Members of the Gillespie City Council on Monday night accepted the resignation of long-serving City Attorney Kevin Polo, approved an environmentally friendly bee-keeping project at the city’s water treatment facility site, and approved a $190,000 payment to Haier Plumbing and Heating and Curry and Associates as the city’s aggressive water infrastructure replacement project winds down.
Mayor John Hicks read Polo’s letter of resignation in which Polo said it had been “an honor and privilege” to serve as city attorney for 20 years. Polo, who was sidelined with health issues last summer, said he is “unable to continue to serve as city attorney.”
Hicks said Dan O’Brien, Carlinville, who was appointed interim city attorney last August, would continue to serve in the city attorney’s role.
The council unanimously approved the expenditure of up to $1,000 to plant “pollinator plants” below solar power panels installed last year to supplement power usage at the water treatment plant, and initiate a small bee-keeping operation on the site.
Ald. Dave Tucker, chair of the Water Committee, said the pollinator plants will reduce the need for mowing at the site to no more than once a year. Local bee-keeping enthusiast Larry Loveless will manage two hives of honey bees on the site. The program will be environmentally friendly, Tucker said, not only because it will reduce the need for continuous mowing but also because it will provide habitat for honey bees and other pollinating insects.
Tucker said the hives will cost about $300 each. In addition, the city will spend $400 to buy a pound of bees for each of the hives. Each pound of bees will include a queen bee to ensure the viability of each hive. In time, the hives will grow to 60 pounds of bees occupying each of the hives and will produce up 65 pounds of honey. Under the agreement with Loveless, the honey production will be split between him and the city, with the city’s share going to charitable food programs in the city.
On a motion by Tucker, the council also approved the expenditure of $4,000 to repair and replace a concrete floor in an area of the treatment plant where ammonia is used. Because of the presence of caustic chemicals, Tucker said the work involves a special type of concrete with specialized treatment for hazardous chemicals. SS Complete Concrete, Gillespie, was the sole vendor to submit a bid.
“For safety and for water quality, I’ll make the motion” to accept the bid, Tucker said.
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE NEARS COMPLETION
Council members approved a pay resolution authorizing payments totaling $190,404.55 to Haier Plumbing and Heating, Okawville, and Curry and Associates Engineers, Jerseyville. The payments will be among the last to made from USDA grant and loan funds the city obtained to finance a city-wide water infrastructure replacement project.
City Treasurer Dan Fisher said the payments approved Monday will pay down the city’s obligation to Curry and Associates to about $35,000. The payments also resolve change orders authorized before and during the construction process. As part of concluding the project, Fisher said the city is buying surplus pipe ordered by Haier Plumbing and Heating “at cost.” Fisher suggested that measure is significant because the price of pipe has increased significantly since the project began.
Fisher said the company’s original bid for the work was $9,716,120. That figure was reduced to $9,373,422 as a result of change orders authorized prior to construction.
Even though the city is buying surplus materials and resolving all change orders, Fisher said the final construction cost is expected to come in at $8,897,402.
He said there are a few minor projects to be completed as part of the project, including tracking down and installing a new water main to resolve a leak near Gillespie High School, but the final construction cost is still expected to come in about $476,000 below the bid.
RENTAL CABIN AT GILLESPIE LAKE
After more than a year of trying to get the project off the ground, Ald. Frank Barrett finally won authorization to install a rental cabin at Gillespie Lake. Council members voted 6-1 to authorize the expenditure of $8,000 for the project. The project calls for the purchase of a pre-built portable building to be retro-fitted as a cabin capable of sleeping up to four people. Barrett said the cabin will be available for rent at $40 per night during the week, or $50 on weekends and holidays.
Barrett said he expects to acquire a repossessed building for $5,400 to $5,800 and use the remainder of the authorized expenditures for wiring, air conditioning and other amenities.
Casting the sole dissenting vote was Ald. Dona Rauzi who questioned the project during Barrett’s previous attempts to win approval for the project. Rauzi questioned the wisdom of spending $8,000 on the cabin project instead of investing in efforts to find renters for some 124 vacant residential and picnicking lots at the lake.
Barrett said it would take about two years of rental fees for the cabin to pay for itself. He said it should require only minimal maintenance on the part of currently employed lake workers. Similar cabins are available to rent at Lake Lou Yeager, Litchfield, and at Carlinville Lake, he pointed out. He characterized the cabin as another revenue stream for the lake operation.
“If we had done this three years ago, we could have done it for $5,400,” he said. Because of the council’s reticence to approve the project earlier, he said, the cost has grown to $8,000. He pledged he could complete the project for $8,000 in total.
“That’s the total package,” he said.
Barrett’s motion to approve the project was seconded by Ald. Wendy Rolando.
AMBULANCE SERVICE DISPATCHING AGREEMENT
Mayor Hicks appointed City Treasurer Fisher, Police Chief Jared DePoppe and Ald. Rauzi to approach representatives of the Gillespie-Benld Ambulance Service to hammer out a final contractual agreement for the city police department to provide ambulance dispatching services. Until recently, the Ambulance Service made an annual “donation” to the city purportedly to help defray the cost of dispatching. City officials, however, say the amount the Ambulance Service was paying to the city falls far short of the actual cost of providing dispatching services.
Recent reports from DePoppe to the Council indicate that ambulance calls comprise the bulk of police dispatcher calls.
Last year, the city proposed an agreement for the Ambulance Service to pay $15,000 for dispatching services. The Ambulance Service instead made a donation of $10,000 and agreed to pursue other avenues for dispatching services.
Monday night, Ald. Rauzi said the issue has languished for a year while the Ambulance Service presumably looked into other entities to provide dispatching services. Rauzi said the Ambulance Service approached the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office and other entities but the city’s offer of $15,000 remained the least expensive option available to them.
“It’s been a year ago this month since we went into negotiations with the Ambulance Service,” Rauzi said. “Right now, we are just working under a verbal agreement.”
Ald. Rolando emphasized the urgency for reaching an agreement.
“We should go to them now and ask for a contract so we don’t end up doing this (for $10,000) for another year,” she said.
LAKE KAHO WATER RATE
On the advice of City Attorney O’Brien, the council deferred action on hiking the water rate for the Village of Lake KaHo by five percent. Lake KaHo and the Village of Dorchester were the only two of the city’s satellite water customers to decline a 40-year contract to buy water from the city for their own water systems at a guaranteed discounted rate. Lake KaHo reportedly now has a tandem water system, buying the lion’s share of its water from the City of Litchfield and buying minimal volume from the City of Gillespie.
Last February, the city raised the Lake KaHo rate by five percent and indicated the rate would be increased annually by five percent.
The issue is the subject of current litigation with O’Brien representing the city. He said a hearing on the matter is scheduled later this month.
“Since we have a hearing coming up, I think it would be helpful not to pass this tonight,” he said.
TIF DISTRICT EXPANSION
Fisher reported that city officials are meeting with the city’s TIF District Consultant about the possibility of expanding the city’s current district or creating a new district on the city’s northwest side. Tax Increment Financing districts capture funding by collecting property taxes in excess of current tax revenue on properties within the district that accrue due to changes in tax rates and equalized assessed evaluations.
Fisher said the new district will focus on property around the city’s water treatment plant and the Gillespie High School/Middle School campus. The emphasis will be on using TIF funds to develop “extremely efficient, single family” homes on lots currently owned by the city or school districts.
NEW ZONING MAP
Peace Corps Fellow Ethan Fogg reported to the council that he has completed preliminary work on a new Zoning Map for the city—the first update to the map since 1965. The new digitized document will be easier to update on an ongoing basis than the former analog map, he said.
“It’s basically done,” Fogg said. “It just needs to be reviewed by the Council and the Zoning Board.”
‘NO SEMIS’ SIGNS
Mayor Hicks directed City Attorney O’Brien to draft an ordinance to ban semi traffic on Adam and Maple streets in the area of Casey’s General Store. Ald. Rauzi said she had been contacted by residents in the area complaining about semi traffic in their neighborhoods.
EXECUTIVE SESSION AND OTHER ACTION
No action followed an executive session to discuss litigation and to review executive session minutes. The state Open Meetings Act requires periodic review of executive session minutes to determine what, if any, of the minutes from closed-door sessions can be released to the public access.
The ordinance will be subject to formal approval next month. In the meantime, Hicks said he would have a letter sent to the managers of the Casey’s store to ask truck drivers making deliveries to the store to avoid using residential streets.
In other action, the council:
- Voted to raise bulk water rates from $7.50 per 1,000 gallons to $9.
- Authorized the Mayor to sign a grant application for a $99,000 Business Development Grant from the USDA. Fisher said the grant is highly competitive but that the City of Gillespie’s should have as good a chance as anyone to obtain the grant. The money is not for directly benefiting individual businesses but can be used for projects such as the Streetscape program to enhance the business climate.
- Approved a 5K run/walk to be conducted in conjunction with a coal history celebration on May 1 in the area around the Illinois Coal History Museum. That event will include food vendors and focus on unveiling a historical plaque identifying the former Lyric Theater (now the Cana Theater) as the birthplace of the Progressive Miners Union. Council members also agreed to seek bids to replace a side on the south side of the museum prior to the event.
- Voted to apply for a Route 66 Byway grant of up to $1,000.
- Authorized purchase of materials for volunteers being organized by Fogg to paint and clean up landscaping around the Welcome to Gillespie sign on Illinois Route 4 at the south edge of the city.
- Accepted high bids to sell a surplus 2010 Crown Victoria police car to James L. Perini, Benld, for $735.50, and a surplus 2011 Crown Victoria police car to Drue Bohlen, Benld, for $350.
- Authorized disbursement from the city’s TIF Fund to reimburse AJ Pete Co, a facade improvement grant recipient, half the cost of improvements to the facade of a building in the 300 block of South Macoupin Street.