Bins, bills and budgets were the focus of Wykoff's city council agenda last Monday, March 11, as the council convened in spite of the epic snowfall that caused school closures and other delays.

First, Deke Stejskal of CHS approached the council with a proposal to build a new 710,000-bushel grain bin at the Wykoff elevator. He pointed out that the existing grain bins have a capacity of 800,000 bushels, but that last fall, CHS processed 2.2 million bushels. A 550,000-bushel bin that the company built a few years ago is now at capacity.

"We're short 500,000 to 600,000 bushels if we take out a 50,000-bushel bin that's in the way right now - that leaves us with 1.5 million bushel capacity. It's something we'll do over time, but we have bids accepted and we're trying to get this done before fall," said Stejskal. "We've applied for land use permits, and we'll need a variance because the height is above 55 feet. We're also looking at properties around the site to see if we have options to expand, because if we put a new bin in, we'll likely run out of storage and need another."

Councilor Mitch Grabau stated that the county handled the last permits for a new bin at CHS and that Wykoff's planning and zoning committee has discussed the current proposal and permits.

Stejskal noted that the grain scale will remain where it is for the moment, but that the company plans to attempt to alleviate tractor and truck traffic on Fillmore Street caused by the fall harvest.

Concerned residents in the neighborhood surrounding the elevator have told of problems with dust and chaff settling into their homes during the fall and have, in the past, asked the council and planning and zoning committee to negotiate with CHS to construct a fence or barrier between the elevator and adjoining properties.

Stejskal shared a CHS proposal to help Wykoff and the neighbors on Fillmore. "We have dust control options - a 10-foot fence that could be started this summer and finished no later than Sept. 1, or a hedge of some kind that could be put in to meet city code and would absorb noise and dust."

Grabau observed that "it's up to the city, but CHS would do the work."

The council and Stejskal agreed that pursuing the proposal would be of great assistance to Fillmore Street residents.

In another matter, Wykoff resident and renter Lois Suckow presented a letter to the council expressing her extreme dismay at the council's decision to send her utility bill to her landlord instead of directly to her, as was decided for renters within the city at the passing of the water ordinance as part of the city's attempt to head off delinquent utility bills, a longstanding problem.

"I find it incredibly insulting, a slap in the face, that you have decided not to send me a copy of my utility bill. I have lived here for nearly seven years, and I just found out that a copy of my bill has been sent to my landlord for as long as I've lived here, but now you feel it's OK to send it only to him and not to me? I have been a responsible bill-payer and feel that this matter should have been addressed with all renters before it became part of an ordinance," she said. "I understand why you do feel that renters are a group that should have paid utility bills like everyone else, and I have taken into consideration the difficulties that some people cause, but what happens if I expect the landlord to deliver my statement? Or if you expect him to add it to my rent? How are we to budget for our rent each month? And what if a renter needs a copy of his statement to get utility assistance? Renters are entitled to the same courtesy as landlords."

The council answered some of Suckow's questions, including whether renters' rights were taken into accord and if renters had the same opportunity to attend public hearings when the new water ordinance was written. Mayor Lyman Hare stated that "the ordinance will stay as voted on."

Suckow cited that "one of my neighbors tried to pay his bill, but because it was in the landlord's name, the clerk said she couldn't accept his money, and later decided it was OK." Before departing, she encouraged the council to amend the ordinance to grant the same rights to renters as to homeowners.

Tom Wente of Smith, Schafer & Associates gave the annual audit report. He related that the water fund is, like numerous other towns' water funds, losing revenue. An intended transfer of $23,000 was made from the general fund to the water fund last year because you didn't cover cash expenses."

Mayor Lyman Hare commented, "In the next budget, we have to give serious consideration to water rate increases."

Councilors granted a pay request from WHKS, the city's engineer, for $53,771.74 toward the wastewater treatment plant's construction progress. Hare updated the council on determining who will serve as the city's wastewater treatment plant operator, as city maintenance foreman Al Williams has not obtained his class B license or indicated whether he intends to retire this coming fall. Williams noted, "If we weren't changing the plant, I'd be grandfathered in, but since we're changing the plant, I can't."

Hare said that three operators are interested in the position, but that if the city chooses to employ them, it would entail the city purchasing chemicals and supplies for the plant. If the city chooses to contract with PeopleService, Inc., an operator, chemicals and supplies would be included in the contract cost.

A workshop to write a job description for the wastewater treatment plant operator is scheduled for March 27 at 7 p.m.

The council approved a schedule of administrative fees for permits, fire calls, community hall rental and other city functions. Councilor Jeremy Comstock questioned changing the cost of a fire call from $500 to $1,000, as the original cost was $250 before it was raised four years ago.

He and Grabau agreed that $500 "hardly pays for the trucks to go out on the call."

After some discussion and a consensus that the city should inquire with other cities regarding their fire call fees, the fee schedule was approved as is.

Lastly, the board of appeals and equalization hearing is slated for April 8 at 7 p.m., before the April regular council meeting.