Despite concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Benld City Council members voted 3-1 Monday night to set trick-or-treating hours from 6 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30 and 31.
The issue was not on the council’s previously published agenda. Ald. John Balzraine, objecting to the idea of allowing trick-or-treating during the pandemic, voted against amending the agenda to consider the issue and voted against the measure to set trick-or-treating hours.
‘I think this is a bad idea with the COVID,” Balzraine said. “People aren’t going to answer their door.”
But Ald. Dustin Fletcher pointed out that residents can choose whether or not they want to participate in the annual Halloween ritual. “People can opt out,” he said. “You don’t have to turn on your porch light.” He suggested residents may also want to consider placing bowls of treats on their porch instead of handing out candy in order to practice social distancing.
Trick-or-treating will be allowed only during the designated hours and trick-or-treaters are advised to only visit homes with porch lights on to show that they welcome trick-or-treaters.
Brought to a vote on a motion by Ald. Fletcher, seconded by Ald. Lance Cooper, the measure was approved with Fletcher, Cooper and Ald. Jim Tilashalski voting “yes” and Balzraine voting “no.” Ald. Mickey Robinson and Ald. Brian Frensko were absent.
COVID-19 also was a part of the discussion as the council considered an ordinance to require persons entering city offices to wear a face covering. Public health officials have promoted mask-wearing as a means to reduce transmission of the virus. The Gillespie City Council approved a similar ordinance last week.
No action was taken on the ordinance but it may be considered again at a later date.
City Attorney Rick Verticchio said passing the ordinance could help protect the health and safety of city workers, but he also said enforcing the ordinance could be problematic.
“There are those who don’t believe it’s true (that masks curb transmission),” Verticchio said. “I support passing it because I do believe there is a public health problem but enforcing it” may not be possible. He said city employees might ask a maskless person to leave the office but that order may not be enforceable if the person insists he or she doesn’t believe masks are necessary.
The council voted unanimously to purchase a 2019 B2650 Kubota tractor to replace a John Deere tractor that is out of service an irreparable. The city will purchase the new equipment from Nail Power Equipment at a cost of $27,455 with trade-in. The new tractor is a 25-horsepower unit with a cab, loader, mid-mount mower and rear-mount brush hog.
The city will pay for the new equipment from the Atrazine Fund and make monthly payments to the fund to repay the loan.
Council members also voted unanimously to rent a boom tractor for use during fall maintenance work.
Council members voted unanimously to approve job descriptions for the controller and for the newly created ordinance officer. Under terms of the job descriptions approved Monday night, the city controller will work for minimum wage for no more than $40 per month. The ordinance officer is expected to spend at least 35 hours per month on the job for compensation in the amount of $735.
CITY PROPERTY ISSUES
On a motion by Ald. Tilashalski, seconded by Ald. Tilashalski, the council voted unanimously to purchase a building across the street from City Hall from the county for back taxes. The building, located at 202 Central Avenue is currently boarded up and deteriorating. The purchase will allow the city to raze the building or otherwise abate the nuisance.
With one dissenting vote, the council rejected a $300 bid submitted by Robert McLain for the purchase of a city-owned property at 504 N. Main St. McLain was the sole bidder for the property after two weeks of advertising the property for sale. In his bid proposal, McLain asked for a 180-day extension on the deadline for demolishing the structure. City officials said the bid was not enough to cover legal fees and mowing charges associated with the property. City officials plan to contact neighbors to see if any of them are interested in acquiring the property and/or negotiate with McLain to revise his bid.
In other property-related matters, the council voted to halt further legal proceedings against the owners of a parcel at the corner of Central Avenue and Main Street, formerly the location of Doggie’s Tavern; and voted to cease legal action against the owners of the property at 408 South Main Street. The council did, however, vote to pursue legal action against the owners of the property at 301 W. Central Avenue.
In other action, the council:
- Accepted a donation of $450 from former alderman Peyton Bernot to be used for purchasing trees to be planted along Central Avenue. Mayor Jim Kelly said the city is a recipient of a sidewalk grant which may impose restrictions on where it can plant trees on Central Avenue. Bernot said he plans to donate another $450 next month for a total of $900.
- Voted to renew a Blue Cross-Blue Shield health insurance policy covering the only two remaining city employees eligible for health care coverage.
- Accepted a bid of $1,200 from Emmons Tree Service to remove two trees in the 200 block of South Second Street and one tree in the 100 block of South Fourth Street.
- Voted unanimously to re-appoint MaryAnn Scopel, Donna Hubert and Vicki Laughlin to the Benld Public Library Board.
- Approved the purchase of culverts and bulk rock to be used by the Maintenance Department.
• Approved an ordinance violation complaint form.