"Garbage" was a word of contention during the September Wykoff City Council meeting, as the council wrestled with a dilemma involving its five-year Waste Management contract, which it seemingly can't get out of, even after expressing great displeasure to the company about declining quality of service and attempting to transfer the city's patronage to Wm. Hanson Waste Collection of Chatfield.

Over the past several years, the city has had to deal with billing residents, as Wykoff is one of a handful of cities in the state that do so under Waste Management contracts. Wykoff City Clerk Cheryl Davis has repeatedly expressed her frustration at the company's unwillingness to bill its customers, as she has had to sort out which resident has what trash container and bill them accordingly. The city has also been left with residents' delinquent waste pickup bills since it is responsible for billing.

Mayor Mike Holzer showed the council a letter he received from Waste Management - "it's an unsigned, copied letter from Waste Management in Germantown, Wis., hand-addressed to the city and sent from Rochester."

He said he had contacted Waste Management to ask about the letter since it said the company had attempted to pick up a trash container and was charging $25 for the first attempt and would be charging an additional $75 if it had to make a second attempt. However, the letter seemed to be intended for a private citizen and not for the city.

"I was told to disregard the letter, but then it turned out to be for the place we inspected on South Gold Street. I asked why it was sent to the city, and I was told that's because Waste Management has its contract with the city."

Councilor Jeremy Comstock asked, "So it says the whole town's canceled?" Holzer replied, "The new contract puts the billing responsibility on Waste Management, and they said we can't get out of our contract until April 2014."

The company will raise its collection rates "as soon as the contract is settled," according to Davis. Holzer observed, "I have a feeling nobody wants to go with Waste Management, even though we have to."

The council examined its preliminary budget, proposing a general fund of $87,325, the 2004 street project payment of $18,399, the 2007 street project payment of $16,632, a contribution to the fire department of $12,994, and to Fund 406, $24,650, totaling $160,000. The final budget will be approved on or before Dec. 10.

Recent years' budgeting has been done with more caution, based on the possibility that the city may someday no longer receive local government aid (LGA) if the state chooses to discontinue that program, as Holzer has frequently reminded the council could happen.

Wykoff Fire Chief Wade Baker requested that the council grant him permission to purchase handheld radio adapters to assist firefighters in communicating properly during fire calls and training.

"We had a training session in Chatfield last month, and our radios kept falling out of our pockets," he said, showing the council how the radios are meant to be secured in turnout coat pockets and explaining that with a handheld microphone and receiver, firefighters could communicate more effectively because they'd be better able to hear what is being said and also to relay information as necessary without having to take their radios out of their pockets.

Baker said he received a quote from Whitewater Wireless for four adapters at $89 each, as the department has pagers for each firefighter but only four radios used by the teams that enter burning buildings. The council approved his request, as well as another he made for a hitch and receiver for the department's truck.

The fire chief also had a question regarding Forestville Township's fire contract, as the boundaries seem to have been shifted, but not officially, to make Spring Valley's fire department responsible for some calls within the township. "Chatfield did some changing, but they said that the township board and fire departments have to meet before anything can be done. I'm pretty sure it hasn't been done, but it would need to be so that the departments can get their percentage from the state."

Ken Baker's bid - or donation - of labor toward the reconstruction of the Wykoff Community Hall steps was accepted with the stipulation that the steps he builds meet the new building code. Chatfield Lumber will donate the materials. Other bids the council considered came from Philip Eickhoff Construction and O'Byrne Construction.

Streetlights came up for discussion during the meeting, as a light near CSC Towing continuously burns out, and others in town have also gone out. The council queried Holzer as to who is responsible for particular streetlights in Wykoff, since Alliant Energy repairs some and Seabright Electric comes to fix others at city expense. City maintenance foreman Al Williams said that he didn't have a map of the lights' ownership, prompting the council to investigate the possibility of establishing one.

Finally, ongoing public hearings are on the calendar to inform residents of wastewater treatment plant construction progress and the installation of new water meters. More information will likely be available at city hall or in Holzer's monthly newsletter.