Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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City briefs: Ward 1, Ameren, audit report, holiday hours and more

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[November 25, 2009]  The city council committee of the whole met Tuesday night at the Lincoln Rural Fire District facility. The LRFD is located just north of the Lincoln Parkway and Woodlawn intersection and is a part of the city's Ward 1.

Alderwomen Melody Anderson and Stacy Bacon were the hostesses for the evening.

Bacon began by saying that she had been a resident of Ward 1 for 17 years. She said that Ward 1 has seen a lot of growth in that period of time.

Bacon talked about several of the businesses in the ward, adding the Logan County Paramedic Association, the Lincoln Rural Fire Department and the currently under-construction Castle Manor as assets of the ward. In addition Bacon recognized the most recent businesses to come into the ward: Hampton Inn, Insurance Auto Auction, Quiznos, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, Culver's and R.P. Lumber.

Anderson said that she wanted to thank the fire district for opening their facilities to the council. She introduced fire Chief Chad Letterle and said that tours would be offered after the meeting for anyone interested.

Anderson added that both she and Bacon have relatives who are involved with the fire district. After the meeting Anderson said that not only is her husband a volunteer for the department, but she also has a nephew involved. Bacon added that her son Brandon, who is still in high school, is a member of the Explorers.

The Explorers program is a youth program that enables young men and women to learn about fire protection and firefighting and starts getting them prepared if it is a career they are interested in.

At the end of the presentation by Anderson and Bacon, the mayor asked about the new hospital. Anderson said it hadn't been determined yet what ward that facility will be in, but that at least for the moment Ward 1 is claiming the hospital as within its ward.

Guests for the evening were Letterle, Andy Anderson and Jim Griffin. Griffin is running for county board, and Anderson is Melody Anderson's husband, a volunteer on the LRFD and running for county board as well.

2008-09 audit will be discussed Dec. 7

Anderson said that Estes, Bridgewater & Ogden will be at the Dec. 7 voting meeting to go through this year's audit. She said they will talk about what they found during the audit.

City Clerk Denise Martinek has said that this year there is a letter of findings in the audit. It is nothing that comes as a surprise, considering the February events regarding the former city clerk.

Mayor and Busby meet with Ameren

Alderman Buzz Busby said that he, Mayor Keith Snyder, David Kitzmiller of EMC and waste treatment manager Bob Tackett had met Tuesday morning with three representatives of Ameren.

The meeting involved returning the city to its original franchise agreement with Ameren and trying to reclaim some $7,400 that had been paid to Ameren when the franchise agreement was accidentally dissolved.

Busby said that all three representatives were sympathetic to the city's situation. Snyder noted that one of the three said that when he returned to corporate he would advocate for the city.

However, Busby noted that there is no guarantee the city will get a refund from Ameren.

Busby went on to say that if Ameren declines, city Attorney Bill Bates will be asked to pursue the issue with Mid-American Energy, the company that accidentally switched the power source on five city locations that were under the franchise agreement.

Changes in appropriations

Anderson handed out a spreadsheet regarding the city's appropriations ordinance for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

She said some changes need to be made in appropriations. She wants each committee chair to go through the spreadsheet and make changes as needed. She said there are some she has already changed and some she has marked specifically for the chairmen's consideration.

The appropriations ordinance can be changed via a resolution. Once approved, it must be submitted to the state of Illinois.

In addition, Anderson said there was going to be a supplemental appropriation for motor fuel tax.

Tax levy abatement

By the end of the year, the city will have to do an abatement to the 2009 tax levy as it relates to the Dollar Tree and Goody's property.

The city took out a bond for that property, and the bond is paid with sales tax revenues from the two stores. However, part of the bond includes abating property tax on the properties.

What is the Equipment Rental Revenue Fund?

Anderson said there is a fund on the city books called "Equipment Rental Revenue." She said there is money in the fund that is just sitting there unused.

Busby said that the name of the fund was misleading. He explained that it is an escrow account and that funds are placed there when equipment is "rented out" between departments.

He said the original intent of the fund was to have money available for new equipment purchases as needed. Anderson noted that it has not been used that way.

She and Martinek are going to investigate it further and will report back to the council on their findings.

Arrest will be made in bomb threat

Police Chief Stuart Erlenbush offered a brief overview of a bomb scare that occurred recently at Carroll Catholic School.

He said that the detective assigned to the threat has done a good job in investigating, and the city is prepared to make an arrest. He anticipates that the arrest will occur within the next week.

Erlenbush said that this is the fourth such threat since his coming to the city department, and that all four have been solved.

Dr. Frank offers workshop for city workers

Fire Chief Kent Hulett said that Dr Frank Adubato had spent some time Tuesday with the Lincoln Fire Department and other departments. The local chiropractor conducted a training seminar about stress and back pain.

Adubato will also return on Dec. 22 with a portable scanner and do evaluations on city employees. Hulett said that the evaluations will take place a 10 a.m. at City Hall and that the council is invited to attend.

Adubato is providing these trainings free of charge. Hulett also noted that he offers substantial discounts to city workers when they need his services.

Policies set for racetrack

Anderson has compiled a one-page document of policies regarding the racetrack.

Based on discussions in committee, there are items that are now under the mayor's jurisdiction instead of the council's.

She added that this was not a document that required a vote of approval, but simply a guide for aldermen when they take calls regarding the racetrack.

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Resolution to make December 3-D Month

A resolution was read and will be added to next week's consent agenda to recognize December as Drunk and Drugged Driving (3-D) Prevention Month.

No bids for workers' compensation policies

Bacon advised the council that bids for the city's workers' compensation policies are due at City Hall at 10 a.m. today. So far, no company has entered a bid.

City and rural fire departments work well together

Hulett said he wanted to acknowledge the cooperative attitude between the Lincoln Fire Department and Lincoln Rural Fire District.

He noted that the rural department does a great deal to help out on calls that occur on the city's west side. In return, he said that the city department pitches in when calls occur east of town.

Mayor receives e-mail about fire and safety

Snyder read an e-mail that he had received regarding the fire department, public health department and Les Last, the building and safety officer for the city.

The e-mail stated that the author had recently spoken with three new businesses in town, all three of whom had said that the help and guidance they had received from these departments was exemplary.

The author also noted that in 20 years he had never heard that more than once, let alone three times in one week.

Griffin has questions about grant

Jim Griffin, a candidate for Logan County Board, said he wanted to know why Aaron Schock had delivered a $25,000 grant to the city.

Alderwoman Joni Tibbs said that the city had applied for the grant and won.

Griffin said he just didn't understand why they needed security in City Hall. He said: "It is really nice to have all these things when we have a lot of money, but according to Les (Plotner, city treasurer) in an article in the paper last week, we're going to have less and less money."

Tibbs explained that there is no security in City Hall. She noted an event when someone walked into the building at 2 in the morning and traversed to the second floor, where the firemen have their sleeping quarters. She said the building is open to the public, it does belong to the city, but there is nothing to protect those who spend their time inside.

Tibbs said that this had been thoroughly discussed in council, but that the information had not made it out through the news media. She said this was a perfect example of why the Tuesday night workshops need to be televised.

It should also be noted that in the end, much of the funds received in that grant went to the city's accounting software. The software was upgraded and made more secure to ward off future possibilities of mismanagement and embezzlement.

Griffin also comments on high-speed rail

Griffin said that in regard to rail fares, there are government subsidies for ticket prices. He explained that he had gone to Chicago by train at a round-trip cost of $61 for two people. But he said he got on the Internet later and found out that there was a government subsidy of about $130 dollars per person. (The correct information, according to a Pew study, is that subsidies average just over $100 per taxpayer and that Amtrak loses $32 per rider on average.)

He said that he felt like the tracks the train traveled on would in no way support high-speed rail. He said it seemed like there was a lot of government money being spent to subsidize the rail services.

"I know that you guys (the council) have signed a petition for that, but I just don't see it," he said.

The mayor explained that what will be coming through Lincoln is not high-speed rail, but more like a higher speed rail. He said that the trains passing through Lincoln would be traveling at 110 mph at full throttle.

Snyder explained that the petition the city had signed was in the interest of keeping a stop in Lincoln. He explained that rail is quite important to the community, and the city wants to keep the stop for its citizens.

Busby also commented on the subsidies. He said that the city receives bills for some of the work that is done in the community. He noted that these are "no choice" bills that the city doesn't even get a chance to vote "yea" or "nay" on.

Anderson thanks the council

Andy Anderson addressed the council, expressing on behalf of LRFD Chief Letterle an appreciation for the hiring of Chief Kent Hulett. He said that bringing someone in from outside the fire department had been a good decision.

"The working relationship between city and rural is probably better than it has ever been," Anderson said.

Vote will be taken for holiday hours

The mayor asked for it to be on the agenda Dec. 7 to approve holiday hours for city employees. The vote will be on closing city offices all day Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and half of the day on New Year's Eve.

He also wants to vote on bumping up the last payroll of the year. He said that as he understands it, the last paycheck of the year is given out just prior to Christmas.

Anderson said that another thing that needs to be considered is the last workshop meeting of the year. She noted that generally there is no meeting in the week between Christmas and New Year's.

Ride the float

Tibbs said she needed a head count of who would be riding the float in this year's Christmas parade.

Alderwoman Marty Neitzel and Alderman David Wilmert were not present for the meeting and did not have a chance to commit.

Council members who did were Bacon, Turner, Hoinacki, Busby, Tibbs and Horn. The mayor and city clerk will also be on the float this year.

Happy birthday to the mayor

Before adjournment, Anderson, on behalf of the entire council, presented the mayor with a birthday cake.

Busby spoke, saying: "There is an individual in our midst who is turning to the downside of the last part of life. It happens to be the mayor's birthday the 26th."

Snyder said that he is turning 50 this year. Later he also recounted that he was indeed born on Thanksgiving Day.

After the meeting everyone was invited into the LRFD dining hall for cake, cookies and coffee.



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