When did the city stop providing trash collection?
up for the evening was Charles Kodatt. Kodatt has been in a battle
with the city for quite some time over trash and abandoned vehicles
on his property. He has appeared from time to time, offering
arguments for his case, and on one occasion came in to leave a
rather cryptic message, then walked out, leaving aldermen looking at
each other in puzzlement.
Monday evening he returned and posed a question based on city
ordinances that were passed in 1957 and ratified once again in 1987.
In those ordinances, the city levied taxes for trash collection, and
residents were not required to pay for the service.
Kodatt said that those original ordinances had never been
changed, and the city was still collecting taxes for trash service.
However, Alderman David Armbrust noted the change had occurred
when the city did away with a full-service landfill and went to a
landfill for landscape waste only.
Alderwoman Melody Anderson said she just happened to have a list
of current tax levies in front of her, and there was no levy for
trash collection on the list.
Resident seeks city's help for derelict property
Pat Moos lives in the 1000 block of Broadway Street, next door to
a property that has been abandoned and left to ruin.
Moos said the property belongs to Michael Drake and has been
standing empty for at least eight years. He passed around photos of
the property, showing the deteriorated condition of interior. He
said his son had taken shots through the windows of the house,
showing that floors were caving in as well as ceilings, and there
were holes in the exterior of the building that were allowing stray
animals to gain access to the interior.
Moos said he and another neighbor had tried to remedy the
situation on their own by offering to buy the property from
Drake. However, they had learned there are some rather costly liens
against the property. Drake had asked a price that would get him out
of the liens, but for the two neighbors, the figure was too high,
considering that once bought, they would then have to be the ones to
demolish the building.
Moos said he was certain there were a number of city code
violations at the property, but over the years, his attempts to get
something done about this have been fruitless. He said he had talked
to a number of people in city government and was most often told
there were no city funds available to do anything about the
He recently took his problem to Alderman Tom O'Donohue, who
invited him to come before the council and discuss it. Moos told the
council he wanted help from them in making Drake responsible for his
When asked to comment on the situation, building and safety
officer John Lebegue said indeed the property was a mess, and it
needed to be addressed. But it was not unlike any of a dozen other
properties in the city with identical issues.
For Lebegue, the problem is not a lack of interest in cleaning up
the property, but rather a lack of funding available. He explained
that right now, he has $3,100 in this year's budget for
demolition. He noted that particular building, which he has seen and
is familiar with, would cost a minimum of $8,000 to be torn down.
Lebegue told the council Moos was right, something did need to be
done about the place, but the city is in no position to pay the
City attorney Bill Bates said there was legal recourse that could
be taken. The city could cite the ordinance violations and take
Drake to court. The court would then have to fine Drake and order
the cleanup, and Bates said he didn't know if he could get a judge
to make such an order.
Even with a court order, though, there is no guarantee the
property would be taken care of, as can be evidenced in the long
battle the city has had with another derelict property owner, Gordon
Lebegue said there was also the possibility that if Drake didn't
do the work, the responsibility would be placed back on the city,
again something there is no funding for.
Anderson asked if the city did do the cleanup, whether it would
then own the property. She was told no. The city would be able to
place a lien on the property, but as it had already been made clear,
they would not be the first in line, so it would end up more than
likely being another loss.
Moos apologized for being angry about the situation but said this
could have been addressed five years ago and wasn't, and it's only
He told the council, "This guy is liable," and later, "I expect
you to do your job."
Mayor Keith Snyder asked if Lebegue could go and take pictures of
the property and file the ordinance violations. Lebegue said he
couldn't go on the property without permission from Drake or a court
order. However, it was noted that standing on the sidewalk and
taking shots of the exterior would yield at least two violations
Drake could be charged with.
Moos also wondered if the council could call Drake into chambers
and just tell him what was going to happen if he didn't clean the
However, Alderman Buzz Busby didn't imagine it would do any
good. He explained to Moos that Drake is one of the city property
owners who has multiple properties, all of them with delinquent
sewer bills amounting to thousands of dollars, and he has made no
effort to take care of any of them.
O"Donohue told the council he felt like the city needed to try to
do something about the situation. He noted that Moos was not just
someone issuing a complaint; he had tried to come up with his own
remedy in buying the property, and that didn't work out. Now his
only recourse is to get help from the city.
"At some point," O'Donohue said, "we have to just suck it up and
Bates said he could start proceedings against Drake. If
successful, Drake would be fined and ordered to bring the property
to code. He also asserted that the outcome would depend on how firm
the judge was in forcing Drake to take responsibility.
Snyder told Moos, "We do have a sense of your frustration here."
He encouraged Moos to keep in touch with the city by checking back
on occasion to see what is being done.
Fulscher discusses 911 cellphone tax
Dan Fulscher of the Logan County Emergency Management Agency was
also at the Monday night meeting to discuss changes that may be made
on the state level regarding cellphone taxes for 911 services.
Fulsher and the EMA are the overseers of the Emergency Telephone
System Board, which provides the 911 services to all of Logan
County. Fulscher has asked the city to sign a letter of support for
continuing and even raising the tax that is imposed on cellphones
and helps support 911 services.
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Since the advent of the cellphone, more families have gone to
personalized cells and done away with their single-line home phones.
Because of this, the tax levied on cellphones is becoming more
important to the ESTB for the daily operations of the program.
Fulscher presented facts to the council Monday night showing that
in the calendar year 2005, there were 15,291 landline telephones in
Logan County, and 9,123 cellular phones. Comparatively, in 2011 the
number of landlines has dropped to 11,111 while there are 21,053
In state government, he said legislators are not only not
considering a raise in the tax assessed to cellphones, they are even
going so far as to consider eliminating the tax.
Currently the tax on cellphones is 73 cents per phone. Of that,
the ESTB receives about 50 cents, according to Fulscher. Comparatively,
the charge on landlines is just under $2 per account, and ESTB
receives slightly over 80 cents.
Fulscher also showed the council figures on revenues. In 2005,
landlines returned $346,800 to ESTB in collected taxes, while
cellular brought in $62,400. By 2011, landline revenues had fallen
to $205,000 and cellular revenues have risen to $144,000.
He also showed that total revenues have been on a decline. In
2005 the total came to $409,000, while in 2011 it fell to $396,000,
and projections for 2012 say revenues will fall once again, to an
Fulscher had asked the city to sign a letter of support for ESTB,
asking legislators to keep the cellphone tax at 73 cents or higher.
In a meeting several weeks ago, he had told the council the best
thing would be if legislators would turn the decisions about the
cellphone tax over to local government, and he would like to see
During discussion Monday night, O'Donohue brought that up, saying
the letter aldermen were being asked to support made no mention of
He told Fulscher he wasn't all that happy about signing the
letter as written because it was giving the state carte blanche to
raise taxes, and he frankly didn't trust them with the taxpayers'
Later in the conversations Bates would echo the same thing,
saying it was a carte blanche letter with nothing mentioned about
O'Donohue said if the letter were amended to the effect of asking
legislators to keep the 73 cents and also include a request that
local government or local voters be allowed to control raising the
tax, he would support it.
When the vote was taken, it passed unanimously with a "subject
to" clause in the motion. The letter will be rewritten to indicate a
request to maintain the current tax and allow increases as
determined by local government or local voters.
Council approves changes to enterprise zone
By unanimous vote, changes were made to the enterprise zone
documents, including a change of language that would open the zone
to more service industries and office professionals and remove the
Formosa plant in Sangamon County from the zone.
Farnsworth and Gallagher get the nod
Other unanimous votes included approving the hiring of Farnsworth
Group to conduct a study on the city options for relocating the
street department from the current location on Third Street and the
switching of insurance brokers to Gallagher.
Executive session yields two decisions
After the regular voting meeting, there was an executive session
on two topics, land acquisition and personnel.
After over an hour behind closed doors, the council adjourned to
vote on two issues.
City may obtain strip of land on Sangamon Street
In September, the council discussed an issue that had been raised
by John Blackburn, owner of the Blue Dog Inn on South
Sangamon. Blackburn would like to expand his business, but the
limited parking in the area is a concern.
The council at that time discussed the idea of obtaining a
portion of the east side of the street that is owned privately and,
using a curb inset method, turning that section into diagonal
parking instead of parallel. At that time Snyder said the change
would double the parking capacity on that street, something that
would benefit all the businesses there, not just the Blue Dog.
The council made a unanimous decision to send a letter of
interest to the owner of the property: Neal Tire Co. out of Toledo,
Anderson granted additional time off
Doris Anderson is an employee in the city clerk's office and
primarily has dealt with sewage department billing and
collections. Several months ago, Anderson took a leave of absence
due to the serious illness of her husband. Legally, Anderson has run
out of time off.
Monday night she appeared before the council in executive session
to discuss her future. The conversations in executive session are
not discussed publicly, so there is no account of how those
When the council returned for a vote, it was stated that Anderson
will be given the remainder of 2011 off without pay, but health
benefits will be provided. Her entitled time off for 2011 under the
Family Medical Leave Act has been used, but she will be eligible for
that again the first of the year.
Family medical leave basically protects the employee from being
let go and replaced, and this protection lasts for a period of 12
During discussion it was noted that at the end of the 12 weeks,
Anderson may return to full-time work, but not necessarily to her
previous duties for the sewer department.
[By NILA SMITH]