Thursday, September 17, 2009
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City briefs: Problem properties action bringing results; Heritage Days management and funds could roll over to park district; insurance costs change; and more

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[September 17, 2009] 

Bates offers an update on problem properties

City attorney Bill Bates gave the council an update on the issues surrounding problem properties in the city.

Regarding a property on Kickapoo owned by a Mr. Mason and rented by a Mr. Gates, he said that he has been after both of them to get the cleanup started.

The result is that Mason has evicted Gates and started working on cleaning the place up himself.

Bates is also pursuing cleanup of two properties, one on Decatur Street and another on Fourth, that are owned by a Mr. Harris.

Harris went to court on Thursday and was held in contempt by Judge Thomas Funk for not complying with the court order.

Harris is scheduled to appear before the judge again on Oct. 29.

Bates said that Harris was going the route of Mr. McCann and had filed a rather long pleading regarding all the money he has spent on appraisals, having the property mowed and maintained, and having some garages taken down, but Funk didn't find the pleading terribly persuasive.

In regard to the fast track demolitions that were approved at the last meeting, Bates said that he has filed all the paperwork to obtain names and addresses of all the interested parties. As soon as he receives that information, letters can be sent and the property can be posted as targeted for demolition.

Park district requests Heritage Days funds

Chuck Conzo of the Heritage Days committee and Marsha Greenslate of the Lincoln Park District addressed the city council on Tuesday night with a request to transfer funds in the Heritage Days account to the park district.

Alderwoman Melody Anderson agreed with the request, saying that the Heritage Days account has been under the city's umbrella since its inception. She wants to remove the account from the city's books so that the city will no longer be responsible for those funds.

Chuck Conzo of the Heritage Days committee addressed the group, saying that the committee had met, and they do want to continue an annual Fourth of July event. He said that the park district is interested in carrying on many of the celebration events that take place at their facility on Primm Road.

He noted that the children's parade would still be on city streets; the committee would like to continue the flea market in Scully Park; and the fireworks would still take place at the park district.

Additionally, the committee is requesting that $2,500 be donated to three local commemoratives. They wish to donate to the restoration of the Civil War soldier statue, a plaque that is to be placed on the Logan County Courthouse commemorating the Abraham Lincoln speech of 1858, and to the upkeep costs of the kiosk purchased by Main Street Lincoln and located on the courthouse lawn.

Mayor Keith Snyder said the fund balance in the account is slightly less than $12,000. With $2,500 going to the causes, that would leave approximately $9,500 that would be turned over to the park district.

Anderson said she had a concern about the city just writing a check and turning it over to the park district. She wanted some assurances that the money would indeed be used for annual Fourth of July celebrations, and if at some point the celebration ceased to be, the remaining funds would come back to the city.

Greenslate told the council that the costliest part of the celebration each year is the fireworks, which average about $8,500 annually.

She noted that in the past, the Heritage Days group sought donations to help cover the costs of the celebration, including a $2,500 contribution from the city.

She anticipates that they will continue seeking donations for the annual event and dip into the existing funds only to cover any shortfalls in their fundraising efforts. She also assured the council that the money would never be used for park district general expenses.

Alderman David Wilmert suggested that perhaps the city could require a periodic accounting of the funds, and Anderson felt like that was a good idea.

In the end, Conzo said that the $2,500 for the three causes was a ballpark figure and that he didn't have specific figures at the moment. It was noted that if the city was going to write the checks, they had to have specifics. Conzo said he would get that info to Anderson before next Monday night's voting meeting.

At the next voting meeting the council will decide whether or not to turn the funds over to the park district.

Life insurance upgrade results in money saved for the city

At last week's meeting the mayor appointed new Alderwoman Stacy Bacon to chair the insurance committee and Alderman Nathan Turner was moved from chairman to co-chairman.

Tuesday night Bacon yielded the floor to Turner regarding ongoing insurance issues that he has been working with since before she was appointed.

Turner reported that the updates to the city police life policies have been made according to their negotiated contract.

He added that in doing this, the insurance committee had noted that there were two providers for life insurance for the city. They decided to consolidate those policies, with only one provider, and the change resulted in a savings on the premiums of approximately $600 per year.


Workers' compensation to go up 44 percent

Turner also said that he had heard from the city's workers' compensation provider that for the fiscal year beginning in December, the city's premiums would again increase by 44 percent.

This increase comes as no surprise to the council, as back in April, Fred Danner of Old National Insurance, who serves as an insurance consultant for the city, had told the council to expect increases in the workers' compensation comparable to what they experienced for the 2008-09 premium year.

Turner said the committee will be seeking bids for the policy.

He added that actions taken as the result of a letter received in April from the current provider, the Illinois Public Risk Fund, may help in getting a lower premium from another provider, but they are not hopeful.

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Those calls to action included the creation of a safety committee. The committee was established in July and consists of four people, one each from police, fire and streets, and one person representing the combined offices of City Hall.

Another call to action was that the city would create an accident review committee. That committee was also established in July and consists of each city department's head, plus the mayor.

In addition to these two actions, the letter had recommended that the city do a safety audit. To date that has not been done, but Turner said that he has spoken with a qualified individual who is willing to perform the service to the city free of charge, so that audit will be forthcoming.

Distribution of $31,000 CD raises questions

Alderman Buzz Busby questioned a credit that was showing up in the amount of approximately $11,000 in the mayor's capital expense line item.

Anderson asked if that credit might be the result of distributing the proceeds of the recently claimed CD in the amount of $31,000.

Denise Martinek, city clerk, said that she would look into it, but that she thought that was correct. It was questioned as to why it went into the mayor's line item, and Martinek said that Les Plotner, city treasurer, had given her office the breakout on where the funds should go.

Busby said that they couldn't just put the money wherever they wanted to; there had to be a supplemental appropriation ordinance passed so that the money could be used.

After some discussion, the council realized that the money in the mayor's line item should perhaps have been put in the city clerk's line for additional expenses incurred in consultation and updating of the city software by WTI, and that an amendment to appropriations is needed.

This is necessary because the clerk's office has used its entire appropriation amount, and the city can not legally exceed that amount without doing an amendment ordinance.

Busby warns department heads to watch that overtime

Busby said he wanted to remind all department heads to keep an eye on their overtime. To date no one is over appropriations, but an appropriation is merely a wish list, and they need to be looking at their budgeted figures, as that is the money that is actually available.

Turner: What's the negative in going out for bid?

Busby said that the wastewater treatment plant needs to purchase a new truck crane and that they would like to purchase the crane from Drake and Scruggs out of Springfield without going out for bid.

Busby said that the firm has installed all the other special equipment on that truck and they would like to just stay with them.

The truck crane purchase is for the crane only, and it will be installed on a truck the treatment plant already owns.

Next, he told the council that the Palmer Street lift station was in need of a new bar screen.

He said that Bob Tackett, the wastewater treatment manager, would like for the city to approve purchasing the bar screen from E & I Corp. out of Columbus, Ohio, again without going out for bid.

Busby said that this company is the one that made the original bar screen and will be able to provide a replacement that is exactly the right size, so there will be no need for additional work to be done at the lift station.

Turner asked if E & I was the only company that could do this, or if there others out there who could provide the same thing.

Tackett said that there were others, and that he had contacted one that said they would have to do a custom build, and it would cost about twice the amount that E & I will charge.

Turner then asked, if that was the case, what would be the negative of going out for bid? He expressed that approving purchases without going through the bid process is something he's really not comfortable with.


Alderman David Armbrust expressed that there was always the possibility that the city would get a lower bid and then have things come up that add to the end cost. "Sometimes it's a lot easier to just go with what you've got," he said.

In the end, the council agreed, and the motion will be made Monday night to proceed with the purchases without seeking bids.

EPA visit goes well; monitoring equipment needs to be purchased soon

Tackett said that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency paid a visit to the wastewater treatment plant, and that things went very well.

He said that the combined sewer overflow monitoring was the lengthiest discussion that he had with the EPA.

Tackett said that the city will be receiving a letter in the near future to go forward with the monitoring.

It is mandated by the EPA that after rain events the city do six samples to test the combined sewer overflow. Tackett said the samples are tested for a variety of things, including pH and waste solids.

Samples will be taken in three locations: the Union lift station, beside the treatment plant where water releases into the river, and downstream from the plant where some of the other storm pipes release into the river.

This year's budget included $150,000 for the purchase of the necessary equipment to do the monitoring.

Tackett said that he wanted to give the council a heads up that the letter would be coming, and they would have just so many days to do the required testing.


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