By Michael Kloppenburg
For the Star-Gazette
Continuing a theme of the past few months, the Ashland village board’s monthly meeting last week focused on the village’s water issues. The bitter cold winter caused several families to have water leaks in their homes. As a result, those residents have water usage bills much higher than normal. The high bills were reviewed at the meeting.
One resident had 265,000 gallons of water pass through the Ashland meter for his property last month. The board passed a motion to develop individual payment plans for each bill. In addition to their monthly water bills, the Ashland residents affected will pay a portion of the excessive January bill on future bills until it is paid down. The motion also waived the sewer fee for the affected residents. Board member Kelly Sutphin-Gutman abstained.
Water wasn’t being lost on just the residents’ side of the meters. As the instigation of Mayor Terry Blakeman, the board voted to purchase a handheld device for detecting leaks. Blakeman said that the village had received assistance in detecting a leak on Fremont St. using one of the devices and Blakeman said the village needed one of its own.
“This loss of water is killing us,” Blakeman said.
He said the water fund is not taking in as much money as is leaving in water purchases and that the problem is the village is not getting some of the water it purchased to customers. Members of the board expressed concern over the cost but the motion passed with board member Frank Wallace voting no.
Blakeman also said that a water meter at the village water plant which measures water leaving the plant had stopped working.
Ashland residents may soon be able to keep chickens. Resident Nathan Grieme attended the meeting to consider exempting chickens from the ordinance banning the keeping of non-domesticated animals. He said this would allow residents to gain a degree of self-sufficiency. Various issues were discussed including requiring the chickens to be kept in a coop, a limit on the number of chickens residents could own, and banning roosters. Grieme presented the board with ordinances from other towns in Illinois as examples of how they might proceed. The issue was handed to the dogs and weeds committee for discussion.
Police Chief Jim Birdsell said that his interviews with Gregory Hagen, the Ashland resident who pleaded guilty to two burglaries including The Depot Restaurant in Virginia, allowed him to solve 16 vehicle burglaries as well as two other burglaries including a bait shop in Mason County.
Mayor Blakeman said the village would focus on the old fire station as a community center. He said that money would be tight with the fire department seeking to purchase a new fire engine.
Renovation work on the former Extra Innings restaurant is expected to begin in the spring.
The board gave a $250 donation to the A-C Central post prom. No action was taken on a donation request from the Cass County Council on Aging. The board will study the request including figuring out how many residents use their service.
Board member Fadra Birdsell is working on obtaining grants for park repairs. She mentioned the possibility of building a walking track at one of the parks.
The board heard a presentation on IPWMAN, or Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid. It is a network for mutual assistance for public works in case of disasters.
The fire department will be holding their annual pancake and sausage breakfast Sunday, March 2.