The Benld City Council on Tuesday night approved an annual appropriations ordinance projecting expenditures of up to $1,818,422.76 for the current fiscal year. The meeting was postponed from the council’s regular meeting Monday, June 21, when the council failed to achieve a quorum. Ald. Brian Frensko and Ald. Dustin Fletcher were absent for Tuesday night’s rescheduled meeting.
The council also awarded $59,200 in demolition contracts to raze three nuisance properties in the city, accepted low bids for this year’s Motor Fuel Tax street maintenance program, and approved contracts to make repairs to the Civic Center roof and remove dead or dying trees from city rights-of-way. Additionally, the council voted unanimously to accept a donation of a disabled-accessible swing from the HEIDI Foundation to be installed at Veterans Park, voted to erect a new sign at Veterans Park and authorized improvements at Veterans Park.
With the addition of one amendment to increase the appropriation for demolishing derelict buildings from $50,000 to $70,000, the council unanimously approved an appropriations ordinance authorizing expenditures for the fiscal year that began May 1. Finance Chair Ald. Lance Cooper said City Clerk Terri Koyne suggested amending the demolition line item $20,000 upward, citing nearly $60,000 in demolition contracts approved by the council Tuesday night. The demolition line item is part of the ordinance’s City Property line, which totals $144,835.50.
Though required by law, the annual appropriation ordinance is not necessarily a budgetary document. At its bare minimum, the ordinance sets the maximum amounts the city can spend from specific funds for the fiscal year. The documentation attached to the new ordinance goes a step further, projecting maximum expenditures for specific items within each category, and projecting the overall impact on city finances for the fiscal year.
According to the documentation, the city began the current fiscal year with a $330,699.30 balance in all city funds. The city expects income of $550,000 plus another $505,306 in grant funds. Total expenses are projected at $1,224,599, leaving a balance of $161,406.29 at the end of the fiscal year.
The total appropriation for expenditures from the General Fund this year is $593,823.75, compared with $555,189 last year. Broken down by individual categories under the General Fund umbrella, the ordinance sets maximum expenditures for Administration at $38,367, compared with $33,305 last year. The appropriation for City Property is $144,895.50, compared with $70,030 last year. The ordinance appropriates up to $228,965 for the Police Department, compared with $244,375 a year ago. Additionally under the General Fund, lesser amounts are appropriated for the annual Audit ($4,960), Municipal Band ($1,200), Cemetery, ($1,300), Legal Fees ($25,000), Unemployment Taxes ($1,200), and Parks ($6,682.50).
The total appropriation for Proprietary Funds is $1,200,000, same as last year. Proprietary Funds are monies collected for specific city-provided services and must be spent for those purposes only. The substantial decrease in the total appropriation is due to the receipt and expenditure of grant funds last year for a significant sewer improvement project.
This year’s total appropriation for Sewer expenses is $824,998, compared with $789,825 last year. The appropriation for the Water Department stands at $279,601, compared with $294,150 last year. The appropriation for trash pick-up is $120,000, compared with $112,000 a year ago.
A separate line item for the Motor Fuel Tax Fund sets maximum expenditures at $90,655. With a beginning balance of $105,993 and revenue of $45,000, the Motor Fuel Tax Fund is expected to end the fiscal year $60,338 in the black. No expenditures are anticipated from the Atrazine Settlement Fund, which is expected to earn $275 in interest and end the year with $279,194 on the books.
NUISANCE PROPERTY DEMOLITION BIDS
The council voted unanimously to accept bids from Shafer Excavating and Demolition, Pontoon Beach, to demolish three properties that have been adjudicated as nuisance properties. Shafer’s bid of $50,800 was about $6,200 higher than a bid from Stutz Excavating, Alton, to demolish and remove properties at 202 and 204 East Central Avenue but the council chose the higher bid because Shafer committed to wetting down debris during the project to control any asbestos that might be present.
Shafer was the low bidder to demolish the property at 301 West Central Avenue at a cost of $8,400. As with the other two properties, Shafer’s bid included measures for asbestos abatement. One other bid was received from Stutz Excavating in the amount of $11,500.
The council tabled action on selecting a contractor to demolish and remove property at 203 South Seventh Street because, according to Mayor Jim Kelly, a potential buyer has expressed interest in acquiring the property. In the event the property is sold, the new owner would assume responsibility for abating the nuisance.
On a motion by Ald. John Balzraine, seconded by Ald. Mickey Robinson, the council voted unanimously to approve a resolution designating property at 400 and 404 South Seventh Street as a nuisance property. On Balzraine’s recommendation, the council also voted unanimously to prepare nuisance property resolutions for the former Baptist Church now owned by Holy Dormition Russian Orthodox Church and a derelict property on Kentucky Street.
Early in the meeting, Ed and Jessica Rieffer appeared before the council to ask the city to dismiss an ordinance complaint against the property they own on Illinois Route 138 on the east side of the city. Ed Rieffer told the council he received a notice to appear in court and he urged the council to waive the complaint to preclude him from having to expend time and effort to appear. City Attorney Rick Verticchio said the Rieffers received a notice of an ordinance violation but no court date had been scheduled.
Rieffer said he has made a concerted effort to improve the property since purchasing it. The premises had swampy areas overrun with weeds, he said, which he has drained and mowed off. He said he keeps the property mowed weekly and had replaced a faulty foundation at the rear of the residence.
“I’m actually trying to improve the property,” he said. “I’ve cleaned it up quite a bit.”
Work on repairing and improving the residence, he admitted, has not gone as quickly as he had hope. Rieffer said both he and his wife had been out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving them with no surplus income to invest in the building.
He complained that the city had unfairly targeted him when there are other properties in the city in worse shape that the owners are making no effort to repair. He said the city had cited a property he owns in the 300 block of South First Street after a relative allegedly evicted a tenant and allowed another to move in without his knowledge.
Verticchio said Rieffer was cited in that instance for allowing a tenant to move in without having the property inspected. “If you had someone living there, whether it’s one day or 30 days, it’s a violation of our ordinance,” Verticchio said.
Mayor Kelly told Rieffer would take his request to dismiss the complaint “under advisement.” He said council members would consult with the city’s ordinance officer before making a decision.
“I understand you did get a building permit?” Kelly asked.
“Yes,” said Rieffer.
“That’s a factor that will go in your favor,” Kelly said. He said Rieffer would be notified of the city’s decision.
MOTOR FUEL TAX BIDS
On a motion by Balzraine, seconded by Ald. Robinson, the council approved materials bids for the annual Motor Fuel Tax street maintenance program later this summer. The cost of this year’s program will come in at about $55,000.
Maedge Trucking, Inc., Highland, was the low bidder to provide 15,960 gallons of road oil at a cost of $1.96 for a total of $31,281.60, and 626 tons of seal coat crushed stone at a cost of $14.70 for a total of $9,202.20. Both bids were slightly higher than the engineer’s original estimate. HMG Engineers had projected $1.70 as the estimated cost for a gallon of road oil and $13.25 per ton as the cost for seal coat crushed stone.
DeLaurent Construction Co., Inc., Wilsonville, was the sole bidder to supply 656 tons of seal coat aggregate (loaded, spread and rolled) at a cost of $22.50 per ton. DeLaurent’s bid came in 30 cents below the engineer’s estimate of $22.80 per ton.
The total project will cost about $5,000 more than the engineer originally estimated.
Appearing before the council on behalf of the HEIDI (Helping Every Individual Develop Independence) Foundation, John “Jocko” Rolando reported that the foundation wanted to donate a disabled-accessible swing for installation at Veterans Park. Council members voted unanimously on a motion by Ald. Cooper to “accept the generous offer” from the Foundation.
Rolando said the Foundation raises money to help children in the area and has recently donated accessible swings to the communities of Gillespie and Dorchester. “They’re made for kids who can’t get into a swing any other way so they can get in and enjoy it,” Rolando said. The swings cost the organization about $2,400 per unit, he said.
Rolando said the organization will order the swing, expecting it to arrive in six to eight weeks which will provide time for the city to complete site preparation. A portion of a $500 donation from Build Benld for Veterans Park will be used to pour a concrete pad. Volunteers from the Knights of Columbus will assist with installation.
Kelly expressed public thanks to both HEIDI and Build Benld.
In a related matter, the council approved the purchase of a new sign for Veterans Park. City Property Chair Balzraine said the current sign is “falling down” and in need of replacement. Elite Print, Gillespie, will produce the 72-inch by 36-inch vinyl sign at a cost of $499.41.
Balzraine said he is looking into replacing the wooden boundary around playground equipment with PVC pipe. He said he would consult with HEIDI board members to advise the city on pouring the concrete pad for the accessible swing. If money is available, he said the city may also pour pads for picnic tables at the park.
On a motion by Ald. Jim Tilashalski, the council accepted an estimate from Young Roofing, Gillespie, to replace a six-by-six-foot section at the southwest corner of the Civic Center roof. Balzraine said Young had provided a bid of $25,880 to replace the entire roof but also provided a tentative estimate of $5,860 to replace the leaking six-by-six-foot section. The amount is “tentative” because of possible fluctuations in the cost of materials, particularly wooden sheeting.
Balzraine said Young told him the temporary fix should buy the city another five years before it has to address replacing the entire roof.
One other bid was received for replacing the roof. Lakeside Roofing offered a bid of $47,898 but offered no alternate estimate for a temporary repair to the leaking portion of the roof.
On a motion by Tilashalski, the council approved a total bid of $2,775 from Feeley Tree Service, Gillespie, to remove three dead or dying trees from city rights-of-way and remove overgrowth from around the city pump house on the city’s northwest side. Feeley will remove trees from the 300 block of South First Street, 700 block of North Fifth Street and 500 block of North Sixth Street at a cost of $1,675. Additionally, the company will cut back overgrown trees and brush at the pump house at a cost of $1,100.
Balzraine said brush removal at the pump house is just the first step of correcting a multitude of issues at the facility. He said he was asked by the mayor to inspect the building and report on needs.
“It’s in very bad shape,” Balzraine said. In addition to the overgrown vegetation, he said the soffits are coming off and the roof is failing.”It needs to be insulated and have the ceiling lowered,” he said.
Balzraine said he would begin getting price estimates for needed repairs, which he will bring back to the council for consideration.
“We need to do something,” he said. “That’s our water supply and there are birds flying in and out of it.”
Council members unanimously approved an amendment to a recently approved ordinance requiring residential premises to be inspected between tenants. The amendment clarifies the residential properties subject to the inspection rule to include homes being sold contract for deed, quitclaim or warranty.
The council tabled action on a new ordinance to regulate mobile homes within the city limits. The proposed ordinance was referred back to the committee and is expected to be included on the agenda at a later date.
Council members unanimously approved a resolution to accept the assignment of the city’s contract with Flowers Sanitation to Republic Sanitation after Mayor Kelly disclosed Flowers recently sold its business to Republic. Kelly said Republic agreed to honor the remainder of Flowers’ contract with the city.