Tuesday, Aug. 6

Bidding problems delay
sewer plant upgrade

[AUG. 6, 2002]  Because contractors did not meet bid requirements, all bids for phases two and three of the upgrade of Lincoln’s sewer plant had to be rejected and must now be rebid, delaying the start of work until October or November.

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 million project.

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 growth.

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 than revenue.

Plotner’s three-year 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 $972,178.

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.

Council members 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.

[Joan Crabb]

Local authorities watching
West Nile virus

[AUG. 6, 2002]  Health authorities nationwide are on alert to a virus spread by mosquitoes. While the virus has made its appearance in birds in neighboring counties, no birds or other animals or humans have tested positive for the West Nile virus in Logan County, according to Kathy Waldo, Logan County Health Department director of environmental health.

Health departments across the nation are keeping a close surveillance on the virus as it spreads. Of particular interest to the surveillance in this area are crows and blue jays. Crows and blue jays that appear to have died of natural causes within 24 to 48 hours may be reported to the local health department for testing. Birds that have been deceased for more than 48 hours or show signs of decay as well as birds that have been hit by vehicles should not be reported.

The health department here encourages people to help control the mosquito population by draining standing water in which mosquitoes may lay their larvae. They also recommend avoiding mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants and mosquito repellent.

Lincoln’s street department is helping to control the mosquito population by spraying with mosquito adulticide once every two weeks as well as putting larvacide in standing water such as in storm drains and ditches.


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Donnie Osborne of the city street department commented, "With the West Nile virus scare we’re trying to stay one step ahead."

Further information about the West Nile virus and West Nile encephalitis can be found at the Center for Disease Control’s West Nile virus site or the Illinois Department of Public Heath’s West Nile virus site.

[Trisha Youngquist]

**Update, Aug. 7**

The first human case of West Nile disease in Illinois has been found in the Chicago area.  Click here for the Illinois Department of Public Health release.

**Update, Aug. 8**

The Illinois Department of Public Health has confirmed WNV present in Logan County crow.  Click here for the Illinois Department of Public Health release.
Click here for Logan County WNV surveillance page.

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