Members of the Benld City Council on Monday night voted unanimously to approve an ordinance calling for an update to the city code regarding mobile homes located within the city limits and approved a resolution committing local funds for construction costs associated with a proposed sanitary sewer project.
The ordinance to amend the city code bans the practice of renting mobile homes and calls for housing inspections prior to occupancy by mobile homeowners. The amended code establishes 8,000 square feet as the minimum size for a residential lot on which a mobile home is located, and mandates a required minimum setback from the street of 15 feet. Additionally, the code establishes a $100 annual permit fee for mobile homes.
Mayor Jim Kelly said the amendments to the code will ensure mobile homes meet current occupancy standards before being occupied.
The ordinance was approved on a motion by Ald. Jim Tilashalski, seconded by Ald. John Balzraine. Ald. Lance Cooper and Ald. Mickey Robinson also voted in favor. Ald. Brian Frensko and Ald. Dustin Fletcher were absent.
SEWER PROJECT RESOLUTION
On the recommendation of Jason Vonder Hear, an engineer with HMG Engineers, Carlyle, the council unanimously approved a resolution committing $98,934 in local funds for construction costs associated with a proposed sanitary sewer improvement project on the city’s east side.
Vonder Hear said the resolution is basically a formality that paves the way for the city to receive a recently awarded state matching grant. Vonder Hear said the city applied for $550,000—the maximum grant available—and was awarded a sum of $505,300.
“We’ll take that and run with it,” Vonder Hear said, suggesting the outcome of the grant application was successful.
The resolution formally commits the city to spending $98,934 for construction costs to fulfill the city’s obligation to provide matching funds for the 75/25 percent grant.
Now that the grant has been awarded and the city has approved the mandatory matching funds resolution, Vonder Hear said HMG Engineers will begin work on obtaining state permits to begin the project. The preliminary work will include an environmental impact study, including certification the project will not disturb existing Native American burials. Since the project will involve replacing pre-existing sewer lines, Vonder Hear characterized the environmental study as another formality.
“Hopefully construction will start in late fall or early winter,” Vonder Hear said. He said the delay could be advantageous for the city because materials costs currently are inordinately high currently. “Come winter, contractors believe it (materials costs) will straighten,” he said.
Additionally, he said, contractors “are hungry” for work set to begin later this year. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many contractors were covered up in the short term, but lack projects on the horizon after the initial post-pandemic rush. That is likely to result in lower project bids that may help offset increases in the cost of materials.
On a motion by Robinson, seconded by Balzraine, the council approved $4,320 in repairs for the city pump house that brings water into the city from the Gillespie Water System. Last month Balzraine reported the structure was in serious need of repairs. He said the building had rotted soffits and other deficiencies that allowed birds to enter the structure. Repairs approved Monday night include replacing the roof with metal.
Council members also approved replacing one exterior door and three interior doors damaged during a break-in at the Benld Police Department building at a cost of $2,241. Ald. Balzraine said the doors are on backorder for approximately 10 weeks from R.P. Lumber Co.
AIR CONDITIONER REPLACEMENTS
Council members voted unanimously to pay a bill of $3,620 for replacing three air conditioning units at the Civic Center. Mayor Jim Kelly said the replacements were installed on an emergency basis after they were damaged by a lightning strike. Kelly said a portion of the cost will be reimbursed by the city’s insurance company.
WATER DEPARTMENT SUPPLIES
The council voted unanimously to spend $5,329 to replenish equipment supplies for the water department. The list of items to be purchased includes $936 for two water meters that will be used when new taps are made on the recently completed Cahokia Street water line. Mayor Kelly said the cost of meters and associated materials will come back to the city in the form of tap-on fees when those taps are made.
“A lot of these things will be ‘pass through’ costs,” he said. “The customers will pay for them but we have to have them on hand.”
The list also includes clamps, saddles and other materials the city needs to have in reserve to repair water main breaks when they occur.
WATER SHUT-OFF FEES
On the recommendation of City Clerk Terri Koyne, the council directed the city attorney to prepare an ordinance to allow the city to charge water department customers a $7 fee for mailing shut-off notices via certified mail. Koyne said notices have to be mailed by certified mail to document customers receive the notice before the shut-off is effective. She said her office spends an average of $200 a month, or $2,400 annually, to mail shut-off notices to delinquent customers.
The ordinance will be formally adopted when it is presented in its final form next month.
The council discussed but took no action on authorizing the Mayor to purchase a truck via auction for the Maintenance Department. Mayor Kelly said public utilities like Ameren or some municipalities occasionally auction used trucks equipped with side-mounted toolboxes, but without further research he said he could not estimate the potential cost.
“If we buy one at auction, we have to have funds approved because we will have to write a check,” he said. “We’re going to have to do some number crunching and decide what we need to spend and how much we want to spend before we go.”
The council approved a business license for Sherri’s Sugar Creations, a new business Sherri Winkler plans to operate out of her home. Winkler said she will be making cakes, cupcakes and cookies in her home to be sold through farmers markets in the area. She said her kitchen has been inspected and certified by the Macoupin County Department of Public Health, and she has acquired a state cottage industry permit and food handler certification.
Her long term goal, she said, is use her home business as a stepping stone toward someday opening a storefront operation in Benld.