Wednesday, October 26, 2011
sponsored by

Utilities, downtown parking and more make agenda

Send a link to a friend

[October 26, 2011]  Tuesday evening at the committee of the whole meeting of the Lincoln City Council, all 10 members were present. The meeting established the agenda for the next voting session, which will be on Nov. 7. 

HardwareCity hears how deregulation may help lower electric bills for Lincoln citizens 

George Voorhees of Blue Star Energy Solutions addressed the council regarding options that are now available for searching out electric providers because of state laws regarding the deregulation of utilities. 

City officials first learned about Blue Star at the Illinois Municipal League conference in Chicago this fall. Voorhees was also a key speaker last month at the board member banquet of the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership. 

Laws that were passed in the state of Illinois in 2007 are bringing changes to the state in who provides utility services and how they are provided. 

For several years now, consumers have had some options regarding their telephone services. While in the city of Lincoln, landline service is provided by Frontier Communications, consumers can choose who provides their long-distance services. This has opened the door to competition and has benefited the consumer in those prices in general as long-distance service is less. 

The same is now going to be true for providers of electricity, although not on a per-household basis like long-distance. 

Voorhees explained that electric providers are going to be competing for business in regions such as counties or municipalities. That competition for business will bring lower prices to the consumer. However, the city will have to be the one to decide what kind of changes will be made. 

Currently Lincoln residents are locked into paying their electric bill to Ameren. Ameren provides all the electricity and then bills according to their rates, which fluctuate based on seasons and usage. 

Voorhees said if the city is interested in finding a more competitive provider, they will have to put a referendum on the March 2012 ballot, asking the public if they, too, want to make a change. 

If the referendum passes, consumers will then receive a letter asking if they want to go with the provider the city chooses or stay with Ameren. 

Voorhees said Blue Star would do the majority of the work on getting companies to compete and submit bids to the city. They will also be the ones to send out letters to local consumers, and they will offer education on the program, do outreach to civic groups, conduct town hall meetings, public hearings and offer public announcements about the changes. 

Voorhees said consumers will notice no difference at all in their services, and they will also continue to receive only one bill per month: from Ameren. 

The advantages, he said, come primarily in cost savings to the smaller consumers, who are generally also the elderly, those on fixed incomes and moderate- to lower-income households -- in other words, those who need it the most. 

Voorhees said no money would come from the city of the Lincoln for the services Blue Star provides. He explained that their costs would be incorporated into the contracts with the electric providers. 

For the next voting session, the council will decide only if they wish to investigate this further with Blue Star. They will not be saying yes or no to a change from Ameren, but merely confirming whether or not this is an option the council wants to pursue. 

Water shut-offs come one step closer 

City attorney Bill Bates has completed the new city ordinance making it within city rights to order water shut-offs for customers who have not paid their sewage bill. 

Approval of the ordinance will be on the next voting session agenda, bringing shut-offs one step closer to reality. 

Busby is tired of not having a waste treatment manager 

Alderman Buzz Busby said the city has gone since the first of July now without a full-time waste treatment manager, and that is unacceptable. 

The city has a contract with American Water for the management of the facility, including a full-time manager in-house. However, since manager Bob Tackett retired this summer, the position has not been filled. David Kitzmiller, who is the former manager and now a regional employee with the company, has been coming on certain days, but not every day. 

Busby asked Bates if the city could fine American Water $10,000 a month, retroactive to July, and was told they could not. 

However, Bates said the company is in violation of their contract, and before the city can impose any penalties, a letter notifying them of their violation needs to be sent. 

Busby was asked if he wanted the letter placed on the agenda, and he said he did. 

[to top of second column]

City looks for more parking space 

Mayor Keith Snyder said he's been working with Greg Doolin, who volunteered his services to find an answer to some parking problems. 

The city has money coming through the capital plan from the state of Illinois for resurfacing of the parking lot on Pekin Street, next to the library. Snyder said the total funding for this came to $100,000 from the state.   

In addition, there is another $40,000 from the capital plan that had originally been ear-marked for the exhaust system at the fire department.  However, the department won its own grant for that project, so the money is now available and earmarked for downtown improvements. 

Snyder showed the council a preliminary drawing done by Doolin that would incorporate the empty lot at the corner of Kickapoo and Pekin into the library parking lot. Currently that space is not being used except as a green space in the city. 

Snyder said the plan had been turned over to city engineer Mark Mathon to come up with an estimated cost. The figure came in at just under $150,000. 

Snyder recognized that is more than the city has, but if they could come up with it, this was a viable option for more parking in the downtown area.   

He also said he'd had a conversation with Richard Sumrall of the library. Sumrall is excited about the prospects of the additional parking and also said the library might have some funding to help with the project. 

During the discussion the only problem that was found in the design is that it is angled parking, which would restrict the directional flow of traffic through the parking lot. It was noted that with the way the examples were drawn out, traffic would not be able to enter the lot from Pekin Street. 

Mathon said the drawing was conceptual at this point, and those concerns could be addressed if the city wants to move forward. 

The council will be asked at the next voting meeting to vote for or against incorporating the empty lot into parking. Once that decision is made, the plans will be fine-tuned, based on their decision. 

City administrator position draws much interest 

Alderman Tom O'Donohue asked for a motion to be put on the agenda regarding use of the professional services of Dave Anderson of the Range Riders. If approved, Anderson will assist with the selection process for the city's new administrator. 

Anderson has quoted $150 per hour with a "not to exceed" limit of $6,000. 

To date, the city has received 25 résumés from 15 states.  

Fire department wins grants and gets services for the cost of a lunch 

Fire chief Mark Miller shared that the fire department has been awarded two grants, one from Wal-Mart in the amount of $800 to be used for fire prevention programs, and a second from the Illinois Department of Public Health in the amount of $900 to be used for EMS equipment. 

He told the council that a "friend of the fire department" had spent time programming the department radios for the new bandwidths. Miller said that to have hired this done would have run in the area of $50 per radio, with 25 radios needing the service. In the end, Miller said all he had to do was buy the "friend" a lunch. 

Miller also asked approval to appoint one new fire inspector. This is not a new hire, just an appointment from within the existing department. He said he has two individuals on the department who are interested in the position. 

Making the appointment requires council approval, so it will be on the next voting agenda. 

Thanks to Tracy Jackson, city street department 

Busby said he wanted to acknowledge Tracy Jackson and the city street department. 

His thank-you to the department stems from a situation last year when there were dialysis patients who could not get to their appointments because of being plowed in or snowed in. 

Busby said he'd spoken with Jackson about it and has been assured it will not be a problem this year. 

Snyder said medical needs are always to be at the top of the list, and it was good that Busby made the department aware of this. 

City aldermen ended the evening with an executive session. The motion to go into session for the purpose of discussing personnel was made by Melody Anderson and passed unanimously.


< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching and Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law and Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health and Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor