Friday, March 16, 2012
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Sludge spills, cooking grease and storm sirens top Tuesday night topics at City Hall

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[March 16, 2012]  Tuesday night, the Lincoln City Council had a full plate of discussion items. With eight of the 10 aldermen present, the council discussed a wide variety of topics and compiled the Monday night voting agenda. Aldermen Buzz Busby and David Wilmert were absent for the evening.

Dried sludge accident gets the attention of IEPA

Recently there was an accident where dried sludge product from the Lincoln waste treatment plant was spilled on a public roadway. The accident involved a truck hauling the product away from the plant. Before leaving the plant, the driver failed to assure that the latches on the back dump gate were properly locked. As a result, some of the sludge escaped the truck bed and landed on a city street.

The dried sludge is a waste byproduct that comes from processing of sewage and wastewater. The product is stockpiled on-site at the treatment plant.

In an interview with former waste treatment manager Bob Tackett in 2010, he explained that the product is safe for agricultural applications. However, when it falls on a roadway, it is an entirely different issue.

Tuesday evening, waste treatment manager Darrel Palmer along with Dave Kitzmiller, former waste treatment manager and now district manager for American Water, explained how they had proceeded when the recent accident occurred.

Their requirements included immediately cleaning up the spill, then notifying the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency that the spill had occurred.

In addition, they contacted the trucking company and urged them to do a better job of checking the latches on their dump gates before leaving the stockpile site.

The city has received a compliance agreement from the EPA outlining what should have been done. The agreement is to be signed by Mayor Keith Snyder, stating the city is now in compliance according to EPA rules on how to handle the spill. There is a certificate of compliance that must also be signed.

In addition, the notice from the EPA introduced a $2,000 fine that may be possible, but there was some discussion between Snyder, city attorney Bill Bates, Kitzmiller and Palmer as to what the fine actually applied to. There was a question whether the city had to pay the fine because the spill had occurred.

Alderwoman Mary Neitzel then asked, if that were case, shouldn't the trucking firm be made to pay the fine?

However, Bates said his understanding was that the fine didn't have anything to do with the actual spill. He believed the fine is meant to be applied if the city does not sign the required compliance documents.

The implication appeared to be that if the city could not sign the agreement, then they must not be in compliance with EPA cleanup rules and therefore would owe the fine. However, because the accident was taken care of quickly and the city did follow EPA rules, all that needs to be done is sign the documents and return them to the EPA.

City will adopt policy on grease collection

At the waste treatment plant another issue has come to light: the excessive dumping of restaurant grease. Cooking grease is brought from local restaurants to the waste treatment plant by grease haulers.

Palmer explained that the problem is the large amounts that are being brought in at once. He said the grease, sometimes in a solid form, is hard on the equipment. His alternative is to limit the amount that can be deposited on any day to 500 gallons.

This item will be on the Monday night voting agenda.

News from the fire department

Lincoln Fire Department Chief Mark Miller was absent for the evening, but he had left information with Alderwoman Kathy Horn for her to share with the full council.

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal has reintroduced a loan program at zero percent interest for fire districts. Miller would like to make an application for a loan to purchase a new engine to replace the 1991 apparatus that is currently costing a great deal in repairs and maintenance.

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Horn also shared that Miller has completed his application for an Illinois American Water grant for 2012. If the grant is awarded, the money will spent on new mobile radios for the fire department.

Finally, Horn said Miller had provided information about buying a new emergency siren for the Northgate and North Kickapoo area. The cost of the new siren would be $14,424, and the optional battery backup would run another $3,500.

This information came on the heels of a discussion at the budget committee of the whole meeting on March 10. Neitzel and Alderman Jeff Hoinacki had noted then that residents in the Mayfair area are concerned they are unable to hear the storm sirens.

The sirens are meant to be heard when outside, but not necessarily inside the home. Hoinacki noted he had residents tell him they were not able to hear the sirens even when outside.

In that part of town, there have been sirens that failed and were not replaced. But during the discussion on Saturday, Miller said the sirens in the area were newer and louder and should be offering the right coverage.

However, in response to the questions on Saturday, Miller did investigate a new siren that could be located closer to Mayfair.

On Tuesday night, Horn also said Miller had advised her that generally Ameren Illinois will do the electric connection on the siren as a public service.

Police chief shares info on sex offender website

Lincoln Police Department Chief Ken Greenslate shared with the council information regarding a free website where Lincoln residents can find out how close they are living to a registered sex offender.

The information he gave the council is much like the news release that was published in LDN on Tuesday. The link to that article is provided at the end of this story.

He did add that he had used the website on Tuesday to find out how many registered sex offenders lived near City Hall. He said there were six within a half-mile radius of the council chambers.

Council will vote to hire HR professional

Alderman Tom O'Donohue said he and the mayor had recently talked with Julie Love, a specialist who would be more than qualified to review the city's human resource manual and assure it is written correctly.

O'Donohue said there is nothing wrong with the manual as written, and the city's policies are in place, but it would be good for a qualified professional to review issues related to union rules, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and more.

The cost of having Love take a look at the manual and fine-tune it will come to $4,500 and will take approximately 90 days to complete.

This would also include editing or rewriting as needed to strengthen the policy manual.

During discussion, Bates noted Love would have to have access not only to the human resources manual, but all of the city's policies.

This item was placed on the Monday night agenda.

At the end of the night, the council went into executive session for the discussion of personnel issues and the purchase of real estate. No actions were taken after the session.


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