Newly elected and re-elected aldermen and city officials were sworn-in during a meeting of the Benld City Council on Monday night and the newly seated council got a first look at a proposed appropriation ordinance scheduled to be voted upon next month. The council also discussed progress being made on collecting household income surveys to determine the city’s eligibility for a federal sewer improvement grant and discussed drafting an ordinance to permit city residents to use golf carts on city streets.
Mayor Kelly announced that he would make committee appointments next month.
City Attorney Rick Verticchio administered oaths of office to Mayor Jim Kelly, City Clerk Terri Koyne and newly elected City Treasurer Cindy Crites. Kelly was appointed as Mayor in September 2016 following the resignation of former Mayor Gloria Sidar. Koyne was appointed in September to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of former City Clerk Nadine Ferrero. Crites steps into the position formerly held by Mary Ann Scopel who chose not to seek re-election. All three officers were elected in April without opposition.
Oaths of office also were administered to three newly elected and re-elected aldermen—Ward 1 Ald. Teresa Tucker, Ward 2 Ald. Mickey Robinson and Ward 3 Ald. Lance Cooper. In the consolidated election, Cooper defeated Ald. Colin Overmeyer, who was appointed in October to take Kelly’s place after Kelly was appointed interim Mayor. Incumbent Robinson defeated challenger Robert McLain and incumbent Tucker was elected without opposition.
With the new city government sworn-in and seated, Mayor Kelly announced that he would make committee appointments next month. In the meantime, Cooper will step into Overmeyer’s committee positions on the Finance and Police committees and as chair of the Proprietary Committee.
Council members voted unanimously to ratify Kelly’s reappointment of Verticchio as city attorney and his appointment of Ald. Tucker as the council’s liaison with the Benld Public Library Board. However, the vote to reappoint James Zirkelbach as Chief of Police was 5-1 with Ald. Tilashalski voting “no.”
Finance Committee Chair Peyton Bernot distributed copies of a tentative fiscal 2018 appropriation ordinance authorizing expenditures of more than $700,000 for the fiscal year beginning May 1 and ending April 30, 2018. Bernot said the document will be available at city hall for public inspection for the next 30 days with the council is set to take action on approving the final appropriation next month. He said there will be at least one more meeting of the Finance Committee to further review and refine the final ordinance before the June council meeting.
Bernot said the city was in deficit spending at the end of the past fiscal year, primarily because an increase in police salaries and a $27,000 reduction in revenue that was related to shortfalls in revenue from the state. With the continuing budget impasse in Springfield, Bernot said it is unlikely the city will ever recoup that lost revenue.
“I don’t believe we will ever get that lost revenue back,” he said. “I believe our $530,000 revenue years are gone. Right now, I’ve anticipated $505,000 of revenue for this year.”
The appropriation is not technically a budget, but it does set spending limits for specific funds and functions as a budgetary document for many small municipalities in lieu of a formal budget. Bernot said the appropriation document projects a $300,000 balance for cash reserves in the General Fund at the end of the fiscal year and it projects deficit spending for the fiscal year in the amount of about $199,000.
The deficit expenditures for fiscal 2018, he said, are related primarily to the possibility of transferring $200,000 from the Atrazine Settlement subtend within the General Fund to cover part of the city’s $250,000 share of sewer improvement work if the city is successful in securing a $450,000 Community Development and Assistance Program grant. Because the transfer is from a previous year, it cannot be counted as revenue for the current fiscal year.
The good news is that even though we did deficit spend, we had 103 percent of our expenditures as cash on hand at the end of the year.
“The good news is that even though we did deficit spend, we had 103 percent of our expenditures as cash on hand at the end of the year,” Bernot said.
In his projections for the current fiscal year, he said he reduced the amount appropriated for police salaries from $208,000 to $162,000 on the premise the city will be paying less overtime. Last year, he said, one police officer had substantial vacation time accumulated that he had to use per the city’s contract with the police union. He also projected a seven percent increase in insurance costs although those numbers won’t be finalized until July.
The proposed appropriation ordinance sets spending ceilings of $59,679 for Administration, $3,790 for the city audit, $1,260 for the municipal band, $1,350 for the cemetery, $10,000 for legal fees, $65,826 for the City Property fund, $94,931 for Maintenance, $4,474 for the Public Library, $258,292 for the Police Department, $1,900 for Unemployment Taxes, and $1,201 for parks. With the Atrazine Account transfer, the appropriations ordinance would set spending limits at $702,703 for the fiscal year.
POLICE EQUIPMENT & ROCK HAULING BIDS
In other new business undertaken by the newly seated council, city aldermen accepted a bid for hauling rock chips for the city’s Motor Fuel Tax street maintenance program and agreed to pay the Village of Wilsonville $300 for a prisoner cage, light bar and window guards for a used police car the city acquired last month.
By a unanimous vote, the council awarded a contract to Mike Maedge Trucking, Highland, to haul 340 tons of CA 15 rock chips from the quarry to Benld at a cost of $4,595 ($13.50 per ton). Maedge was the lower of two bidders. Polo Trucking submitted a bid of $13.75 per ton for a total of $4,675.
The cost of the rock will be determined during Motor Fuel Tax bid opening set for 2 p.m., May 30, at Benld City Hall. Bids for both rock and road oil will be opened at that time.
Mayor Kelly said the city was unable to get the slag material it usually uses on city streets.
Mayor Kelly said the city was unable to get the slag material it usually uses on city streets, but said the CA 15 rock chips are larger than the CA 16 chips used by the City of Gillespie last year and should not result in problems with dust that Gillespie experienced last year.
The council also agreed to pay $300 for the surplus equipment from the Village of Wilsonville to be installed in the city’s newly acquired police car. Wilsonville had asked for a voluntary donation from the city for the equipment to be used for the village’s annual fireworks display, but Ald. Bernot asked to term the transfer as a “payment” because municipalities are technically prohibited from “donating” public funds to other entities.
No action followed a 20-minute executive session to discuss personnel and potential litigation regarding alleged nuisance properties.
Before seating the new council and city officers, the retiring council dispensed with old business pending from previous meetings.
On a motion by retiring Ald. Colin Overmeyer, the council voted 4-2 to purchase a used 52-inch zero-turn mower from Larry Wright of Benld at a cost of $5,000. The cost of the unit will come from the Proprietary Fund and General Fund, with $3,000 coming from the General Fund.
Overmeyer reported that he negotiated the deal with Wright, who currently is employed by the city to mow city properties. He said the unit is a 2017 model with 46.7 hours of use on it. The purchase also includes a warranty on the motor and drive train through Bertels Equipment. Overmeyer said Wright is selling the mower in order to buy a stand-up mower for himself.
The council previously discussed buying a new zero-turn mower at a cost of about $7,200. Overmeyer said the mower purchased Monday night is a heavier duty model than what the council considered earlier.
“This is saving money and saving wear and tear on our older mower,” he said. The city will keep an older 60-inch zero-turn mower to mow “rough” areas and use the newly acquired mower for city parks and the Central Avenue boulevards. “It’s a considerably smaller deck than our other mower so it will be easier to mow around posts and so forth.”
Brought to a vote, the council approved the purchase with Ald. Peyton Bernot and Ald. Jim Tilashalski voting “no.”
City Clerk Koyne reported the city has received 148 mailed surveys from residents living within areas expected to benefit from the proposed sewer improvement project. To qualify for the $450,000 CDAP grant, the city must demonstrate that more than half of the households in the area affected by the project have incomes that are mid-level or lower. Koyne said the city needs 56 more completed surveys to meet the minimum percentage required by the grant administrators.
“We are going to have to go door-to-door,” she said, to get the remaining surveys. Since the city has stressed that the information on the survey forms will be kept in confidence, she suggested that those going door-to-door be supplied with envelopes into which the respondents can seal their surveys. “We’ll be going out in the next couple of weeks,” she said.
Koyne said that a majority of the surveys submitted so far have come from higher income households.
“Hopefully, the ones we get going door-to-door,” she said, will be from lower income households in order for the city to qualify for the grant.
Ald. Tilashalski said he is researching the city’s ordinance books to see if city ordinances will allow the use of golf carts on city streets. He said he had located one ordinance that might be applicable but noted the city also would have to draft a special golf cart permit for residents who want to use them for transportation within the city limits. The Illinois State Police Department advised the city to look at a permit developed by the City of Girard as a pattern.
“The State Police told me to look at Girard’s because theirs is the best in the state,” Mayor Kelly said.
If the city approves a program to allow golf cart usage, golf cart drivers will have to have a valid driver’s license and maintain liability insurance. State law bans the use of golf carts on state highways, but users can legally cross Route 138, which runs through the center of the city, if golf cart usage is permitted in the city.
Also related to ordinances, Tilashalski set a meeting of the Ordinance Committee for 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 7, to begin the process of reviewing and correcting the entire city ordinance book. Once revisions have been made, the council will be asked to approve the entire revised ordinance book with one action.
“It may take us more than one meeting,” Tilashalski admitted.
The ordinance book apparently has several technical errors such as identifying the night on which the council meets for regular sessions and other details.
Mayor Kelly agreed to contact the owner of Country Corners about blocking the sidewalk in front of the store on Central Avenue with merchandise. Resident Mike Mendenhall said he recently observed a disabled person in a wheelchair having to navigate around items in front of the store in order to reach First National Bank. Kelly said the city gave the shop owner permission to put a small, decorative fence in front of the shop so long as it didn’t obstruct the sidewalk. He said he measured the remaining space after the fence was erected and found it to be a minimum of four feet which should be adequate for pedestrians and persons using wheelchairs.
“If they have a sidewalk sale and they put stuff out there, it’s going to eat up that space pretty quick,” Kelly said, agreeing to talk with the store owner.
Kelly also publicly thanked Dan Hawkins for bringing in equipment and helping city crews clean up a ditch on Kentucky Street. “He saved us a lot of chain saw work,” he said.
In other action, the council accepted a high bid of $900 from Michael Rekart, Bend, to purchase a surplus 2001 Ford Ranger pick-up. Rekart was the highest of five bidders. Previously the city received no bids when it set a minimum bid of $1,000. Rekart submitted his bid when the vehicle was offered for sale a second time.