Distressed property owners and changes in the Readstown Police Department were among the topics discussed at the Readstown Village Board meeting held on Thursday, Aug.13.
Property owner Dorothy Grunning presented concerns to the board over the handling of a recent situation with the former Methodist Church that she and her husband had purchased. Grunning expressed to the board that she felt “unwelcomed” and “very disturbed” over her experience in Readstown. Her distress seemed to be surrounding an unresolved dispute over property borders.
Grunning told the board that she had written two letters to be put on the meeting’s agenda regarding her situation.
Readstown Village President Chad Larson told Grunning that he was unclear as to why she wanted to speak with the board over the matter that appeared to be of a civil nature Larson said it should have been handled by Readstown Village Police Officer Tim Gratz.
The property in question, located 202 S. Maiben, was purchased but the Grunnings in October 2014 with the intent that it would remain a church.
Dorothy Grunning noted that she had the property surveyed and her husband had attempted to dig a posthole in the corner of the driveway, when they were stopped by Gratz. The police officer told her he would meet with her the next day, but failed to attend the agreed upon meeting.
“I kept trying to call Officer Gratz all day with no response, I even tried to call Viroqua to find out where he was but they didn’t know either,” Grunning explained.
Further confusion ensued in the situation because of miscommunication about the issue being resolved, according Larson and Gratz.
Grunning continued to ask the board why this matter went unresolved in actuality to which village president Larson simply responded at one point, “I’ve been waiting for a formal complaint.”
Emotions continued to rise however for Grunning.
“Then why in the dickens wouldn’t anyone tell me I needed a formal complaint,” responded Grunning.
Village trustee Ronnie Nash attempted to offer an example of a similar situation to Grunning, pointing out that the lot lines in Readstown are notoriously unusual and sometimes difficult to manage.
“If you can find the lot lines easily in this town, you’ll be the luckiest one around,” noted Nash.
Village president Larson suggested Grunning set up a meeting with Gratz to help resolve the issue. Larson also expressed that simply writing a letter was not proper procedure for filing a complaint and that complaint forms were available through the village clerk and then the form will go through the proper procedure.
Former Readstown Police Officer Dale Winch also addressed the board with concerns about alleged comments made by board members to citizens about his performance during his time serving as a police officer in Readstown.
“I’ve been hearing in the next town about my integrity and it’s coming from a board member,” expressed Winch. He continued to express to the board that if they had any concerns they were welcome to contact him on his personal cellphone.
“Have you ever heard of hearsay?” asked village trustee Bruce McKittrick, “Don’t believe everything you hear.”
Winch noted he was aware that it could be hearsay, but did not seem to leave the meeting entirely convinced.
“It may have been a rumor, but in my experience most rumors at least have a bit of truth in them,” Winch noted before departing from the meeting.
The EMS report from Charlie Lancaster yielded good news of five new EMTs taking classes toward being able to participate. His report also noted that through helpful fundraisers, like the brat sales held during the summer months, the department is starting to raise money. Lancaster thanked the board on behalf of the EMS team for their ongoing support.
A motion was made by McKittrick and seconded by John Heal to approve the bylaws and constitution for the EMS department. The motion carried.
The good reports continued as the Readstown Fire Chief Mitch Mabb noted things were “going well” for the department. Upcoming for the Readstown Fire Department is the Entry Level Firefighter class (ELF).
However, big expenses for the fire department were also discussed. Both engines needing repairs that were estimated to cost approximately $2,400, according to Mabb. Testing of the engines and air packs also needed to be done for 2015 and the department was hopeful grant money would be able to help offset those costs. Dale Klemme was reported to be coming to the village sometime in September to assist with the grant writing for new equipment.
The fire department also presented to the board the beginning stages of a cost recovery plan. It could include charging individuals for services that were provided by the department. Mabb explained that typically insurance companies cover these bills. In the future, there would need to be an ordinance approved by the board that would outline what is being charged and at what cost. The board can decide to do the administrative work themselves and charge administrative fees or have a private company do the administrative work.
The board encouraged the department to gather more information on this topic and report back on their findings at a future meeting.
Officer Gratz reported to the board that he was currently working on a speed enforcement grant. The village would pay 16 hours worth of wages to Officer Gratz, which will be reimbursed to the village when the grant money comes through. The hours spent patrolling with the grant money could also lead to income for the village through citations noted Gratz.
The grant will also allow the village to purchase some new items for the department, such as body cameras, collapsible cones, and a dome light for the squad car, as it is currently without one and Gratz is using a flashlight. A motion was made by Brenda Hynek to approve the grant with a second by Nash. Roll call vote was taken with all present voting to approve the grant.
The board requested Officer Gratz submit a formal schedule each month, as some citizens have complained that they do not know when Officer Gratz is available nor do they feel they see him much in the village.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I spend a lot of time in the office,” stated Gratz, who was also quick to point out that although he has spent much of his 24 hours every week in the office he was “on track to pass Officer Winch in citations and then some.”
Gratz noted that his office hours were being spent getting the board up to snuff on state-mandated polices and paper work that has fallen to the wayside over the years.
“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get this department up and running before getting too deep into shifts,” Gratz stated, “If God forbid, myself, Dale, or Shay ever went out and shot someone and the state asked for your policy, you didn’t have one, and that’s why I’ve spent so much time in the office.”
Gratz also noted that with the help of village trustee Heal, they had been revamping the evidence room for the village.
It was reported to the board that the incident total was “up considerably” from last month, attributing this to his extra time allotted to him from the grant money. Gratz noted that many of the incidents however were ordinace violations such as tall grass and junk in yards, which only required a verbal warning.
Officer Gratz also requested that the board allow his position to formally become the Readstown Police Chief. He noted that hurdles arise from being a one-man police department.
“Just the other day, I was trying to order some papers and I was given the run around because they wanted to speak with my superior,” expressed Gratz “I had to tell them it was just me, and I was only an officer, I was able to get the things I needed but it was more of a run around.”
Gratz also expressed his desire to be able to represent the village as police chief when he meets Governor Scott Walker in September. A motion was made by McKittrick and seconded by trustee Brian Ewing to give Gratz the title Readstown Police Chief, although none of his duties or abilities would change with the change in title. The motion passed.
The board adjourned to closed session to discuss compensation of an employee. Once out of closed session, a motion was made by Hynek to extend Chief Gratz’s probationary period to January 1, 2016 along with allowing him setting his own schedule.
Other business handled by the board included:
• Chief Gratz was looking into surveillance cameras for Bliss Park
• An additional officer would be hired by Gratz for the Labor Day Celebration.
• Public Works employee Emerald Faulkner would attend the 2015 WRWA expo and a review class and take the State Licensing Exam for a wastewater license.
• Motion to purchase a 14 ft. by 24 ft. storage building from E & B Custom Barns at the cost of $4,952.
• Motion to approve the application for a driveway permit at 310 W. Fayette Street.
• Town and Country Sanitation service was approved for the next five years.
• Operator licenses for Denise Spridco, Murilla Bolstad, Barbara Anderson, Skkylynn Marsend and Krista Lessard were approved.