Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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If you owe the city money, don't expect any favors

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[April 24, 2012]  At last week's voting session of the Lincoln City Council, aldermen approved a policy change that basically says, "if you owe the city money, don't expect any favors."

According to Susan Gehlbach, city clerk, who spoke about this after the meeting, her office had received a request for reimbursement for a sidewalk repair.

The name on the request struck a chord, and when she checked it out, she found the person owed the city money. Gehlbach said her thought was, "Why should we be paying them when they owe us money?"

The matter was taken to the full council, and on Monday night they all agreed that unnecessary repairs and services for those owing the city money should not be reimbursed.

During the discussion the council was very careful to make it clear this did not include vital services.

City attorney Bill Bates spelled it out, saying: "This does not mean these people won't get police protection or fire services, because they will."

After the meeting, Tracy Jackson, street and alley superintendent, shed a little more light on what would or could be denied for reimbursement or repair. He noted one good example: If a resident wants a sidewalk repaired with brick, the city has adopted a policy of reimbursing a portion of the resident's expenses, but not all.

Jackson said if the same person is found to owe the city money for delinquent sewer bills or parking tickets, the request for reimbursement will be denied.

In talking about the sidewalk repair requests, Jackson said the city would still inspect the sidewalks as the requests come in, and if the area is determined to be unsafe, the repairs would still be made even if the resident owes the city money.

He summed it up by saying all the decisions where his department was concerned would have to be made on a case-by-case basis.

Gehlbach said they are also going to look at this for businesses that are up to renew their liquor licenses. She explained that the annual licenses renew at the end of April, first of May.

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If a business applies for liquor license renewal and is found to be in debt to the city, the license will not be renewed until the debt is cleared up.

This had also come up during the council meeting, and the question was posed: If the business owner has a personal debt not related to the business or the license, will the license still be denied?

The answer was no, if the business is not in debt to the city, then the business will not be affected, regardless of what its owner may owe the city on a personal level.

Gehlbach said that adding this kind of checklist to the duties of the clerk's office would make a little more work for her and her staff, but it is well worth it.

To date the city has been making some really good progress on cleaning up the delinquent sewer accounts.

Gehlbach told the council last week in her monthly report that in March the city collected $22,178 in past-due sewer bills. This brings the total to date to $73,000 collected from the water disconnect program.

She said Illinois American Water has disconnected water to 14 properties thus far. There have been two re-connects after the sewer bills were paid in full.

Gehlbach also told the council that as of the end of March, the total delinquent sewage accounts come to just over $135,000, down considerably from the all-time high that exceeded $250,000.


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