Thursday, April 10, 2014
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New alderman; city to purchase Depot; no address change for Friendship Manor; budget process begins

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[April 10, 2014]  At the Monday evening voting session of the Lincoln City Council, Girl Scout Troop 6662 was on hand to observe the proceedings. Mayor Keith Snyder began the evening by acknowledging the young women and inviting them to lead the council in the Pledge of Allegiance.

At the beginning of the meeting, all seven aldermen were present. The first order of business for Mayor Keith Snyder was to seek the advice and consent of the council in appointing a new alderman.

Scott Cooper appointed to Ward 1

Snyder told the council he would like their advice and consent on appointing Scott Cooper as the new Ward 1 alderman, replacing Bruce Carmitchel, who resigned in March.

Cooper is a lifelong resident of Lincoln and a graduate of Lincoln Community High School. He is with the Illinois Department of Corrections as a parole commander for the District 3 sex offender unit. He is a former member of the Lincoln Planning Commission and the Civil Service Commission. He also served 21 years with the Illinois Air National Guard.

Cooper was asked if he would like to address the council before the vote. He told the group that he appreciated the opportunity to serve the city of Lincoln. He noted that several years ago he did run for city alderman but was defeated. Cooper said he had always been interested in politics and was happy for an opportunity to serve. He ended by saying, "Lincoln is my home and I want to make it better."

When Snyder called for the motion, it was made by Marty Neitzel, with the second coming from Kathy Horn. At the vote Cooper was approved unanimously.

After being sworn in by city attorney Blinn Bates, Cooper then took his seat at the Ward 1 desk and participated in the rest of the evening session.

City approves purchase of Depot for $600,000

Snyder told the council that he was looking for a motion and approval for the purchase of the Lincoln Depot at a cost of $600,000. The city of Lincoln will be purchasing the property and will hold the deed to it, but the funding for the purchase will be coming through the Illinois Department of Transportation and the high-speed rail project.

The purchase includes the entire city block where the former restaurant and current Amshack are located.

Snyder said the purchase was just the first step in the process. In the second step there will be a preliminary restoration of the property, which will include removing the various railroad cars that are currently attached to the original structure. Snyder said this would take the depot back to its 1911 footprint. Then the next step will be restoration of the exterior.

The motion was made by Jonie Tibbs and seconded by Kathy Horn. The motion carried with a unanimous vote of 8-0.

City approves Railer Way and allows Friendship Manor to keep Primm Road address

The council approved by unanimous vote renaming a section of Primm Road as Railer Way.

The area to be renamed will be the portion of the road that runs in front of Lincoln Community High School and the Lincoln Park District complex.

When Snyder asked for the renaming, he said the post office will recognize both the Primm Road address and the Railer Way address for the next 12 months. He said this would allow the high school and park district time to make changes to stationery and other documents.

When this came up for discussion at the last workshop meeting, aldermen expressed concern over forcing the residents of Friendship Manor to change their addresses. Snyder said the motion would include naming Friendship Manor's private driveway Primm Road and allowing the facility to keep its original address.

Monday evening, Michelle Bauer said she had heard from quite a few people that they were grateful the city had thought to do this for them. Fire Chief Mark Miller said he, too, had heard comments of appreciation.

The idea to name the private drive came from Bauer and Miller last week.

McLaughlin offers first look at 2015 budget

The city administrator, Sue McLaughlin, offered an overview of the budget figures she's been working on for the new fiscal year, which will begin May 1.

Once again this year, aldermen are going to have to make some tough decisions in order to balance the budget.

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Some of the biggest issues the council faces are items that are beyond their control. Many of the city employees are working in various union organizations. Those organizations determine raises for the year. The city has the opportunity to negotiate with the unions on such things, but in the end, what the union ratifies is what the city has to pay. Therefore, pay increases take a significant chunk out of the city's general fund, and that chunk will continue to grow each year.

Workers' compensation insurance is also going to see an increase in the next fiscal year. McLaughlin said the city's workers' comp claims were actually down, but because the premium is based on wages paid, and wages have gone up, so did the policy premium.

In addition, this year the city is going to see a 51 percent increase in liability insurance.

On the revenue side of the city's general fund, McLaughlin and the city treasurer, Chuck Conzo, estimated the city will bring in $9,236,371 this year.

Portions of that revenue have already been promised to specific expenditures. For example, McLaughlin noted an expected revenue of just over $68,000 from video gaming. However, the city has declared that the money gained from gaming will be put into the police and fire pension funds.

The city also expects to earn right at $1 million from the utility tax this coming year. That money, too, is earmarked for specific projects, including but not limited to the long-term sewer control plan, which is a project mandated by both the federal and state Environmental Protection Agency. McLaughlin noted to the council that this was a big issue for Lincoln residents. Had it not been for the utility tax, the city would be forced to impose significant sewage rate increases.

At the first review of the budget, the city is in the red significantly. Estimated revenues are at $9,236,371, while expenditures in the general fund total $9,490,740, leaving the city in a deficit of $254,369.

McLaughlin said she will be meeting with city department heads in the coming week to discuss what can be cut from the budget. Right now the departments have submitted a best-case scenario budget to the administrator. They will now have to return to it and cut out what cannot be funded.

Aldermen opted not to go into detailed discussions about the budget on Monday evening, saying they wanted time to examine the complete document.

The city must pass a budget prior to May 1. If McLaughlin is able to recommend all the cuts needed to balance the budget by next Tuesday, then the budget could be voted upon on April 21.

Rick Hamm appointed to development partnership board

Snyder advised the council that there is a seat vacant on the board of directors for the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership. The seat needs to be filled by a city-appointed representative. Snyder has chosen Rick Hamm to fill that seat.

Hamm has served on the board in the past but has been off the board for a while, Snyder said. He said he would like to see Hamm back on the board.

The council approved the appointment with an 8-0 vote.

Other items

The city approved naming April 25 as citywide Arbor Day.

Main Street Lincoln was given permission to close Broadway Street between Kickapoo and McLean on May 3 for the Lincoln High School Prom Grand March.

The council approved a bid from Beniach Construction of Tuscola in the amount of $453,443.60 for street seal coating projects. McLaughlin said this bid actually came in under what was expected.


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