Soldiers Grove Village Trustee Paul Nicholson submitted a letter to the village board last week advising them of his resignation from the board effective immediately.
Nicholson indicated in the letter that the resignation also covered a new term, should he be elected in the upcoming spring election. Nicholson’s name will appear on the spring ballot, along with incumbent trustees Vicki Campbell and Bob Froiseth. The trio was running in an uncontested race for their three seats.
At the meeting last Thursday, several trustees including Shayne Chapman expressed some surprise at Nicholson’s resignation.
“The reason for this (resignation) is because of an incident between myself and the village president (Jerry Moran),” Nicholson wrote in his letter of resignation. “I no longer feel the ability to freely ask questions and make statements without the fear of consequences or intimidation. I took my elected position seriously and always gave 150 percent for the good of the citizens of Soldiers Grove.”
In explaining his resignation later in an interview with the Independent-Scout, Nicholson cited a difference of opinion with Soldiers Grove Village President Jerry Moran over the handling of repairing pumps for the village’s sewer system lift stations.
Moran later confirmed in an interview with the Independent-Scout that he had met with Nicholson in the village office to discuss Moran’s decision to not go forward with replacing the pumps in the lift station.
The village president said he had not gotten loud during the discussion with the trustee. Moran also noted that the village’s attorney confirmed he acted within his powers to not pursue the approved contract and bring the matter back to the board for reconsideration.
In reviewing the Nicholson resignation at their meeting Thursday night, the board decided against trying to appoint someone to fill the trustee position before the election in April. So, the person with the most write-in votes will become a village trustee, even if Nicholson receives more votes.
Moran told the board that it would be up to the village to let people know the situation, so that someone could come forward as a write-in candidate if they were so inclined.
Later in the meeting, the board tackled the sewer system repair issues that led to Nicholson’s resignation.
The first one was reconsidering action taken at the January meeting to hire L.W. Allen to install new lift station pumps in the worst of the village's two lift stations experiencing problems.
This action however was tied closely to another agenda item, which asked for a review of charges in a $12,627 bill for work done by L.W. Allen replacing and installing a blower in the sewer plant.
Moran explained that he had been unsuccessful in getting the firm to reconsider the $1,032 charge covering the trip to Soldiers Grove from Madison that included a charge of $200 for the trip and $800 for the labor of those taking the trip. The village was billed these trip charges twice in the process of the sewer plant work.
The village president told the board he felt that he couldn’t allow the billing to stand as submitted.
Although Moran asked for consideration on the bill’s charges a couple of weeks ago, the firm declined to adjust the bill and his subsequent call has gone unreturned.
Village trustee Vicki Campbell agreed the village should hold off on payment of the bill while Moran tries to contact the firm one more time.
Moran said that he would have considered a charge of $500 too high for the trip, but could not see over $1,000 per trip besides an additional 32 hours of labor for the installation.
In their quote on the pumps at the lift station, L.W. Allen indicated that installation would cost $2,000 approximately. The village president indicated reading the contract again made him uncomfortable because of its lack of specific pricing for the installation.
After some discussion, the board approved a plan calling for rebuilding two pumps with new wear rings and impellers to be used in one of the lift stations The cost will be $3,200 to have the two pumps rebuilt instead of almost $17,000 for the project involving L.W. Allen to replace them with larger pumps.
A problem encountered at the lift station is clogging caused by adult diapers, which are flushed into the system. A discussion of the source of the obstructions ensued and the board agreed the village should approach the possible sources to keep the items out of the sewer system by disposing of them elsewhere.
For his part, Soldiers Grove Director of Public Works Brain Copus opposed the new course of action.
“I’m totally against this,” Copus said of the cancellation of the pump replacement and the decision to rebuild the old pumps. “But, I will do whatever you decide.”
Campbell moved and Jim Helgerson seconded to reconsider the previous action to have L.W. Allen install new pumps in the lift station. The board approved reversing that decision.
Ultimately, Helgerson moved to rebuild two pumps for the lift station and install a “basket” that acts as a screen to keep large items out of the pumps. Roy Davidson seconded the motion and it was passed by the board.
In other business, the Soldiers Grove Village Board:
• approved a contract for services with the North Crawford Rescue Squad for $3,500 as they had last year, declining to increase that amount this year by $500
• agreed to pay for a lighting repair in the library at a cost of $75
• declined to order hanging flower baskets this year, because of the overtime cost for watering them on weekends and decided instead to use more whiskey barrel planters that need less watering