Friday, March 21, 2014
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City sewer bills soon to be paper statements instead of postcards

City approves racetrack schedule and RFPs for city code hearing officer

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[March 21, 2014]  At the Monday evening voting session of the Lincoln City Council, city clerk Susan Gehlbach announced that her office is now prepared to begin issuing the monthly sewer bills in a paper statement instead of the age-old postcard format.

This has been a goal of the city council for quite some time. The postcards have proven to be problematic for sewer customers over the years. Because they are a lighter weight paper and postcard format, they often get stuffed into the bottom of a recipient's mailbox and not retrieved in a timely fashion. They arrive in a tattered condition, or they don't arrive at all.

In addition, there has been some speculation that the cards have sometimes offered an inarguable excuse for customers failing to pay their bills in a timely manner because they are so often misplaced or mishandled.

The city had been of the understanding that the current sewer billing software was not capable of producing a paper statement. However, Gehlbach said that after doing some research, they found that to be an inaccurate assumption.

The software has been reconfigured to print the monthly bills on paper, and they will be mailed out in an envelope, beginning first with the commercial billing for April. The residential billing will switch to paper in May.

Gehlbach said the switch to paper would involve a higher cost for postage, but that had been anticipated by the city.

During discussion Marty Neitzel said she was happy to see this come about, and she knew that there had been some hard work involved in the clerk's office to get this accomplished. Gehlbach gave much of the credit for this to Dawn Crowell, who is the sewer billing clerk, saying she had spent a lot of time figuring all this out and getting everything to work properly.

Melody Anderson also commented that this was long overdue, and to now have the ability to print paper statements was certainly a step in the right direction for the sewer department.

Voting session

In their voting session, the council approved via their consent agenda the 2014 racing schedule for the Lincoln Speedway and once again this year granted a total of 90 minutes' worth of curfew extensions to be used in no more than 30-minute increments, but as needed by the track in order to complete racing events.

By roll call vote, the council approved sending out "Request for Proposal" letters in search of a city code hearing officer. This position is being created to fulfill requirements that came with the passing of an impound ordinance two weeks ago.

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The city now has the authority to impose an impound fee on vehicles that have to be towed and stored as a result of a criminal arrest. Because of this, defendants have to have an opportunity to dispute the impound fee. It had been explained earlier that the code hearing officer will be an attorney on call who can act as a judge in hearings. This is not a full-time position, but rather as needed and generally at a cost of between $75 and $100 per hour.

City administrator Sue McLaughlin and police Chief Ken Greenslate told the council the hearings would be infrequent, possibly no more than one or two per year.

However, if the city pursues creating other traffic ordinances as a means of securing a greater percentage of violation fees, the role of the code hearing officer could expand.

Currently, when city police officers issue tickets for traffic violations, the violation is processed through the state of Illinois. The state then keeps a percentage of the fees or fines collected. If the city adopts ordinances for traffic violations, the state would be eliminated from the process and the city would receive all the proceeds of the fines.

Next week's meeting

The next session of the Lincoln City Council will be on Tuesday.

The night will begin with a special adjourned voting session. On the agenda there is one action item: to approve or deny a request from a city employee for extended family medical leave.

Following the voting session, the council will adjourn and go immediately into the Tuesday night workshop session.


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