Wednesday, January 27, 2010
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City briefs: Stoplight back as an issue, amending city appropriations and downtown street closures

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[January 27, 2010]  Prior to getting down to business at the Tuesday night committee-of-the-whole meeting, Mayor Keith Snyder asked that the room observe a moment of silence in remembrance of Kenny Molt, who was a retired firefighter. Molt served the Lincoln Fire Department for 30 years.

Stoplight may get the green light after all

In the week since they last met, it appears that several of the Lincoln City Council members have reconsidered a vote taken last Tuesday night vetoing a traffic control device at the intersection of Fifth and College.

The entire situation stems from a letter from the Illinois Department of Transportation outlining road projects that will take place inside the city limits this summer.

Because Fifth Street is also Business 55, it is under the state's jurisdiction.

The letter outlined resurfacing of the street and installing a traffic light at the intersection of Fifth and College.


When the letter was presented, Alderman David Wilmert questioned the wisdom of putting a light at that location and asked for input from his Ward 2 constituents. Alderwoman Kathy Horn, who also represents Ward 2, expressed that she, too, was interested in knowing how the people felt about this.

When it came to a vote last week, Wilmert beseeched the council to veto the resolution that was being requested by the state and to consider at the next workshop asking that the light be stricken from the agreement.

By a 7-2 vote, the council agreed to Wilmert's request.

Snyder said that since then he had asked city engineer Mark Mathon to contact IDOT representatives, and IDOT was not opposed to having the traffic light stricken from the agreement.

City attorney Bill Bates had in the meantime rewritten the resolution with the light stricken.

When Alderwoman Marty Neitzel this week asked that the letter and resolution be placed on the agenda of the next voting session, Alderman Buzz Busby spoke up, saying that he wanted the resolution read aloud at the voting meeting, primarily because it would be a televised event.

Busby said, "I've had a few telephone calls, and people are upset over the situation."

Neitzel said she felt like they should have tabled the resolution last week and waited for more information.

The proposed light will be camera-activated. Cars traveling on College will be detected a half-block from the intersection and again when they arrive. The light on Fifth will stay green unless there is a vehicle approaching on College, and then it will change.

Tracy Jackson, street and alley superintendent, said that also because Fifth is a state route, the light would stay red only a brief time. He compared it to the lights at Keokuk and North Logan, where traffic not on the main thoroughfare will be given only a few seconds of green before it is once again stopped.

Snyder wondered if both resolutions could be placed on the agenda for voting, and Bates said that they could.


Wilmert expressed some dissatisfaction that the vote had already been taken and now it appeared that they were going to go through it all again. He felt they were going against the very purpose of having a vote in the first place.

He said that in the calls he had received, people were overwhelmingly against the traffic light.

Busby wondered who was making the calls. Was it Ward 2 residents? Wilmert said that, yes, it was.

Neitzel spoke directly to Wilmert: "The people on Fifth over -- Fourth, Third -- they are the ones who want it; they can't get across. The ones on your side, they can go to Eighth Street and go, but the people where I'm at, they have no other place to go. The only way they can go is to go up to Kickapoo and go clear that way. That is the only way they can go to get away from it, unless they take a different road."

"Right, which most people do," Wilmert countered. "Again, there wasn't anything magical about that particular corner. Fifth Street is a busy street, and the feedback was that there would be better places to put it."

Snyder said that the city did not have the ability to move the light. The decision was going to be Fifth and College or not at all.

Busby recounted that one call he had received was from a bus driver who hauls children in a minibus through that intersection around eight times per day. The driver had voiced concerns that it was not a safe situation for children on a bus.

Busby asked if city police Chief Stuart Erlenbush could research the number of accidents that have occurred at that intersection. Erlenbush said that indeed he could, but he was already relatively certain that there have been very few, if any.

Wilmert said he'd be very interested in hearing that report.

Alderman David Armbrust spoke up, saying, "I think we lose track, taking care of our own wards, of what might be better for the whole community. While we are all elected from a particular area, we are also elected to be part of a group to govern this community."

As discussion continued, it came up that traffic-count information could be gathered, as well as the accident records for the intersection. Wilmert said he thought that all pertinent information should be brought to the council by next week's voting session.

Erlenbush and Jackson will compile information and convey it to the aldermen prior to next week's meeting, when the group will vote in favor of one of two resolutions that will be on the agenda.

Anderson seeks clarification on amending city appropriations

Alderwoman Melody Anderson asked Bates, the city attorney, if he had heard this week from Les Plotner, city treasurer. She said that Plotner was interpreting the rules of amending the appropriations ordinance to say that the amount of the total appropriations could not be increased simply to allow for more expenditures.

Bates said he believes that the appropriations bill can be increased only if there is an increase in revenues.

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Anderson said the most serious of amendments that need to be made relates to motor fuel tax funds. She said there is a balance in the fund that was not used in figuring the appropriations.

She said Mathon had said that there had to be a resolution for the appropriations, and then he would do a resolution regarding the fuel tax.

But the question remained: Did it have to be more money?

Bates read from a handbook: "During any part of the fiscal year, the corporate authorities may adopt a supplemental appropriation ordinance in an amount not in excess of the aggregate in the additional revenue available to the municipality or estimated to be received by the municipality subsequent to the adoption to the annual appropriation ordinance for that fiscal year, or from fund balances available when the annual appropriations ordinance was adopted but not appropriated at that time."

Anderson said then that because there is motor fuel tax funding available that wasn't appropriated, it can be appropriated now, and Bates confirmed that.

In the line of supplies and materials, the budgeted amount for the year is $150,000, and the appropriations amount is $165,000. Currently the total amount expended in the line is $175,635. This is the line item that provides funding for, among other things, salt for city streets.


This was the most serious deviation from the appropriations that the city was going to have to deal with.

Anderson said she would go back and take another look at the other changes she thought might need to be made. Those changes can still be made if the total appropriation per city department doesn't change, or if there is additional funding not accounted for in the original ordinance.

For example, additional money is needed by the fire department for equipment repair. To add funds there, the department will have to reduce expenditures in some other line or come up with new money to add to their program.

Should we ask downtown merchants before closing streets?

James Loeffler from the Railsplitter Antique Auto Club made his annual request for street closings around the downtown square for this year's show schedule.

The monthly car shows will be on the fourth Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. April through September. The only exception is the August show, which is on Sunday during the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival, from 1 to 4 in the afternoon.

Snyder said he has wondered if, as a courtesy, downtown merchants should be told in advance that such requests are coming up for vote. He said he felt the merchants should have the opportunity to speak on the subject prior to the vote if they wished.

He asked the council if this was a good idea or a bad one.

Jackson said he thought it would make things easier for his crews, as they sometimes are approached by unhappy merchants when they block the streets off.

Loeffler said he hasn't had any issues with the merchants nor has he heard any complaints.

Snyder said he wasn't referring specifically to the Railsplitter Club, but rather generally speaking, that merchants should have that opportunity.

Bates suggested that Main Street Lincoln could be the liaison for these notifications. Snyder will speak with Main Street director Wanda Lee Rohlfs about how to go about this.


Snyder comments on Summit Round Two

Snyder said that Saturday morning between 30 and 35 people attended Round Two of the Economic Summit.

He said there was a great discussion on the book "Caught in the Middle."

The author of the book, Richard C. Longworth, will be speaking in Decatur on April 13. Snyder said the date is a workshop night, but if enough people are interested in going, they might make a change.

At the Saturday session, Dolan Dolpoas spoke on strategic planning. Snyder said that he did a nice job on it.

He said that people left the meeting energized and excited.

Snyder also said that he had asked for names of people who should be invited to participate and that he received literally hundreds of names.

He also commented that four county board members were present for the meeting, and he thought that was very encouraging.

Future meetings are being planned. Snyder plans to have quarterly events, but he has not set the exact dates.


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