Public participation makes long night for Lincoln Aldermen

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[March 11, 2016]  LINCOLN - On Monday evening, the Lincoln City Council met for its first voting session in March. There was a light agenda of items for voting, but the evening stretched to nearly two hours as aldermen heard from a number of people during the Public Participation portion of the meeting.

Marty Nietzel began the meeting by asking for a moment of silence for former First Lady Nancy Reagan and also for Myron Aper, who passed away this week. She noted that Mr. Aper was the father of Lincoln Fire Inspector Tim Aper, and the grandfather of Lincoln Firefighter Brett Tripplett.

The gallery was filled to capacity with people who were there to hear presentations given by Joe Schaler representing the Veteran’s Assistance Commission, Norm and Yvonne Horn of Lincoln Speedway, and Leslie Hoefle, who spoke addressing financial concerns relating to the relationship between the city and the Logan County Alliance and Logan County Tourism Bureau. The council also heard from Maggie McMurtrey and Sal Pollice representing Tourism, and from Don Frontone, who was there to talk about electric aggregation.

Information related to the Veteran’s Assistance Commission, the Hoefle presentation, and the Tourism presentation may be found in separate articles in LDN this week.

Norm and Yvonne Horn introduce the new manager of Lincoln Speedway

The council also heard from Norm and Yvonne Horn and the new Lincoln Speedway manager Bob Sargent. The Horns are retiring from the management of the track. Norm Horn said that he and Yvonne were still the owners of the track, but Sargent, who is also the owner of the Macon Speedway near Decatur, will be the one running everything.

Sargent explained that in his first year of management, there will be a reduced schedule. He plans to have races every other Friday night throughout the summer. For this season, there are only two Saturday events and one Sunday event on the schedule.

Horn said he would ask on behalf of Sargent that the city once again allow the track 90 minutes of curfew extensions for the upcoming season. He also noted that in 2015, the Friday night races had used only 16 minutes total.

Electric aggregation

Don Frontone of Lincoln appeared before the council to speak about electric aggregation. Fortune is a sales representative for Stone Creek River Group.

In 2014, Frontone bid for the city contract for an electric aggregation consultant, as did Mark Pruitt of Illinois Community Choice Aggregation Network (ICCAN). It was the second time the city was preparing to go into electric aggregation after a successful contract with ICCAN in the year prior had resulted in Lincoln constituents being able to purchase electricity at a bulk rate from supplier Integrys.

In 2014, Pruitt recommended that the city not be involved in electric aggregation because the Ameren rates were going to be cheaper. This week, Frotone said that the city had erred in following the recommendations of Pruitt. He said that ICANN had been retained in 2014 but did nothing to help the city.

He went on to say that when the city and county began discussing aggregation for 2016, he contacted the city of Lincoln and asked to make a presentation, but was denied the opportunity. Upon making that statement, City Administrator Clay Johnson responded that was incorrect. Frontone had never contacted his office seeking to address the council.

Frontone said he had also tried to meet with the council for the city of Atlanta and had been contacted by Steve Smith of Farnsworth Group and told not to come.

Frontone's point was that in his opinion ICCAN was not doing their job, and Frontone had not been given the opportunity to compete with ICCAN, and consequently offer his services to the city of Lincoln. He noted that he had recently represented the city of Normal and the rate he got for them was $0.5824. He said the city should be in a contract now and taking advantage of those savings.

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Johnson said that as of Monday night, the rate continues to go down, and the rate that is available now is already lower than what Frontone secured for the city of Normal.

Frontone also commented that he thought it was interesting that the city had voted to take an administrative fee for electric aggregation when they haven’t signed any aggregation agreements yet.

When Frontone finished, there was no further discussion and Neitzel moved on to the voting portion of the agenda.

City approves a landscape ordinance for new businesses

First on the regular voting agenda, Monday night was an ordinance to adopt a set of guidelines and rules pertaining to landscaping at the sites of new businesses. The ordinance will apply only to new businesses that come to Lincoln and will have no effect on businesses already in existence.

At the Tuesday workshop session held last week, city Building and Safety Officer John Lebegue had introduced the topic saying that adding landscaping requirements had many benefits including improving the overall appearance of new businesses coming into the city.

The ordinance includes requirements for creating green spaces along the sides of buildings, in the parking lot areas, as well as along street fronts. It outlines the plantings that are acceptable in those greenspaces including specific trees.

It was recently announced that Casey’s will be building a new gas station convenience store in Lincoln at the corner of Woodlawn Road and Lincoln Parkway. Rick Hoefle asked if the new ordinance would impact that construction. He noted that historically Casey’s does not add landscaping to their new construction. Lebegue said Casey’s has already applied for and received its permits, so no, this new ordinance would not impact them. He also noted that in this particular case, Casey’s had asked about landscaping in the area, and does plan to incorporate landscaping into their construction.

Hoefle said that when the item was discussed last week, he had intended to ask the council to table the motion this week. He said he had reached out to a local business to talk about the landscaping. He said that business seemed to have no issues with the landscaping ordinance, and therefore, he was not going to ask for it to be tabled.

When the item came to vote, with all eight aldermen present, seven voted “yes” with Hoefle voting “No.”

Other business

In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve a Tax Increment Funding (TIF) Façade grant for a new awning for the business at 616 Broadway Street, the former location of Mission Mart and Simply Homespun.

Also garnering a unanimous vote was a motion to authorize Johnson and Neitzel to prepare the paperwork for creating a Civic Foundation for the city of Lincoln, and filing said paperwork with the State of Illinois and the Internal Revenue Service.

The Monday night meeting that lasted nearly two hours ended with Neitzel sharing some public announcements about upcoming events in the area before asking that Alderwoman Kathy Horn call for an Executive Session under Section 2(C)1-1 Litigation.

[Nila Smith]

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