Friday, February 27, 2009
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City: Aldermen dispute how best to move forward on street renovation plans

Police department to reorganize; other city business

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[February 27, 2009]  Mayor Beth Davis-Kavelman called the Tuesday night workshop meeting of the Lincoln City Council to order with all 10 members present for the meeting.

HardwareStreet projects spur strong debate

In recent weeks, street and alley superintendent Tracy Jackson has asked that the council offer input as to what the next major street improvement projects should be.

At the meeting this week, Alderman Buzz Busby said that there will be a map in zoning officer Les Last's office with figures showing how much traffic is going down each street. He feels that priority for major road projects should be given to the streets with the most traffic.

Alderman Verl Prather disagrees. "I don't think traffic count makes a difference on how much tax you pay to the city, and a lot of these areas don't even have curbs and they are just like an alley," he said. "So I would reject something like that."

Prather went on to speculate that there should be a million dollars in the fund for these projects. Busby said the balance is about $1.5 million in the fund for major road projects.


Prather said that should equate to $300,000 per ward for improvements, but Busby reminded the council that for the Elm Street project, the cost was $200,000 per block. "Three hundred cars a day go down that street," he added. "Twelve thousand go down Broadway." Busby said that Broadway is in bad shape on the east end.

Alderwoman Joni Tibbs said: "Our job is not an easy job, and we try to take care of our constituents. We go out into our wards and we look at traffic counts, and we look at this and that, and I have to tell you, there are some roads out in my ward that are really suffering that are probably not high traffic counts. But they've been suffering for many years." She added that she did submit a list of suggestions to Jackson that included work on Broadway, Pulaski and also some of the lesser streets in her ward.

Prather said that in his ward there are streets that are terrible, with no curbs and little distinction between the street and the homeowner's lawn. "I say we take sections out of each ward and work on them and go from there," he said. "I don't know how to tell my people over there -- that you can't tell the street, where it ends and begins in their yard -- that they are not important enough to get their stuff done."

Addressing Alderwoman Kathy Horn he added, "You know what I'm talking about; you get the same calls." She agreed.

There was agreement that it was good that Jackson had asked for the council's input.

Mayor Beth Davis-Kavelman suggested that the council take a look at the traffic count maps and leave this for further discussion at a later date.

Police chief asks for restructuring of officers' positions

The police department's officer structure is set by city code. Currently, it calls for eight sergeant positions, and within that number are two sergeant detectives. Below the rank of sergeant are four corporals.

Police Chief Stuart Erlenbush is asking the council to change the structure to five sergeants and five corporals. There would still be two detective positions, but they would be chosen from any rank and maintain their rank.

The chief explained that the department is too top-heavy, and this structure would change that. On the recommended detective change he said, "There's no correlation between what makes a good supervisor and what makes a good detective."

The amended ordinance has been placed on next week's voting agenda.

Council to vote on rezoning vacant Kroger-CVS property

Annie Walters of Lincoln Illinois RX was present at the meeting to answer any questions regarding the request the company is making for a rezoning where the old Kroger and CVS buildings are located at 530-534 Woodlawn Road.

Portions of the property are currently zoned C-1 and other parts are C-2. The request is to make the entire property C-2. According to city attorney Bill Bates C-1 is a commercial zone, and C-2 is a "heavier commercial, but not industrial" zone. Bates said that Lincoln Illinois RX feels the building will be more marketable with the heavier commercial rating.

Bates added that the planning commission met on Feb. 19 and heard the request from Lincoln Illinois RX. The commission voted unanimously to recommend to the council that they approve the request for a change in the zoning of the property.

Items concerning city clerk's office will be placed on agenda

Alderwoman Melody Anderson wants the council to extend the contract with Laura Wernsing of WTI. WTI is the software company that provides record-keeping software for the city.

Anderson said that the city has an annual contract with the company, but since Melanie Riggs' departure from the clerk's office, Wernsing has spent a lot of time in town helping the acting city clerk, Susan Gehlbach, with the system, and this has used up the hours of the original contract.

Anderson and Gehlbach both said that Wernsing's help has been invaluable to the clerk's office the past few weeks and will continue to be needed, particularly to prepare for the budget process, which begins in March.

The software company charges $150 per hour for their services. It was estimated that up to 80 hours would be needed. Discussion from the council indicated that they would approve the additional services at a dollar amount not to exceed $12,000.

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Also on the agenda will be the vote to make Gehlbach's temporary position as city clerk official, which would include an adjustment in pay retroactive to Feb. 9, when Melanie Riggs resigned.

Finally, Anderson said that she will be working to rewrite portions of the policy and procedures manual for the clerk's office and will offer revisions to the council at a later date.

Habitat to name street

Alderman David Armbrust reminded the council that Tonita Reifsteck of the local Habitat for Humanity had some time ago approached the city for approval to place an honoree street sign at the corner of Tremont and Hamilton.

He said the corner was chosen because there are three Habitat houses in the area. The city had approved the request, and now Habitat has decided on the name of the street corner. It will be called "Habitat Dahmm Corner" in honor of George Dahmm, who Armbrust said has been an integral part of that organization here in Lincoln.

Representative from McCarty's at the Depot invited to meet with council

A representative of McCarty's at the Depot has had several conversations over the last six months with various officials concerning the Amtrak station that is currently located on that property.

The owner would like to sell the entire restaurant property to the city of Lincoln. While the council agreed that such a purchase was not something they were interested in, they are concerned about the future of the Amtrak station. Maintaining a passenger waiting area to keep Amtrak stopping in the city is of significant interest.

The council asked the mayor to contact the representative from McCarty's, as well as invite representatives of Amtrak and the Department of Transportation to appear before the council, so that the issues may be discussed in the proper forum.

Sign ordinance lumbering along

Prior to the regular council meeting, the ordinance committee met to continue discussion of a new ordinance on signs. Besides the members of the committee, all council members except Buzz Busby were in attendance.

The outmoded ordinance review has struggled along for about nine months. To aid in its progress, ordinance chairman Wanda Lee Rohlfs has sought examples of what other communities have adopted.

Aldermen were put to the test to interpret the language and organization with the proposed changes. City attorney Bill Bates and the city's building and code officer, Les Last, assisted the council.

Areas discussed included sign heights, both on buildings or if free-standing; architectural signs, shopping center signs, other community signs; sign sizes; distances from alleys and streets; and many more details. Bates said that the regulations would need to separate commercial and industrial. He reminded the council that the ordinance also needs to include that signs cannot distract from traffic signals or in some way create a hazard. "That's what started this -- a sign over on Keokuk Street," he said.

Alderman Dave Armbrust agreed and wondered about regulating the use of colors. The red and blue flashing of the sign in question has distracted drivers because it resembles emergency vehicles.

Illinois EPA will offer a "Webinar"

Wastewater treatment manager David Kitzmiller told the council that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency would offer a webinar on Feb. 26 from 2 to 4 p.m., focusing on economic recovery efforts.

According to the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, the state of Illinois will be receiving $180 million for wastewater projects and $80 million for potable or drinking water projects. These funds are allocated into a revolving loan program that will be administered through the EPA. These will be loans with little to no interest charged to the borrower.

Kitzmiller invited the council to participate in the webinar. The Web address is, and the webinar instructions can be found under the "Financial Assistance" tab by clicking on the title "American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009." There are special requirements for the computer and a preregistration involved in order to listen in.

And the winner is...

Sealed bids for the city's old fire truck were opened. The higher of the two bids that were received came from Integrity Holdings of Lincoln in the amount of $4,500. This was $700 higher than the other bid that was received.

[By NILA SMITH, with contributions by JAN YOUNGQUIST]

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