Poynette resident Jim Scurlock announced an attempt to charge village officials with felony abuse of power during public comment at the Village Board’s July 8 meeting.

Scurlock said he contacted the Columbia County district attorney because he was denied a full three minutes to speak during a Village Board meeting about two years ago. However, the district attorney signaled Scurlock’s attempt will be denied.

In the summer of 2017, Scurlock raised concerns that Poynette Ironworks, emanates paint fumes and operates during early morning hours, including weekends, Scurlock said.

Scurlock rehashed the history of his efforts and public protests against Ironworks during his July 8 address to the village. During the meeting, he claimed that board members abused their authority and covered up his concerns, intimidated and defamed him.

Scurlock said he was removed from a meeting that year and denied a full three minutes to speak during the public comment period of the agenda.

That violated his right to free speech, Scurlock said, and is the basis for his allegation of abuse of power and the unsuccessful call for the district attorney to charge Board President Diana Kaschinske, Chief of Police Eric Fisher and Village Administrator Martin Shanks with the felony crime.

A legal secretary to District Attorney Brenda Yaskal told the Poynette Press the DA will not be filing charges.

Capital improvement plan

The board approved updates to its upcoming 2020-2024 capital improvement plan. The improvement plan is still in draft form and subject to change, but sidewalk installations and police expenditures were adjusted. A vote will be required to ratify it.

Among the alterations was the removal of $50,000 from the village police department to buy a new Chevy Impala cruiser.

Board members said villagers have already footed enough tax burden since the recent school referendum, and they voiced favor to allocate $10,000 for maintenance of the department’s 2012 Impala instead of purchasing a new one next year.

Prior to the decision, Kaschinske said she was looking to reduce capital improvement expenses. She questioned Chief Fisher whether a new Impala was necessary for 2020.

Fisher responded and said the department could hold off an additional year if the $10,000 maintenance allocation was approved.

“It wouldn’t be an issue … if we budget for maintenance to take care of any issues that come up with it,” Fisher said. “…We would be OK for a year.”

Other trustees agreed with Kaschinske and instructed village staff to remove the $50,000 vehicle purchase from the capital improvement plan in favor of an additional $10,000 for vehicle fleet maintenance.

Trustees also refined plans for sidewalk improvements scheduled to take place next year. The plan as it stands now calls for the placement of sidewalk strips along portions of Sunset Drive, West Seward Street and Colby Boulevard in the Hillcrest subdivision for approximately $153,000. That also includes a small strip of pavement fronting the Poynette Dekkora Fire Department.

Fisher said that because no sidewalk exists along those Hillcrest subdivision roads – and due to the neighborhood’s proximity to a railroad and industrial land – children walking to school face hazardous conditions under state law.

That would mean finding alternate methods of transporting the students to school, Fisher said.

“Basically, if there is no sidewalk there, they would have to be bussed,” he said.

Trustee Jerry Burke said the sidewalk work in Hillcrest should be done next year prior to the completion of the new elementary school planned for the area.

“Get it done before the school is done,” Burke said.

Also included in sidewalk improvements is a plan to lay asphalt down along a portion of North Street between Highway 51 and North Main Street.

With the North Street asphalt included, the cost of sidewalk and asphalt trail improvements stands at around $284,000 for the village’s 2020 capital improvement plan.

Officials said a public informational meeting will be scheduled to inform residents of the plan prior to construction.

The board also heard from financial auditing firm Johnson and Block. Representatives from Johnson Block reported the village’s numbers from 2018 came back in good order.

“Everything is clean as far as the audit goes,” said Brett Hofmeister, stating that the finalized audit report will likely be minted in about a week.

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