Disagreements surface at Wykoff Council meeting

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Wykoff’s October City Council meeting turned contentious last Monday evening as several issues were brought up by both the council and members of the gallery. 

Councilor Rocky Vreeman brought up that he had read in the newspaper (July 11 issue) that he’d been accused by a resident of unbecoming conduct and that while that individual attended the July meeting to register a complaint against him as a council member, he maintained that he had not been in town that day and therefore could not have been involved in the exchange of words.  The person who had brought the complaint to the council’s attention was not present at the October meeting, but Vreeman questioned why it had been brought before the council. 

“I had been gone all day that day and not talked to a soul,” said Vreeman. “After that, there was a Facebook post, and since it’s an election year, it would have been mudslinging…until he filed a complaint.  And then (city maintenance foreman) John (Apenhorst) answered with his own post.” 

Vreeman demanded to know from city clerk Becky Schmidt how the city’s code of conduct came into play in the spat between the resident and himself, and Schmidt attempted to explain that the code of conduct is a separate document from the personnel policy, and that it was pasted from another document that had been signed by former city clerk Cheryl Davis. Vreeman reiterated his question about why the code of conduct had been invoked and how she came to find it in the city files, and she countered, “Are you saying I made it up?” 

Councilor Mary Tjepkes echoed, “Are you saying that Becky made that up?” 

Schmidt met Vreeman’s charge with the assertion that the resident made a formal complaint against a council member. 

The disagreement between the councilor and clerk escalated a little more until Mayor Al Williams interrupted to state that he would check with the complainant about the validity of his claims and that the council should stop discussing the matter. 

Vreeman persisted, asking why the subject came before the council in the first place when it seemed to be a personal disagreement.

Councilor Mary Sackett answered Vreeman’s question, “We had to hear it.  He brought it to a public council meeting.  He knew that he was giving up (privacy).  We had to hear it because he brought the complaint to us.” 

Schmidt introduced the next item of business on the agenda — the vacation of Line Street, which runs directly through the former Wykoff and Kingsland school building on the north end of town — and that the action has to be taken by the city before the property’s sale to Rod Thompson and Rick Stockman can be completed, as a previous council did not do so before the addition to the building was made in the 1970s.  The item has been on council agendas in the past two months, but the legal work necessary is becoming more imminent. 

Just as the council finished that item, Vreeman spoke up.  “I’m filing a complaint on John Apenhorst for violation of the social media code of conduct,” he said.    

Yard cleanup

Contention also arose as the council addressed resident Roger Storlie’s city-ordered yard cleanup efforts and whether they met the requirements.  Vreeman informed the rest of the council that he had done a “walk-around” of the property and deemed progress satisfactory, but that there is still work to be done. 

Councilor Richard Gleason interjected that the agreement with the property owner has yet to be signed and he therefore remains in violation of the city’s junk ordinance.  A special meeting had been called to deal with Storlie’s accumulation of outdoor-stored items, and Gleason referred to that meeting as he said, “We held a meeting for the agreement — when he agreed to this, it was something the council agreed to.  If he does not live up to the agreement, it should be turned over to a lawyer.  Oct. 19 is the end date.” 

Sackett commented, “We need the documents signed.” 

Storlie and accompanying family members protested, suggesting that the work has been done and that the documents aren’t as necessary as getting the work done if that’s what the city required. 

“The pictures we had at the special meeting — we went through every picture and explained what needed to be done,” Tjepkes stated.

The family referred to the letters that they were to have received from the city and wanted to know why the offending things on the property weren’t itemized. 

Schmidt informed them that repeated attempts to notify them of their junk ordinance violations went unheeded.  “The ordinance is always alongside it,” she said. “It’s always on the letter – Ordinance 200.”     

The council voted — with Vreeman opposed — to send the matter to the city attorney.

Mower, Christmas lights

In other matters, Williams brought forward quotes for a new city lawnmower, one from Preston Equipment for $8,300, one from SEMA Equipment for $8,700, and a third from Hammell Equipment in Chatfield for $8,499. 

Vreeman asked, “What’s wrong with the mower we have now?” 

Schmidt explained that it has been in the shop for repairs twice within a month’s time, and that the repair costs are adding up. 

Apenhorst related that the pedals are sticky and that the problem is persistent. 

Williams pointed out that with a new mower that has a wider mowing deck, more can be done at once and save Apenhorst time.  “We can save the other mower for winter, then, for snowblowing and brushing,” he said.

Vreeman wanted to know if the model that the council favored has attachments for winter use, and Williams suggested that the subject be tabled until that is ascertained, as the prices quoted on the mower are good until the end of the year.

Christmas in downtown Wykoff will be a little brighter this year, thanks to the council’s decision to purchase new Christmas lights for the lamp posts along Gold Street.  The new LED snowflake lights will be easier to put up and less expensive to keep lit through the month of December.  Schmidt stated that she felt that three different sizes of snowflakes will look nice.  A motion passed, with Vreeman opposed, to replace the lights at a cost of $4,130. 

Street project

WSB engineer Daren Sikkink was on hand to answer residents’ questions about the street project taking place on South Main Street, particularly in relation to the replacement of driveway aprons. 

Residents wanted to know how far up a homeowner’s driveway work would be done, and it was determined that the apron would be replaced, but that no further work would be added to the replaced driveway sections.

“I think we should replace what we tore out,” Williams said.

Vreeman registered, “I think we should go by the original plan that any extra should fall on the homeowner.” 

Resident Leroy Rowe inquired as to when assessments for the street project will be due, as he had some concerns. 

“Even if they didn’t turn over one spade of dirt, unfortunately, it has been passed and the assessments will come on next year’s taxes already,” Sikkink informed him. “If they do not get it done, the city has some recourse.  Oct. 31 is the end of the contract, and if they don’t get it done, there will be liquidated damages, and it comes off the amount of the contract.” 

Resident Troy Asher said, “Do they realize people can’t get over their driveways?  We’re here for a disabled neighbor who can’t get out of his driveway.” 

Sikkink replied, “They’ll do what’s necessary to help people get in and out.”