Wednesday, September 14, 2011
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Prison closure, potential ward changes, sewer problem and more

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[September 14, 2011]  Tuesday evening with all 10 city aldermen present, the committee of the whole workshop meeting began with a brief address to the council from AFSCME Council 31 representative John Black. 

AFSCME seeks city support 

Black spoke about the concerns facing Logan Correctional Center employees if the threats from Gov. Pat Quinn to close the prison become reality. 

Currently there are 357 employees at the Logan facility, all in danger of losing their jobs. Black said it has been stated that there will be openings available at other locations, but that will mean relocation. He noted that in many cases, these are going to be people with families and working spouses who will also be leaving the area, perhaps to never return. 

Black said that before the prison is closed, there must be a public hearing on the subject, and by law the hearing must be conducted within a 25-mile radius of the prison. 

AFSCME is planning on raising public awareness of the situation through yard signs and other campaigns. In addition, Black said that when the hearing date is set, he wants to organize a community get-together to rally support for the prison. 

He asked that the city also offer its support by speaking up in opposition to the prison closure. 

Mayor Keith Snyder told Black that, speaking for the council, the city does not want to lose the prison and hopes it won't happen. 

He also advised the council that he has already drafted a letter for their approval. He provided them copies of the letter and asked that they read it and let him know of any changes or additions. Once it is completed, the letter will be signed by all the aldermen as well as Snyder and sent to Quinn. 

Black also asked if he could return to council chambers next week with Dale Ridgeway, the union representative for the Lincoln Correctional facility. He said even though closing is targeted at Logan, it will also have an effect on Lincoln. He would like an opportunity to speak again, with Ridgeway, during the televised session of the council. 

Conzo discusses revenue shifts if prisons are annexed into the city 

Results from the 2010 census indicated that the population of the city of Lincoln has dropped slightly below 15,000. Because of this, according to state law the city is going to be required to remap the city wards, reducing the total from five to four. 

This will also mean reducing the number of aldermen who serve on the council from 10 to eight. 

Since this information came to light earlier this year, the council has discussed the options, including doing the reduction in wards or finding a means to increase the population. 

To increase the population count, one of the best options appears to be to annex the two correctional facilities; Logan Correctional and Lincoln Correctional, into the city limits. By doing so, the nearly 3,000 inmates in the two prisons could be counted in the city population. 

In doing this, one thing the city needs to consider is the shift in revenues as a result.  Treasurer Chuck Conzo spoke about this Tuesday night. 

He outlined for the city the effect the annexation would have, first on sewer fees.  Currently the prisons are on the city sewer system but pay an out-of-city rate for the service. This rate is higher than an in-city rate. Conzo estimated that switching the rates accordingly would cost the city $116,000 a year in lost sewer fees. 

On the other hand, there are tax benefits that would increase, including state income and use taxes as well as the state motor fuel tax. Conzo shared with the council his estimates of the increases, which at first glance make it appear that the city would benefit a great deal from the increased taxes. 

However, Alderwoman Melody Anderson said there were pitfalls to this, because the city's sewer department has to be self-sufficient. Additional money coming from taxes could not be used to supplement the sewer department. 

Conzo supported that statement, saying it had been a part of his conclusions as well, and in addition, the city needs to consider the cost of offering other city services to the prisons. 

He also noted the taxes that would increase have also been on a steady decline over the years, and there is no indication that trend will change, so the gains might be short-lived. 

It was also mentioned that there will be a cost to the county if this change is made, and there will be some effect on local townships such as Broadwell to the south. 

In the end, there is nothing for the council to take action on at this time, but the information was offered as something they need to consider as they make decisions about the future of the wards of the city. 

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Busby approves emergency sewer work 

Alderman Buzz Busby told the council that he had taken it upon himself to approve sewer work to be done near Carroll Catholic School by Petersburg Pluming. The cost of the work will be $12,000. 

Aldermen have the authority to approve expenditures up to $10,000 without a council vote, but because this expenditure is going to be more than that, the council will have to support his decision with a two-thirds majority of all aldermen at next week's meeting. 

Busby explained his decision came about when a sinkhole developed near the school. He said he felt that if this were a sewer issue, it would have an effect on the school, and he didn't want that to happen. 

David Kitzmiller, who is currently acting as the manager of the city sewer department, said that in exploring the problem they discovered that there was a sewer line 9 feet below the surface that was active, plus an inactive line 15 feet below the surface. The problem was being caused by the inactive line. As the lowest sewer line collapsed, it was causing damage to the one above it. 


The work being done involved cleaning out the lowest line, which Kitzmiller said was found to be full of sand and gravel and unused, filling that area back in, then moving to the more shallow area and doing repair work there. 

Ordinance pertaining to a new city administrator placed on Monday's agenda 

Snyder said the ordinance necessary to begin the search for a new city administrator is now written and ready to be voted on next Monday night. 

He said the original document has been reduced to a total of three pages, thanks to the help of Dave Anderson, a former city administrator for Normal. Anderson belongs to a group of retired administrators and city management professionals known as Range Riders. The organization is part of the Illinois City/County Management Association.   

In addition, Snyder said Anderson has advised the search committee -- Tom O'Donohue, David Wilmert and Snyder -- that due to the structure of the city government, there are specific terms of employment for the city administrator. 

According to Anderson, the administrator position must run concurrent with the mayoral position. Therefore, if an administrator is hired at the beginning of the year 2012, his contract will be up for renewal April 30, 2013, and each four-year increment thereafter. 

Forestry department to apply for grant funding 

Tracy Jackson, who heads up the city's forestry department, said he is preparing to submit a grant application for funding to plant more trees in the city. 

The grant is being funded by Spring Grove Nursery and is in the amount of $3,000.  Jackson said the terms of the grant are that the city forestry department matches the funding dollar for dollar and that they have all the trees planted by the end of November. 

Jackson said that if the city is awarded the funds, he has money in the forestry budget for the match. 

Other news 

Lincoln Community High School is preparing for their homecoming on Sept. 30. They have asked permission for whitewashing along Wyatt Avenue and in front of football team member homes again this year. They are also asking for street closures during their annual parade. 

On Sept. 28, there will be a Community Night at the park in Mayfair. The From the Ground Up group will be on hand, the Crime Stoppers will be serving hot dogs, and the Lincoln Fire Department will also be on hand for the evening event. 

The Lincoln Park District will have a Fall Family Fun Run on Oct. 8. 

Executive session 

At the end of the evening, an executive session was called for the discussion of personnel and the purchase or lease of property. 


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