By Jean Doran Matua, Editor
At its Oct. 10 regular meeting, the Watkins city council approved a $50,750 expense for the Watkins Ambulance Service. This will pay for replacement of the current stretcher used on the ambulance, which is in need of replacement soon, with an auto-loading stretcher ($19,600), and conversion of two other stretchers at $4,400 each. Watkins Ambulance Service keeps a stretcher in Eden Valley and another in Kimball, within their service area; these will be retrofitted to be auto-loading stretchers.
One of the reasons they seek the auto-loading stretchers is that patients are getting heavier these days. Their current stretchers can handle 500, 600 and 700 pounds, respectively.
Another reason is operator safety. It’s difficult to hoist a stretcher high enough to smoothly load it into the ambulance, especially with fewer people and shorter people. Auto-loading stretchers will help to prevent strain and injuries to ambulance personnel.
The Watkins Ambulance Service is self-supporting, with no city subsidy of its services. They received a $5,000 donation in honor of Alvina Beckers and Kathy Peterson to help pay for the auto-loading stretchers. Meanwhile, they have a new ambulance ordered and on its way.
The council approved the updated bylaws for the Watkins Ambulance Service. The primary change is to the requirement for members to respond to 10% of calls each year, not to 10 calls.
The council also approved a $4,300 expenditure on a thermal-imaging camera for the fire department. Actually, with the purchase of one model, they get a second (lower value) thermal-imaging camera for free. The batteries from the old camera (about 13-14 years old) are still good, so they’ll continue to run them until they’re shot. There will be two truck chargers. The new cameras come with a five-year warranty. They use the hand-held thermal-imaging cameras at every structure fire. (The Kimball Fire Department used a similar camera with the trailer axle fire several weeks ago.) The new cameras will be paid for with the department’s equipment fund which has nearly $20,000 set aside for such purchases.
The fire department received a $2,500 matching grant from the DNR – which the city must match with another $2,500 – for use to purchase structural and wildland fire PPE (personal protective equipment) like hoses, gloves, and turnout gear. This can help purchase new gear for new Watkins firefighter Mark Kramer. The council approved and committed to the matching amount.
Oct. 10 was to be the date of sale of the city’s most recent bond, to refinance it and save a lot of money. This did not happen, though, and was postponed to Oct. 29 because Standard & Poores was backed up and did not have the city’s credit rating prepared in time. The council scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, to review and approve the bond sale.
A letter of intent is due by
Oct. 31 for a trail grant. A map has now been drawn for Eden Valley and Watkins, but there is still a good deal of information needed from the county before such a letter can be submitted (cost, budget, scope of project, and more). The grant itself will be due at a future date, but cannot be submitted without the letter of intent. There is a total of $6.2 million for the state, for construction in 2024.
The council approved adding unpaid lawncare bills to next year’s tax assessments.
The city’s lighted sign that hangs in front of city hall was absent this week. It was taken down to repair and was to be replaced with the new sign inside the refurbished frame. It was found that the frame was in much worse shape than they’d thought. The council agreed to spend an additional $3,000 to do the needed repairs (as opposed to $10,000 for a new cabinet). The cost of the new sign and repaired cabinet is offset by $8,000 in advertising and donations.
The council discussed the distressed home on Central Avenue that they’ve been discussing for years now. There has been a little progress since the last meeting, but too little. The council agreed to give the property owner until Oct. 25 to complete all needed repairs on the property as specified by the city many months ago; failure to meet this final deadline will mean turning the matter over to the city’s attorney for full prosecution.
A letter has been sent to a property owner who installed a new, unpermitted shed.
The city needs a new member at large for the Board of Adjustment. Contact city hall or check their website for more information.
The council approved the EDA’s recommendation for a $50,000 revolving loan to Jeff and Reneen Babbitt for purchase of inventory in their purchase of Stein’s Thriftway Foods. They are expected to take over Nov. 1.
In order to answer community questions about the planned apartments in town, hoping for a Workforce Housing grant from the state, the council will hold an informational meeting before its next regular meeting, possibly at its next regular meeting Nov. 14, depending on the availability of the two men who are planning to build the apartments.
The Watkins pool was being repaired last week. The entire south wall of the pool was removed and rebuilt with 400 feet of piping replaced and 96 feet of concrete poured (at a cost of $80/foot). Once completed, the pool will be re-filled for winter.
One of the front doors at the Village Hall nearly fell off the other day. It will be replaced.
The fall newsletter was approved by the council, with a few additions. If you don’t receive one (with your water bill), it can be viewed on the city’s website at www.cityofwatkins.com.
The next regular meeting of the Watkins city council will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14.