Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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Tourism, city manager, sewer woes and more

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[August 10, 2011]  Tuesday evening nine of the 10 city aldermen were present for the committee of the whole workshop meeting of the Lincoln City Council. Alderman David Armbrust was absent for the evening.

During the course of the night, several topics were discussed, and the council heard from Wesley Fuchs of The Bunker Bar and Grill and Geoff Ladd of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Lincoln and Logan County.

"Stuff the Bus" event this Saturday

Fuchs appeared before the council to talk about a charity event at The Bunker this weekend. On Saturday the bar and grill will host a "Stuff the Bus" event as well as a food drive.

Stuff the Bus will be a drive to collect school supplies to benefit children in the District 27 elementary schools, and the food drive will collect nonperishable foods to go to the Lincoln/Logan County Food Pantry.

Fuchs said there will be a full day of activities, primarily in the gravel parking lot on the east side of the VFW building, beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m.

The city fire and police departments plan to take vehicles out to the event for part of the day, and Fuchs said he's also heard from the local ABATE motorcycle club that they would like to attend.

However, with ABATE coming, there are safety concerns about parking the motorcycles in the gravel lot. Fuchs said the hazard would come in that bikes don't stand well on gravel and would be more likely to fall over.

Fuchs asked the city to approve closing one block of South Monroe from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. so bikes can be parked there instead.

Because there was no time for the request to be put on the agenda, Mayor Keith Snyder asked if anyone would object to him giving executive approval to the request.

Russell Wright, assistant superintendent of streets and alleys, was filling in for Tracy Jackson on Tuesday evening and asked if the street closure would block residents in or out of their own driveways. Fuchs said there was one or two perhaps, but he would make sure they could still get access.

Alderwoman Kathy Horn asked Fuchs if he has talked to all the residents along that stretch of street and he said no. She recommended that he do so, saying that giving them advance warning would help to avoid anyone being upset with the bar and grill owners or the city.

In the end, Snyder approved the request per his authority.

Tourism talks about scenic byway

Tourism director Geoff Ladd had appeared before city council last week and was asked to return on Tuesday to further discuss wayside signage for the Route 66 Scenic Byway.

Ladd had two requests for the city. He first asked that the resolution outlining Route 66 through the city of Lincoln be altered. The original resolution passed in 2004 omitted a turn south on Washington Street and instead ran the route straight out Fifth Street to Lincoln Parkway. Ladd asked that the route be changed so it would go past The Mill.

Snyder said city attorney Bill Bates had already written that resolution, and with the council's approval it would be placed on the consent agenda. All agreed.

Ladd's second request was for permission to place an "Experience Hub" sign inside Postville Park.

The hub will highlight the Route 66 attractions in the area. Ladd said Postville Park is the ideal location for the signage. He noted that the sign could be placed right on the corner of Fifth and Washington, or it could be placed a little farther back behind the tree on that corner.

He noted that his preference was farther back, as the sign would then be accentuated by the recent landscaping projects done by the From the Ground Up group.

The sign will be put up at the tourism bureau's expense, plus the bureau will provide insurance coverage, relieving the city of any and all monetary liability.

The council agreed and once again added the permission to the consent agenda for next Monday night.

Committee shares draft of job description

In the process of hiring a new city administrator, Snyder has sought out Aldermen Tom O'Donohue and David Wilmert to serve with him on a committee to develop a job description and conduct the search for a new city administrator.

Tuesday evening they shared with the council a first draft of the job description and asked for input.

During discussion several things were noted, including the stipulation that the administrator must reside in Lincoln once hired. The successful candidate will also have the minimum of a bachelor's degree, with a master's preferred, and no less than three years of administrative experience in a related field.

Alderwoman Marty Neitzel commented on this, noting that the person hired would then not be a person right out of college who needed to be trained for the job. O'Donohue drew a laugh from everyone when he noted, "No, he'll be training us!"

The only exception to the current job description came from the city treasurer, Chuck Conzo. He noted that the description made the administrator responsible for the city budget-building process, with no apparent input from the finance committee or the treasurer. He asked that the wording be changed to make it clear that the administrator would be involved, but with the input of the treasurer and the committee.

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ComEd/Nicor to pay $20,000 for architect

The mayor shared copies of a preliminary agreement he has received from Commonwealth Edison and Nicor regarding the remediation of benzene at the old coal gasification plant, where the city street department now operates on Third Street.

The agreement allows the city up to $20,000 to hire an architect to study options for relocation of the street department buildings.

Remediation will include the complete destruction of all the buildings on the property, removal of contaminated soils and rehabilitation of the land.

Options the city is to look at are temporary relocation for up to 1 1/2 years, then rebuilding on the original property, or permanent relocation of the street department.

The architect is to look at means to provide the street department with approximately 16,000 square feet of building space, plus space for the salt shed, and to develop cost estimates for both the temporary move and the permanent.

Snyder said Bates has reviewed the agreement and sees no need for changes to it.

Approval of the agreement was added to next week's voting agenda.

Sinkhole on North Logan poses problems

There is a new sinkhole in the city, at the corner of North Logan and Davenport streets. The sinking area is being caused by the collapse of a clay sewer line that runs in that area.

David Kitzmiller was on hand Tuesday night to discuss this with the council. He said the city sewer department has televised the line at the sinkhole and has discovered that there is approximately 375 feet of 15-inch clay tile that is in very bad condition.

He recalled a situation a few years ago where the digging out and repair of a sinkhole caused further sewer line collapses. In that case, as the city worked to repair one stretch of sewer line, another would collapse. Kitzmiller said he can see the same thing happening in this scenario as well.

He suggested that before addressing the sinkhole, the entire 375 feet of sewer line should be lined to avoid the inevitable. He said he has talked to three different contractors who can do the work. Their prices ranged from $21,950 on the low end to $31,800 at the highest.

He would like to forgo the bidding process and choose a contractor so the work can begin immediately. During discussion Alderman Buzz Busby noted that the area of concern experiences a lot of large truck traffic. He said he agreed that work needed to be done quickly before the damage got any worse.

The vote to approve a contractor without bid will be placed on Monday's agenda. Bates reminded the council that in this case, the vote must carry by a two-thirds majority of all aldermen, not just the ones present for the meeting. This means a minimum of seven must be present and vote yes for the sewer department to move forward.

City to host open house Thursday evening

The public is invited to attend an open house and art show at City Hall on Thursday evening.

Snyder said Alderwoman Joni Tibbs has been spending time sprucing up the hallways with paint and moving things around to make the building look its best for the evening.

Tibbs also noted that she had made a trip to the attic and brought down several old books from past councils. The books will be on display in council chambers. In addition, several local artisans will set up displays of their work, and the fire department will also have their upgraded bays and their hall of historic memorabilia open to the public.

Evening ends in dual executive session

Earlier in the evening, fire Chief Mark Miller had said that some of his officers have completed their qualifications for assistant chief and he would like an executive session to discuss some promotions.

At the end of the evening, executive session was called by Alderwoman Kathy Horn for that purpose, plus discussing acquisition of real estate.


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