Council begins study of
sewage plant upgrade,
electricity generator

[AUG. 16, 2000]  At a meeting Tuesday evening, the Lincoln City Council took a step toward upgrading the city’s wastewater treatment plant and also heard a proposal to build an electricity generator near New Holland. The council, which has discussed the treatment plant upgrade in previous sessions, authorized Environmental Management Corporation (EMC) to proceed with the preliminary design of the project. The generator plan was referred for further study.

The treatment plant must be upgraded to meet Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) requirements which go into effect in September of 2001 and to allow for continued growth in the city, according to Grant Eaton, plant manager. The IEPA reviews all new sewer hookups and could refuse permission for such hookups in the future if the treatment plant does not meet the new standards. The plant, part of which was built in 1936, has not had a major improvement since 1976, Eaton said.

The exact cost of the project will not be determined until after the preliminary design is completed, but Eaton estimated it at $8.5 to $9 million. EMC will bring final cost figures to the board sometime in October, he said. A timetable submitted by EMC shows construction beginning in the spring of 2001 and continuing through May of 2002.



The upgrade would bring the capacity of the treatment plant to 5.12 million gallons per day, up from the current capacity of 3.35 million gallons, according to EMC director of operations Carl Alsbach. EMC currently operates the water treatment plant and maintains the city’s sewers.

Eaton said the city is applying for a $100,000 grant for design and a $400,000 grant for construction of the plant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs and is also seeking other grants. Other financing will come from the State Revolving Loan Fund, to be repaid over 20 years.



The council also heard a proposal from Matthew R. Hortenstine of Spectrum Energy Inc. asking the city to cooperate with the Logan County Board and New Holland to build an electricity generating plant on five acres on the east side of New Holland. Spectrum would like the city to provide an Enterprise Zone and also to treat the wastewater from the proposed plant’s cooling system.

The generating plant would be a "peaker plant," providing energy only during times of high demand to prevent brownouts or blackouts, Hortenstine said. Spectrum, which has several similar facilities in Illinois, would build the plant and then sell it to a utility company to operate. The plant would use natural gas, a clean source of power, instead of coal or nuclear power. It would operate from about the first of June through mid-September, when air conditioners cause peak power usage, and cannot operate more than 3,000 hours per year.

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Hortenstine asked the council to consider two ways in which the city could cooperate in what he termed a "win-win" project. First, Spectrum would like the city to create an extension of its Enterprise Zone, a strip that would run from Lincoln’s west side to New Holland, to take advantage of the 6.25 percent state sales tax waiver on the purchase of equipment and materials.



However, he said, the company is not asking for a waiver of local taxes. "We want to take advantage of the state sales tax an Enterprise Zone allows us to avoid, but we are not asking for a local real estate tax abatement," he told the council.

He also said the company might dig a well in the New Holland area, give it to the town, and become a customer and purchase the water.

The city of Lincoln could also "win" by treating the wastewater from the generator, Hortenstine explained. He said there would be no toxic chemicals in the water – merely a concentration of the normal minerals – because the wastewater would be "boiled down" before being trucked to Lincoln for treatment. Although there are no industrial additives, the IEPA mandates that the water be treated, he said.

The city would be paid three cents a gallon for treatment and also a fee for trucking the water to Lincoln. Eaton told the council three cents was a good price and said there would not be a problem treating the wastewater.

Hortenstine noted that there might be as many as 125 to 150 construction jobs created in building the plant, and four to 10 permanent jobs for its operation. The permanent jobs would be "high tech" – electrical engineers, computer technicians and similar jobs – he told the board.

He invited the council to visit Spectrum’s other plants in the area, and said the agreement he would like to make with the city would be identical to the agreement Spectrum has with Effingham and St. Elmo.



The proposal was referred to the ordinance committee for further study.

Charlotte Griffin, who lives on Edgar Street, asked the council to consider allowing some leaf burning in the city. She said there are 30 trees in her neighborhood and disposing of fallen leaves was a problem.

She suggested that for one season the city try a proposal that yard debris could be burned three days a week, such as Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. That would give people with respiratory ailments four days a week to enjoy the outdoors. "To me this would be the perfect compromise," she said.

[Joan Crabb]

County Board accepts bids

Highway work, painting, trimming

[AUG. 16, 2000]  In its regular session Tuesday night, the Logan County Board voted to accept bids to complete several projects.

Michael Simonson and Scott Martin were awarded a bid of $9,600 to paint hangers at the county airport. The bid also included the painting of two grain bins at the county farm.

Schmidt Construction of Mount Zion was awarded a bid of $94,619 for highway work in Corwin Township.



Dick Hurley, chairman of the building and grounds committee, recommended the board accept a bid of $5,100 from B&W Tree Trimming of Delavan for work at Scully and Latham parks. The vote failed to gather a two-thirds majority, which was required according to the board's guidelines.

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Hurley then proposed the board accept B & W's bid for work at Latham Park for $2,500. This portion of the work passed with a simple majority, since it was below the guidelines for the two-thirds vote requirement.

Hurley had sought bids from a Mount Pulaski firm and from B & W for work at the two parks.

The board also learned that Spectrum Energy, the firm pursuing the construction of three small "peeker plants" one-half mile east of New Holland, had filed for a permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The plants would generate electricity during peak usage times, normally in the summer when demand is greatest.

The agency will accept public input until Sept. 7 regarding the permit.

[Fuzz Werth]

Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood
to visit downtown Lincoln

[AUG. 16, 2000]  Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood will visit downtown Lincoln on Thursday, Aug. 17. Wood's visit will cap a two-summer tour of all Main Street communities in Illinois. According to Wood, she is "saving the best for last."

The tour is intended to highlight the many improvements occurring downtown and the accomplishments of Main Street Lincoln.

Wood will arrive at 2 p.m. to begin her visit at the newly restored Scully Park. She will then proceed across the street through the Don Shay Parking Plaza, a cooperative improvement between Main Street and the City of Lincoln.



From there she will move to the Courthouse Square Nationally Registered Historic District to view the many facade renovations currently under way. She plans to stop and shop at several locations.

The tour will move from the square to the Sangamon Street area, featuring the mural on the back of the Neal Tire Building. This Main Street project was funded by an Illinois Arts Council grant and coordinated by Larry Steffens.


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Last stop on the tour will be the Restaurant at the Depot for a public reception and speech. Those wishing to attend should arrive at approximately 2:15 p.m.

The lieutenant governor's office has been affiliated with Illinois Main Street program since its inception. The program has been a part of the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs under the Ryan administration, but the lieutenant governor heads the newly appointed state Main Street Advisory Board.

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It’s not all HYPE

Drug, tobacco and alcohol-free

[AUG. 15, 2000]  Helping Youth in a Positive Environment (HYPE) – a Lincoln Junior High organization that promotes abstinence from the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs – had a sit-in by the Logan County Fairgrounds on Monday.

Lincoln Junior High and Lincoln Community High School students were asked to stop by and sign a pledge sheet to remain drug and alcohol-free for the 2000-01 school year. Ninety students made the pledge, including two Lincoln High School football players who dropped by to make their pledge during a break in practice. Students who signed the pledge were given a T-shirt donated by Lincoln’s City Council.

The HYPE organization was established in cooperation with the Logan Mason Mental Health Department three years ago. Christy Simpson, the department’s prevention specialist, is the group’s organizer.

Thirteen-year-old Bo Wright, a member of HYPE, said, "I joined the group because it was fun and because I get to help out a lot."

HYPE does community service activities throughout Lincoln. It has worked with the Habitat for Humanity Project, helping to build homes for people in need of affordable housing. Members have led food drives for Lincoln’s food pantry, and they have participated in the adopt-a-grandparent program at St. Clara’s Manor, a long-term care center. They also perform prevention theatre puppet shows, according to Simpson.



Lincoln Community High School has a similar program called Snowball. They also do projects for the community. Both groups are open to all students, and individuals may join at any time. There are 25 students in HYPE and 30 in the Snowball program.

Sarah Koehne, 14, a Lincoln Community High School student, said, "I joined the group because it was alcohol-free and because it did community service projects like helping to do work at the former Odd Fellows Day Care Center (site). I like helping people."

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According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the use of alcohol or other drugs at an early age is an indicator of future alcohol or drug problems. The report says that people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at 21.




Data from a National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence publication reports that 80 percent of high school seniors have used alcohol. In comparison, 65 percent have smoked cigarettes, 50 percent have used marijuana and 10 percent have used cocaine. The use of alcohol and other drugs is associated with the leading causes of death and injury (e.g., motor-vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides) among teenagers and young adults. Junior/middle and senior high school students drink 35 percent of all wine coolers sold in the United States; they also consume 1.1 billion cans of beer.

Teenagers whose parents talk to them regularly about the dangers of drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those whose parents don’t, yet only one in four teens reports having these conversations, according to a Partnership for a Drug-Free America release.

The HYPE group is financially sponsored by local businesses.

[Kym Ammons-Scott]




Finance committee hears fund requests for senior services

[AUG. 14, 2000]  At a meeting Friday, the finance committee of the Logan County Board heard requests from three area organizations for a share of the funds from the new tax levy for senior citizen services. The Oasis Senior Center, the Central Illinois Economic Development Corporation (CIEDC) and the Rural Health Partnership asked for funding totaling more than $150,000.

Since only approximately $67,500 will be realized from the tax levy this year, the finance committee must prioritize the requests and decide how much funding to recommend the County Board grant to each organization. The .025 tax levy was approved at a March 21 referendum.

Judy Donath, executive director of Oasis, asked the committee to consider giving the organization a total of $80,956 – $29,826 for general expenses of maintaining the center, such as utilities, upkeep and insurance; $20,130 for programs and services; and $31,000 for a new 15-passenger van. The programs and services include hiring a part-time secretary/bookkeeper and initiating new programs, a grandparents-raising-grandchildren support group, trained volunteers to visit shut-ins, and Senior Olympics.


Donath said the Oasis group, which at present has no tax-supported funding, has had to dedicate most of its time to fund raising to support itself. Much of the funding has been generated from bingo games at the Recreation Center, staffed by the same group of volunteers, she said, and the volunteers are getting tired of staffing these games.

"We would like to move forward to better serve senior citizens of Logan County," she told the board.

Donath also noted that the Oasis van is not used to take seniors to gambling casinos. "Tri-State Tours brings a bus to the Oasis to take seniors to Paradice," she said. "The casino pays the bus company. The $5 the seniors pay is a fund-raiser and stays at Oasis."

Jane Poertner, executive director of CIEDC, and Mary Elston, deputy director of Senior Services, asked for a total of $45,000 – $15,000 each for three programs: senior nutrition, transportation and adult day care.

The organization reported a deficit of $14,909 in its senior nutrition program, which provides both home-delivered meals and meals at congregate dining sites. Home-delivered meals go to Lincoln, Atlanta, Lawndale, Mount Pulaski, Chestnut, Beason, Emden, San Jose, Latham, New Holland and Middletown. Congregate dining sites serve Lincoln, Mount Pulaski, Emden, Beason and Latham, with Beason and Latham receiving meals only one day a week and the other sites five.

Elston said the senior nutrition program served 42,815 meals last year in Logan county, almost 30,000 of which were home delivered to "the most frail and needy senior citizens."

She told the committee CIEDC has a $17,962 deficit in the transportation program, which provides seniors rides to hospitals, nursing homes, medical appointments, congregate dining sites, Oasis, beauty and barber shops, banks, Wal-Mart and employment-related activities. She said 81 percent of the transportation services goes to seniors over the age of 70.


The adult day-care program, Elston said, has a deficit of $27,482. Ten clients are enrolled, with four more referrals pending. Poertner said if the day-care program, which is supported by state payments, private payments and co-payments, had 24 participants it would be able to pay for itself.

County Board Chairman Darrell Deverman asked Poertner if she could prioritize the needs of her organization, but she said she would prefer not to choose between programs. "I would not want to see you starve all three programs," she told the committee.

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Board member Dick Hurley noted that CIEDC serves seniors in six counties, and asked what part of the budget serves Logan County. Poertner said the figures given the finance committee were for Logan County only. She said 90 percent of the transportation furnished by CIEDC goes to Logan and Mason counties, and 80 percent of the nutrition services go to Logan County.

Board member Roger Bock asked if Oasis and CIEDC could work out an arrangement to share a van. Poertner said she had been in negotiation with Oasis, but said her facility uses the van during the day and Oasis would only be able to use it evenings and weekends. Vans for CIEDC are purchased with grants from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Dayle Eldredge of the Rural Health Partnership asked for $25,000 to help offset the operating expenses of the Rural Health Van, a mobile unit which serves rural communities in the county. She said the request was "a possible one-time grant. We hope over the next three years to establish an endowment fund to allow us to be totally self-sufficient. We don’t anticipate asking for funds year after year," she said.

The mobile unit performs approximately 750 functions per month, with 59 to 69 percent of its patients over age 65. Expenses this year were $145,000 and revenue only $13,000, she told the committee. The Rural Health Van is a new program, never attempted in the United States before, and there were no precedents to help determine how much revenue it would generate, Eldredge said.

Committee members raised several questions, such as determining eligibility for the funding and establishing priorities which best meet the criteria stated in the referendum. Several members suggested that all three organizations be funded at some level.

Rodney White, finance committee chairman,  explained that the county will probably levy only 75 percent of the tax this year. "The reason we looked at not assessing the maximum rate is to keep the funding level steady. Farmland assessment is going to start turning down. If assessed valuation goes down, taxes collected will also go down."


Finance committee member Clifford Sullivan pointed out another reason for assessing only 75 percent of the tax. "If other organizations request funds in the future, we wouldn’t have any dollars to fund them. We would not want to cut funding levels for existing organizations to fund new ones."

If other Logan County organizations do wish to make requests, the finance committee will hear them at two meetings next week, one Wednesday starting at 8 a.m. and another Thursday starting at 1 p.m. The committee will make a recommendation to the full County Board, which will make the final funding decisions and has the authority to change the finance committee’s recommendations, Sullivan said.

"We would like to fund all three organizations, and we’d love to fund them at 100 percent of what they ask," Sullivan told the Lincoln Daily News. "But if you’ve only got a five-pound bag, you can’t put 10 pounds in it."


[Joan Crabb]