Watseka City Council

Photo by Carla Waters

Watseka Mayor John Allhands talks during Wednesday night’s special meeting as Alderman Brandon Barragree and Alderwoman Monna Ulfers listen.

The Watseka City Council Wednesday night hired a new building inspector and also heard about two studies that will be taking place in the coming months.

Eric Brandt was approved as the new building inspector. He currently owns Brandt Concrete and will be closing that business, said Mayor John Allhands.

The council approved hiring Brandt by a vote of 7-0, with Alderman Don Miller absent. Alderman Dennis Cahoe attended the meeting via telephone.

Brandt will replace Thom Webster, who retired last month. Brandt will also manage the flood mitigation grant project. That position was left by Bob Harwood, who also stepped down last month.

Allhands told aldermen that he and city attorney Joe Cainkar are working on finalizing the contract with Brandt.

“My question is why does he want a contract?”Alderman Benny Marcier asked. “I understand why anybody wants a contract, but is he not thinking we’re going to keep him on?”

“He’s shutting down a business that he has had for a while,” Allhands said.

Several aldermen said that they would like to see the contract before they vote on it. “It basically is the same benefits as the other employees,” Allhands said.

“He just wants a year guarantee,” Alderman Dave Mayotte said.

Allhands said that Brandt will be paid $24 per hour.

Allhands said that once the contract is approved Brandt can start two weeks after that.

There was some concern from aldermen that Brandt will have a contract when other department heads do not.

Mayotte said, “I think Marvin (public works director DeLahr) had a contract when he first started.”

“Well, he’s not the first person to have a contract,” said Alderman Darrin Rushbrook. “The police chief has a contract that says if we terminate him as police chief he goes back to being a sergeant in the department.”

Mayotte said most fire chiefs he knows of have contracts and Allhands noted that contracts are standard policy in education.

Allhands said the vacation days, sick days, IMRF and health insurance are all standard to city policy.

Because of that, the aldermen said they would vote on the hiring.

In another matter, Allhands told the aldermen that Watseka has been accepted for the Purdue Graduate Studies Program. “We’ll probably have some meetings coming up with these graduate students,” he said.

“I’ve been telling you about Bob Strickler. He was one of our academic inspiration award winners. He was big with the Department of Defense during the Cold War and I believe worked on some of (President Ronald) Reagan’s Star Wars,” he said. “He is willing to pick up the expense for these folks to come in.

“We had a 2014 longterm comprehensive plan,” Allhands said. “That’s just a place for them to start. They would do risk analysis, get into some economic development… this academic inspiration award group was thinking that since we are ag community are there any kinds of ag businesses we could bring in. We would probably have to participate in it as far as research, giving our opinions, thoughts and direction. It’s kind of a big thing and it’s of no cost to the city. It’s going to have more of an organization, budgets, schedules and try to get a suggestion of the direction the city can go as far as how to enhance what we have to offer the citizens.”

Allhands said he thought some of the city officials and business people could be involved. Rushbrook asked how long the project is and Allhands said it would be probably during this school year.

Along those lines, Allhands said he stopped at Olivet Nazarene University and asked about senior projects that some of the students do there.

There are some engineering students who have projects they need to work on. “It’s civil engineering, mechanical, and all kinds of facets they can do, even wastewater. I told them about that one project being applied for through FEMA but since we didn’t have the national hazardous mitigation plan; that was extending the height on the flood protection from the sewer plant. That’s something they can look into.

“The other thing was, if there is a school project, we might be able to stretch our tax dollars together. We are not spending any money on it. This would be free also. They had about seven projects kind of picked out. One was trying to figure out what can be done to help the schools from water issues to the water downtown to wastewater removal or avoidance.

“They will probably be in soon, as kind of meet and greet and we can go from there,” Allhands said.

In another matter, Allhands said with regard to the city taking back the water department in house, he said the aldermen need to talk about public works and water and sewer employees and duties.

“We were talking about three possible employees or four, and I know that Marvin is always saying he’s kind of short handed. I’m going to push that we need to cross train these departments between public works and water and sewer,” he said.

Allhands and the aldermen all agreed that getting some of the employees cross trained and some water and sewer employees hired will help to make sure that some of the employees are not brand new when the city takes back the water department next year. Currently the city contracts with E.R.H. Enterprises for water department management.

Allhands said he also would like to see a list of what equipment is needed for the water department and what is needed as far as a building is concerned by the end of the month.