Bids that were opened
for general contracting and electrical work were rejected by a
unanimous vote of the city council last night because they did not
meet the exacting specifications set by the Illinois Environmental
Protection Agency, which is lending the city money for the project.
"This is a very
complex set of documents, not a typical bidding contract," City
Attorney Bill Bates told the council. He said the lowest bidders had
deficiencies in the documents, including failure to advertise for
minority firms to bid.
The lowest bidder for
general contracting came in $800,000 less than the second lowest
bidder, although both exceeded the budget expectations, according to
sewer plant manager Grant Eaton. He said the low bidder was only
about $100,000 above expectations.
Eaton said he
expected most of the present bidders to rework their bid packages
and submit them again to meet the new deadline of Sept. 30. Because
of the deficiencies in the bids, the city had to ask the IEPA for an
extension of the deadline.
"I hope the
contractors now understand the importance of meeting IEPA
specifications," he said. If the city were to accept bids that did
not meet IEPA requirements, either the state or the federal
Environmental Protection Agency could cancel the loan for the $9.8
Eaton said he had
hoped to get started on the project in September, but now it might
be as late as November before construction can begin.
Similar problems with
bidding occurred earlier with some of the bidders on equipment
needed to bring the aging wastewater treatment plant up to current
standards, but most of the necessary equipment has been purchased.
The council opened bids for another item, a displacement blower,
Monday night. Both bids did meet specifications, and the council
will review them and accept one later this month.
The city must upgrade
the sewer plant, which is now operating at capacity, to comply with
state regulations. Otherwise, the IEPA can refuse to permit new
hookups, which will stop residential, commercial and industrial
To qualify for the
IEPA loan, the city has also had to increase rates for all users.
In other business,
the council heard a report by City Treasurer Les Plotner for the
fiscal year ending April 30, 2002. The city is operating on a
deficit budget this year, with expenditures about $285,000 higher
comparison of revenues and expenditures points out some of the
budget problems facing the city. For example, in 2000 the city had
$2,311,719 in the general fund, in 2001 $1,642,500 and in 2002, only
Capital projects in
2000 totaled $476,941 and in 2001 almost the same amount, $476,441.
However, in 2002 no funds were available for capital projects.
Plotner also noted
that three categories of expenses, salaries and fire and police
pensions, have gone up each year and will continue to rise. Salaries
went up 6.05 percent, fire pensions 16.32 percent and police
pensions 11.31 percent.
Lower interest rates
and tax receipts account for much of the drop in the city’s revenue,
Plotner’s chart shows. Interest on investments received in 2001-2002
was only $806,347, compared with $1,262,206 the previous year, a
36.1 percent decrease. Sales taxes dropped from $2,223,348 to
$2,067,865, a 12.3 percent decrease. State income tax receipts also
dropped 14.6 percent, but this figure does not represent the entire
fiscal year because it includes only 11 payments. The state, facing
its own budget crunch, delayed the 12th payment to the city.
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Also, the city
received considerably less grant money in the last fiscal year:
$31,257 compared with $657,570 the previous year.
Plotner pointed out
that Lincoln is not alone in facing financial setbacks, as most
other cities have had the same problems. He urged council members to
be patient and prudent in the 2002-2003 fiscal year.
continued to discuss raising the sales tax one-half of 1 percent,
from 6¼ percent to 6¾ percent, as a way to raise revenue for the
city. The tax increase must be approved by voters, and finance
chairman Verl Prather noted that a resolution to raise the tax must
be in the county clerk’s office by Tuesday, Sept. 3
Alderman Steve Fuhrer
reminded the council that if the tax does go into effect, it will
not include vehicles licensed or titled by the state, such as cars
and trucks. It also would not include food items or prescription
drugs, which are taxed at only 1 percent.
Fuhrer estimated it
would bring the city an additional $400,000 to $500,000, Plotner
said it might bring in as much as $570,000.
Fuhrer, who is also a
member of the Economic Development Council and who has supported the
concept of the 64-acre commercial/industrial park north of the city,
said he believed the city could pay for its share of development of
the site without raising taxes.
He suggested that a
$500,000 general obligation bond and funds being returned to the
city for sewer plant work could make up the $1.3 million that the
EDC has suggested should be the city’s share. The city has already
spent money to upgrade the sewer plant, some of which will be
returned by the state as part of the 20-year IEPA loan.
However, both Bates
and Prather said the city should wait to find out whether the city
will be repaid as much as it expended and exactly what the cost of
the sewer plant upgrade will be, as all bids are not yet in.
Prather also pointed
out that the city has made commitments to improve services for
residents when funding becomes available. One commitment was to
extend a sewer line to residents along Campus View Drive, back of
Lincoln Christian College. These residents are in the city but do
not have city sewer hookups.
The city’s ordinance
and zoning committee approved adding property along Fifth Street
Road and Lincoln Parkway to its enterprise zone. The property
includes the American Legion site and will allow the Legion to save
state sales taxes on its rebuilding project. A public hearing on the
proposal will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Logan County planning
and zoning office on the second floor of the county highway building
at 529 S. McLean St. The addition to the enterprise zone must be
approved by both the city and the county.
The committee also
discussed the new handicapped parking law that will go into effect
in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2003. This law will state that a handicapped
parking placard must be properly displayed to prevent the vehicle
owner from getting a ticket. The city’s ordinance will have to be
amended to be in compliance with state law, Bates said.
Police Chief Rich Montcalm reported that
police are again using "bird bangers" to scare away flocks of
grackles that are roosting in trees in Mayfair and causing problems
because of their droppings. The police are firing the explosive
devices at the request of citizens who find the excessive bird
droppings a health hazard. The bird bangers do not kill or injure
the birds but frighten them away from mass roosting sites.