Wednesday, January 18, 2012
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Many positives as council moves into new year

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[January 18, 2012]  Tuesday evening the Lincoln City Council met for the voting session meeting. Voting meetings are normally on the first and third Mondays of the month, but with the New Year's holiday and then this week's observance of Martin Luther King's birthday, all the meetings in January have been on Tuesday. 

All 10 members of the council were present for the evening. 

City and county to work together in considering electric aggregation 

Just a few weeks ago the Logan County Board and Lincoln aldermen believed they had successfully completed the first steps to offering alternative electric providers to the city and county, when both independently chose to hire BlueStar Energy as their consultant for the process. 

However in an abrupt turn of events, the city and county learned that BlueStar had been sold to one of the largest providers of electricity in the nation, American Electric Power, a company based out of Columbus, Ohio. 

In their contracts with the two governing bodies, BlueStar had agreed that even though they, too, were providers of electricity, they would not bid on the local services if hired as consultants. 


Now that BlueStar is owned by American Electric Power, the terms and conditions of the BlueStar contract apply to AEP as well, something that city officials feel might prevent them from getting the best possible price for local residents. 

Last week Mayor Keith Snyder said BlueStar had agreed to void the contracts if the city was interested in getting bids from AEP. BlueStar made the same offer to the county, and both have agreed this is what they want to do. Therefore, both the city and county will once again be looking for a new consultant. 

Tuesday night, Snyder said he had met earlier in the evening with Mike Maniscalco of the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership, Aldermen Tom O'Donohue and David Wilmert, and three members of the Logan County Board, with the goal of exploring ways the county and city could work together on these issues. 

Snyder said it was agreed that next week two prospective consultants, Good Energy and Illinois Community Choice Aggregation Network, will be invited to attend the Tuesday night meeting of the city council to present their proposals. 

In addition to the regular aldermen, the meeting will also include county board members who sit on the county's insurance and legislative committee. 

Snyder said he wanted to do a few things differently. First, he would like to start the meeting at 6 p.m. instead of 7. Next, he would like to move the location of the meeting.  He said he didn't want the county board members sitting in chairs along the wall, and he wanted a location where they could be as a group. Finally, he wants each of the two companies to present their pitches outside the presence of the other. He said he wanted to keep the company representatives in separate spaces from the meeting so there would be no unfair advantage in one getting to listen while the other went first. 

Snyder said that after next week's meeting, the group who met earlier -- Maniscalco, O'Donohue, Wilmert, himself and the county board members -- will meet again to discuss their impressions. 

Snyder commented on this unprecedented event, saying: "The meeting this evening was requested by the members of the county board. I think it was a good meeting, and hopefully it is a start of continued efforts to try to work together on matters of mutual interest." 

Main Street introduces this year's board president 

Wanda Lee Rohlfs, the executive director of Main Street Lincoln, was on hand Tuesday night along with local businessman Seth Goodman, who will serve as the president of the Main Street board for the 2012 year. 

Rohlfs began by talking briefly about the plans for the organization for this year. On a state level, all Main Street organizations were folded into the economic development component of the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. As such, Rohlfs said the programs offered by Main Street Lincoln now have to fall into one of four categories: organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring. 

Coupled with the DCEO activities and requirements, Main Street Lincoln is also part of the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition. The Main Street goal there is to preserve and promote the city and county's Abraham Lincoln heritage. 

Rohlfs went through a handout of several pages, outlining what the activities of the Main Street organization will be this year and under what category they fall. 

Rohlfs then introduced Seth Goodman as this year's president of the board of Main Street Lincoln. Goodman is, at the age of 24, the youngest board president the organization has ever had. Rohlfs said she has known Goodman for quite some time, as she was his counselor in high school and knew even then that he would be an asset to Lincoln. 

Goodman is a real estate agent with ME Realty in Lincoln. He is a Lincoln native who has been on the Main Street board for approximately three years and served as the treasurer one year. He is also one of the local balloonists who participate at the annual Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival. 

This year there are seven new members on the Main Street board and seven returning members, for a total of 14. Rohlfs commented on the turnover on the board, saying the new blood coming into the organization is going to be an asset to the group. She noted it is always good to have a diverse mix in the group, and with the ones coming on, she sees younger people who will add their own perspective to the organization.

She also talked about looking at a board representing businesses that are a mix of retail and professional. She noted that many times, when Main Street Lincoln is working to promote the downtown, the board members who are retail business owners are not able to participate. With a diversity of business professionals on the board, she's hoping for greater visibility in the community. 

City wins DCEO grant 

In April of 2010, the city and Main Street Lincoln hosted a public meeting to introduce a streetscape plan for the downtown area. The plan was an example of what could be done in the downtown area to make the heart of the city more attractive to visitors and shoppers.

In that meeting, Lisa Kramer of Prairie Engineers was on hand to talk about the plan and a grant application that could be made to DCEO to fund further plan development. .

(Read a report on that meeting here:

Tuesday evening, Snyder announced the city has won the grant they applied for and will have $675,000 to use over the next three years for downtown revitalization. 

(See news release in today's Top Stories: City of Lincoln receives $675,000 DCEO grant for downtown revitalization)

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The grant funding will be used for three purposes: to develop an overall downtown revitalization program, to fund building demolition and code compliance within the downtown area, and to fund facade improvements that are historically accurate. 

Snyder said much of the money will be spent on developing plans, and money for the actual work will have to come from other sources. He noted the city had applied for and been denied an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant. He said one of the things that cost the city points on their application was that they had no plan. He noted that with a plan in place, the city will be in a better position the next time the grant is available. 

Positive moves on city development 

John Lebegue, building and safety officer, delivered his quarterly report to the council on the activities of his office. He said building activity in the last three months had been slow, but development-related activities were definitely picking up. 

In his written report Lebegue noted the following; 

  • Aldi will begin building their new retail store at 2500 Woodlawn Road later this summer or early fall. 

  • Dollar General is planning construction of a new store at 708 Woodlawn, next door to Daphne's Restaurant. 

  • With the merger of Hundman Lumber and Alexander Lumber, Alexander will be moving to the Hundman building at 910 Woodlawn. The lumber company plans to demolish one old structure and replace it with a new build. They also plan to add on to another building. In addition, they plan to make improvements to the interior of the retail store and will offer a wider variety of products for local consumers. 

  • Subway will open a new restaurant at the former Quiznos at 3097 Woodlawn Road. Lebegue said he thought Subway would be able to open fairly quickly, as the store was already set up for a sub shop, with very little to do to make it operable again. 

  • D & D Sewer has purchased the former gas station at 620 Keokuk, on the east side of the railroad tracks, and will move their business into the building. Lebegue said the new owners are planning some exterior improvements and new construction that will improve the appearance of the property. 

  • Two dilapidated homes at 703 and 711 N. Kickapoo have been demolished. The area, which is already zoned commercial, will make a great location for any new business that might be interested in the future. 

Conzo delivers treasurer's report for December 

Chuck Conzo, city treasurer, delivered his report on city finances for the month of December, saying the general fund balance is in good condition compared with years past. On the last day of December, the general fund balance was $362,301.10, compared with $193,453.10 at the same time the previous year. 

In December the city received $444,066.18 from the state of Illinois from various sources. Money received is still running behind and will probably continue to do so. In December the city received state payments for non-home-rule sales tax, municipal sales tax and telecommunications tax that were obligations from September. The state payment for replacement tax was the December obligation, and the local share of income tax was the state's payment for July. 

Conzo pointed out the steady decline in revenues from the motor fuel tax. As gas prices rise, consumers cut back on buying and less tax is collected. In 2006 the amount collected from this tax totaled $442,386.37; in 2011 the total dropped to $374,108.23. 

Conzo also expressed concern over the replacement tax. The figure is dropping, not only due to the economy, but also because this is the funding source that now provides payments for the regional school superintendents. Last year, regional superintendents worked several months without pay when their funding was stripped from the education budget on a state level. When their pay was restored, the money was taken out of the replacement tax, which in turn caused a decrease for municipalities statewide. 

In spite of these setbacks, Conzo said it has been a pretty good year for the budget. He expressed appreciation to all the city department heads who have managed their money very well this year. He said he realized that for most of them it meant doing without some things and getting by with what they had, but it had made a great deal of difference for the city. 

Voting agenda 

The council approved the consent agenda by unanimous vote. This included resolutions for National Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 29-Feb. 5, and National Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14.

Also approved by unanimous vote was a request from Norm and Yvonne Horn of Lincoln Speedway to be granted three 30-minute extensions to be used as needed at this year's race events. The exception is that the extensions cannot be used on nights when the established curfew is 9 p.m. 

Fire Chief Mark Miller received approval, again by unanimous vote, to hire one new firefighter to replace Beau Friday, who has resigned to take a position with the Springfield department. 

Next week's committee of the whole meeting will begin at 6 p.m. The location for the meeting is not yet known but will be announced as soon as arrangements have been made. Snyder said he hopes to be able to use space either at the Lincoln Park District or Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital. 


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