark


At their May 10 meeting, Meta aldermen agreed to have three trees cut down at the ballpark.

Reiterating last month’s suggestion, Alderman Otto Wankum said the trees at the ballpark need to be trimmed or removed. “Eventually, we’re gonna have to take them out because there’s really not much left of them,” he added. “There’s a big trunk and a lot of little limbs everywhere, and we’ll have to trim that down.”

Feeler Tree Service of Belle was the only company to submit a bid, which included cutting down three elm trees ($750), cleaning up brush ($400), and removing wood ($400), plus an hourly rate of $125 for grinding stumps.

City Clerk Deidra Buechter told the board that Feeler would work with the city, noting that if maintenance crews would remove the wood and clean up the brush, those elements of the bid would be removed.

“That’s good firewood,” said Alderman Steve Sherrell.

“We can haul it and burn it up at the maintenance shed,” said Wankum.

Buechter said Feeler did a good job grinding the stump after another tree was cut down.

“I hate to cut trees down, but on the same token, they’re a pain,” said Wankum.

“If they fall on the fence, you’ll be replacing it too,” Buechter said.

“I don’t think they’re ready to fall over,” Wankum replied. “They’ve been there a long time.”

There was no quote to trim the trees. Alderman Ivie Helton said the trees would need to be removed at some point. “I don’t know that we should spend the money to trim them back and prolong the inevitable,” she added.

Aldermen agreed to have Feeler remove the trees and grind the stumps with the understanding the city would be responsible for the brush and removing wood.

In related park news, a group of people appears to be living out of their vehicle at the park. “I don’t know if they’re homesteading down there or what,” said maintenance employee Kenny Loethen.

“They’re still down there?” Clerk Buechter asked.

“They were taking a shower today,” Loethen replied. “Well, I guess he was washing off, and a 2-year-old child was there as well.”

Hoffman asked if it was the same blue van that’s been at the park for a couple of weeks.

City Attorney Todd Smith told aldermen that if they call the sheriff’s office, deputies would hotline that as a child who’s not being cared for daily.

“The parents work down at Diamond Feed,” Loethen said.

“I’m not saying the kid is in mortal danger, but I think a lot of juvenile officers would investigate something like that, make sure the kid is fed, clothed, and has good hygiene,” said Smith. “You’d have that option. It’s separate from the crime of trespassing or loitering. If there’s a kid that’s not doing well, that’s a much easier thing to do.”

Wankum said that, to his knowledge, the individuals haven’t torn anything up at the park.

“No, but they tried to charge a cell phone today, and I told him the electric is off,” said Loethen.

“I believe there are services at Linn with Osage County that can help place them if they’re homeless,” Buechter said.

“I don’t know if they’re sleeping in it, but every time I’m down there cutting grass, they’re shaking their sleeping bags out,” said Loethen.

“Isn’t there a new law against sleeping in public?” Helton asked.

Smith confirmed there is a law against homelessness.

“I wonder if while the parents are working, they’re down here,” said Wankum, adding he doesn’t know where they come from each day. “I guess the older kid is driving.”

“Yeah, he did look of age to drive,” said Mayor Emily Sommerer.

Loethen wondered if the kids were dropping their parents off at work and picking them up in the evening.

Sommerer suggested everyone keep an eye out. “Yesterday was the first day I saw them up at the church,” she said. “They were parked in the church lot.”

“That’s a good point,” Smith said. “There is a new homelessness law. That’s a state statute. So, if you call an officer, they don’t have to arrest anybody, but if they wanted to, they could. And again, people who are homeless are very difficult to prosecute. They don’t have any money and can’t make bail. They tend to just sit in jail until their court date. I have personally dismissed cases. It’s a tough situation, and it’s a whole other can of worms if there’s a kid.”

“We’re required to do something about it, though, to keep federal funding, right?” Sommerer asked.

“That’s what I was thinking,” said Helton. “We’re not out to try to get somebody in trouble who’s already in a bad situation. If I remember correctly, there was some kind of stipulation because I remember Nathan (Nickolaus) had this.”

“It’s a really screwy law, and you lose all funding,” Smith noted.

Loethen told aldermen he would speak with the man the next time he sees him. “I’ll find out if they’re homeless, or maybe they just drop their mom and dad off here, and then they come down and pick them up.”

“The thing I specifically would be worried about is if it is a two-year-old in a trailer by itself all day long,” said Smith. “Not cool, and a juvenile officer would intervene.”

Wankum clarified there is no trailer, only a mini-van. The trailer belonged to a different person who had been camping out.

Smith said aldermen should keep options open, noting the juvenile office and Division of Family Services would investigate the situation if notified.

• Aldermen voted to have Gerding, Korte & Chitwood CPAs of Boonville handle auditing services for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

• A letter was sent to St. Cecelia Parish indicating that aldermen have no objection to the church selling alcohol by the drink within the city limits for the purpose of raising funds during an event at the Citizen’s Civic League.

• Aldermen approved a business license for the food truck operated by Backroad Bites.

In maintenance news, Wankum said there was an issue at the maintenance building as someone with four-wheelers was doing donuts in the grass.

“I caught ’em,” said Sherrell, noting he heard someone on a Sunday doing donuts near the cell phone tower.

“What did you do?” Wankum asked.

Sherrell said he spoke with Mayor Pro Tem Lawrence Hoffman, who lives near the individuals involved.

“I haven’t seen him come back through,” Hoffman said. “I made mention to somebody, and they made mention to him, and Steve said they haven’t been back since then. I haven’t physically talked to them.”

“Well, they have cut some real deep ruts in that ditch just on the other end,” Wankum said.

“But that’s not our property,” Hoffman replied.

“We maintain it, and if we fly off on one of those ruts on a zero-turn, we’re gonna get hung up there,” said Wankum. “I just know they need to stay the hell off it.”

• Wankum noted that everything in town had been cut and sprayed. A few places at the ball field were also sprayed, and Wankum and employee Tayler Backes power-washed the bleachers.

“They’re ready to paint when the weather clears up,” Wankum added.

• Wankum told colleagues he believes at least two loads of gravel will be needed at the ballpark and two more at the maintenance building. “We may need a total of five loads, but we would like for them to spread it versus just piling it in a big pile, and then we spend a lot of time layering it out. I know they have some people that can do a good job of spreading the gravel. At the maintenance shed, we kind of beat that up the driveway a little bit to kind of even that out. Maybe we can make it look a little more appealing.”

• The maintenance crew repaired the finishing mower.

• Hoffman investigated repairs to the Kubota, which eliminated Lauf Equipment, which doesn’t work with that brand. He went to Crown Power, where options for a front broom attachment were discussed. “He didn’t think our hydraulics were strong enough to hold it,” said Hoffman. “They required like nine gallons per minute or something.”

Crown Power suggested a rear broom instead, but it’s expensive at $8,043. Aldermen tabled the issue and will investigate options.


• Meta recorded $5,109.21 in water sales, with $1,231.64 collected for trash service, $140 in late fees, and $168.80 collected in sales tax. Total charges were $6,649.65, with a previous balance of $1,863.75, and payments were received in the amount of $6,349.24, leaving a balance due of $2,164.16.

• Clerk Buechter reported that 468,529 gallons of water were pumped during April, with 294,779 gallons sold, 10,000 gallons used by the fire department, and 10,000 gallons estimated in leaks, leaving 311,345 gallons of water lost, or 33.55%.

Bartlett &West Engineer Blake Wilbers confirmed that warmer weather affects the chlorine levels, and Buechter asked Wankum to turn on the air conditioning at the well house. “I forgot to tell you a couple of weeks ago when it started getting warm, so just turn it about 72 or 75,” she added.

Wilbers suggested keeping the building at room temperature or cooler. “Always err on the side of cooler,” he said.


• In her regular monthly financial report, Treasurer Karla Buechter noted income/deposits of $20,681.53 and debits of $13,559.11 for a balance on hand as of April 30, totaling $498,079.30; the money market balance was $141,108.61, and certificates of deposit total $50,000 and $126,487.39, give the city total funds on hand of $815,675.30.