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Centralia Aldermen table debt, raise speed limits

Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 5:24 pm

Centralia’s aldermen and mayor being sworn in, en-masse.

One audience member attended, one alderman did not.

That was the attendence profile of the April 19 meeting of the Centralia Board of Aldermen.

Swearing in officials, debating unpaid utility bills, speed limits and burning policies were on the evening’s agenda.

They started by certifying the April election results. That entailed swearing in Tara Strain as city clerk. Then, en-masse, swore in Chris Cox – mayor, Terri Motley – Ward I alderman, Robert Hudson – Ward II and David Wilkins – Ward III.

Hudson was elected mayor pro-tem and chair of the public works and public utilities committee.

Wilkins was elected chair of the general government and public safety committee.

No objections were voiced to either election.

They approved more than $1 million in accounts payable.

They heard from Linda Bormann, who questioned the utility bill write-off list. “I don’t understand why we are writing off bills that are less than two months old… I think some of these bills need to be collected… I don’t understand why we aren’t collecting those,” she said regarding at least one local business and a few well known citizens. “I don’t understand why we are writing off bills for businesses that are still doing business here and people that are still living and working here.”

City Clerk Heather Russell said some of the people Bormann mentioned may have paid since the list Bormann referred to had been printed. “We are issuing several letters and keeping track of this.”

In other business the aldermen voted to retain a professional grant-writing service to help them with grant writing.

They also voted on lease-purchasing three Dodge Durango patrol vehicles, at a price of $10,330 per vehicle, per year.

AS they returned to the question of utility billing, Cydney Mayfield, city attorney asked if the aldermen had considered using a collection agency to pursue uncollected debt. She referred to a law firm in Columbia that would purchase debt from city, then collect it for their own profit. “We do collect it as we find it,” Russell said in response to questions from Bormann and Ward I Alderman Christina Stevens. “We do threaten to disconnect it… I do think we need to change the system.”

Cox agreed. “Do some research, find out what this debt collection service is, when some of these people come in for their permits, maybe we can do something different.”

Mayfield said after the city writes off a debt, it becomes uncollectable.

“This is $10,000,” Stevens said when Mayfield again mentioned the collection agency, “I’d rather get $5,000 than nothing.”

The aldermen voted to table collecting the list of utility-based debts, pending research on collection options. The current amount owed to the city is $10,017.28.

Next up was speed limits. They unanimously voted, minus Ward II’s Don Rodgers who was absent, to raise speed limits on Jefferson and West Singleton streets.

They also passed a contract with Christensen Construction for asphalt overlays and other improvements on various city streets.

They then declared four CPD vehicles as surplus property. Russell said they would likely be sold on govdeals.com.

They also discussed updating the city burn ordinance. Russell asked for more time to research the ramifications. Cox suggested the city concentrate on “enforcing what we have… At this time, I would take a recommendation on what we should do moving forward.”

The consensus, led by Cox, seemed to be “leave it like it is, but enforce it. Let’s reeducate and enforce when needed.”

Ward III’s Landon Magley also had questions regarding people purchasing residential lots and installing sidewalks. He said there were new lots on Columbia Street that are lacking sidewalks between them and the nearest school.

That brought up the city’s sidewalk assistance program. Hudson suggested excess city funds could be used to help that program. Mayfield said, generally, injuries due to faulty residential sidewalks, the liability falls to the homeowner.

Cox read a resident’s letter saying certain streets do not have speed limit signs. No action was taken.

21,000 cars during the space four and a half days, Bias said, regarding the data from his speed trailer, it revealed he said something was going 106 Mph one-way and 101, the other, “I think it was a motorcycle,” he said. “Overall 67 percent of them were speeding,” he said of the traffic. He asked if the aldermen would like to see the reports, they said they would as part of his monthly report to the board.

Magley also asked if the CPD should change the color of their TASERs. Bias said it would not be changed yet, but they are evaluating their TASER policy. “We are trying to do everything we can to keep something like that from happening,” Bias said regarding the accidental police shooting in Minneapolis

Hudson asked “how much do our officers train with TASERS?” Bias said all officers went through supervised annual certification and training with them.