NOTE: This story is a correction of the story published in the May 13 issue of The Vandalia Leader.
By Barry Dalton
A proposal to build a fishing dock at the Pete Steiner Reservoir was voted down 4-2 by the Vandalia Board of Alderman at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 11.
The reservoir, which is located in Pike County, but owned by the City of Vandalia, not only provides the city’s water supply but also serves as a recreational area.
Rattlesnakes, thick brush and poison ivy make it difficult to fish from the bank for everyone, not just for the elderly or people with limited mobility.
“This lake used to be a place where people went camping every weekend, as long as it was taken care of,” said Mayor Ralph Kuda Jr. “You can’t fish out there [now] unless you’re in a boat because you can’t get up to the water. The grass and everything like that, and people are scared of the rattlesnakes out there. Not many people can walk through the weeds to fish.”
“There’s a very limited area. I’ll agree with [the mayor] on that,” Berry said. “There are limited areas where you can fish from the bank, but there are some areas.”
The cost of the proposed dock, submitted by Tiger Dock of Wellsville, was just under $22,000. However, city crews would have been responsible for excavating the site, installing a concrete pad and anchoring the dock.
There are currently no restrooms at the reservoir, but one of the concerns expressed by the board was that if a dock is constructed that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, whether it would lead to demands to build ADA-compliant restrooms as well.
“Somebody sees an ADA dock and then [asks] ‘Where’s the bathroom?’ I don’t know,” said Alderperson Debbie Hopke. “I’m glad [the city administrator] prefaced the initial conversation about the disabilities [aspect of the project not being the issue.] That has nothing to do with it. My conversation with [Berry] straight up was [that] I’m not a fan of having the funds not budgeted.”
Alderman John Weiser pointed out that disabled people wanting to fish have access to Vandalia Lake, which has pavilions, benches and three ADA-accessible restrooms. Despite the name, the lake, which is located about 10 miles south of town, does not belong to the city. It is managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Hopke also questioned whether there is sufficient interest in the community to use the lake. A possibility of surveying residents first was mentioned by another alderman as well.
“If you put this up, and you get it where people can go, there will be a lot more people [going] out there [again],” noted Kuda.
Another concern mentioned was the possibility of someone vandalizing the steel dock, since it was so far out of town and the area is not currently patrolled by the Audrain County Sheriff’s Department.
During his report after the vote, Sheriff Matt Oller addressed the issue of security at the reservoir. He said that he plans to direct his deputies to make a point to patrol the reservoir, which is about 10 miles from Vandalia, at least twice a night and during the day shift when possible. Oller also recommended the board consider posting hours of operation at the reservoir and requiring any campers to register with the city first.
These things, Oller said, would go a long way to reducing vandalism there, which Berry agreed has been a problem over the years. The sheriff also offered the possibility of his department placing mobile cameras in the area.
Voting for the dock were Larry Shaw and Janet Turner. Voting against the dock were Weiser, Teresa Wenzel, Hopke and Edna Wheeler.
During the sheriff’s full report to the board, he said that his department had 199 calls for service in April, which was higher than the average of about 145 calls per month. Out of these calls, 19 crime reports were generated, he said, with the majority being domestic incidences. Two were drug related, five were stealing related, and five were traffic and other violations, he added.
Oller stated that deputies have also begun issuing tickets based on the city’s code of ordinances. Oller mentioned that unlike state statutes, many city ordinances do not require a citizen complaint.
The board also took action that will allow City Clerk Brandie Gay to move forward on the city’s application for a CDGB Demo Grant. The purpose of the grant is to demolish vacant, dilapidated structures in Vandalia’s Ward 2. Among the steps, the responsibility of a volunteer property owner was reduced from a $500 fee to a $200 fee.
The board voted to renew the city’s current health insurance plan with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield at a 6.8 percent increase. The plan otherwise remains unchanged from last year’s plan, including the same employee deductibles and benefits. The current plan expires June 1. The annual cost will rise from $163,503.12 to $174,722.08.
The board voted to ban large trucks from Aspen Drive and to accept a donation of a park bench from the Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green. The bench will be placed near the horseshoe pits addition to Railroad Park. The Northeast Correctional Center Restorative Justice Workshop manufactures the benches.
The city administrator reported that Justin Franke, formerly one of the city’s utility service workers, has transferred to the water plant and is training to be the new operator. Berry also announced the retirement of Paul Lamberson, who has been with the city since 2011.
“Paul is a great water plant operator and a true friend,” Berry noted. “He was always willing to give a hand and help other departments when needed. He will be greatly missed.”
Preliminary plans for the fishing dock that was voted down by the Vandalia Board of Aldermen describes a finished floating steel dock, 16 by 16 foot, with an ADA railing around it. A 16-foot handrail bridge would have connected the dock to the shore.