Members of the Gillespie City Council on Monday night authorized Mayor John Hicks to sign off on a proposed contract regarding the sale of water to the city’s satellite customers—Benld, Sawyerville, Eagarville and Wilsonville. The action followed a meeting held this past Saturday with Gillespie city officials and officials from the satellite communities.
Under terms of the contract, according to City Attorney Kevin Polo, the City of Gillespie would purchase water from the City of Litchfield, which would then be distributed to the city’s satellite customers in lieu of those communities negotiating separate rates individually with Litchfield. Essentially, the satellites would become a purchasing consortium in order to secure lower pricing for water.
“By grouping them together, we can guarantee them a lower price than Benld could get by itself,” Polo said. Though it has not been written yet, Polo said the contract would be for a term of 25 years and would include a surcharge of 27 cents per 1,000 gallons of water usage to finance construction of a transmission line from Litchfield to Gillespie. Even with the surcharge added, Polo said, the rate will be lower than what Benld could secure individually.
In recent months, the Benld City Council has taken significant steps toward severing its long-time relationship with the Gillespie Water Department in order to purchase water directly from the Litchfield system. Benld engineers, HMG Engineering, conducted a feasibility study that indicated the city could buy water from Litchfield for less than the city could buy water from Gillespie. Those actions came at a time when the City of Gillespie is embarking on a $10 million project to replace water transmission lines throughout the city. The Village of Dorchester, also a long-time Gillespie satellite, has opted to join the Illinois Alluvial Regional Water Company to supply water for its residents.
The plan proposed by the City of Gillespie would enable Gillespie to retain Benld, Wilsonville, Eagarville and Sawyerville as satellite customers while providing water to those communities at prices that are lower than what they currently pay.
Our numbers are showing we could offer water at a lower rate than Benld could buy water individually from Litchfield,” Polo said.
“Our numbers are showing we could offer water at a lower rate than Benld could buy water individually from Litchfield,” Polo said. “By all of us going together we can get the best possible rate. Even with the 27-cent line cost, it will still be cheaper than what Benld could get water by themselves.”
Gillespie Mayor John Hicks said Benld Mayor Jim Kelly said the City of Benld would like to see a contract as soon as possible. The Benld Council’s regular monthly meeting for April is set for Monday, April 15. Because of the time crunch, Gillespie council members voted to give the Mayor power to act on approving a proposed contract as soon as Polo drafts it.
City Treasurer Dan Fisher said the proposal should not be construed as an indication that Gillespie anticipates shuttering its own water treatment plant.
“We’re not saying we’re closing down our water plant,” Fisher said. “We expect to be in the water treatment business for a long time.”
Ald. Dave Tucker moved to give the Mayor the power to act on the contract, with a second from Ald. Dona Rauzi. Ald. Frank Barrett and Ald. Jerry Dolliger, the only other aldermen attending Monday’s meeting, joined Tucker and Rauzi in voting for the measure. Outgoing Ald. Jan Weidner was absent. New aldermen elected during the April 2 Consolidated Election will be sworn in at the next meeting of the Council.
The Mayor also was given power to act in signing a collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Laborers Union, which represents city employees other than police officers and dispatchers. The action followed a 35-minute executive session during which the council discussed collective bargaining and personnel issues. Signing the collective bargaining document reportedly is contingent upon making a revision discussed during the closed-door session.
The council voted unanimously to give the Water Committee power to act in selecting a system for remote water meter reading. The system will enable the city to read water meters for monthly billing from a computer terminal located at City Hall. Last month, Fisher told council members the new system would allow the city to read all meters in the city in a matter of about 15 minutes. He told the council Monday night that committee members plan to visit a number of other communities that already have remote meter reading systems with an eye toward making a decision soon after visiting those municipalities.
Nearby communities of Litchfield, Staunton and Carlinville already are using remote meter reading.
Nearby communities of Litchfield, Staunton and Carlinville already are using remote meter reading. Fisher said another system can be viewed in Goreville deep in southern Illinois. He said rural water districts were among the first to implement remote meter reading technology because of the far-flung nature of their customers.
“You could probably make a day trip and see four or five systems,” he said. “I talked to Roger (Curry of Curry & Associates Engineers) and he said they are all about the same price.”
“My concern would be reliability and ease of use,” Mayor Hicks commented.
Council members tabled action on buying a fidelity bond policy to cover five city officials who will be authorized to prepare and sign paperwork associated with administering a USDA Rural Development loan and grant being used to finance the water infrastructure project. Liberty Mutual submitted the low bid for the bonding policy, but Polo questioned whether the policy would be guaranteed to comply with USDA requirements.
“The only proposal I saw was from the Illinois Municipal League and it was guaranteed to comply with USDA requirements,” Polo noted.
Hicks agreed to do further research to determine whether Liberty Mutual’s policy would satisfy USDA terms.
In other matters related to water, the council approved a resolution accepting Haier Plumbing and Heating, Oquawka, bid of $9,768,120 to install the new city-wide water distribution system, and approved an ordinance authorizing the issue of up to $6,950,000 in waterworks bonds to pay a portion of the estimated $10 million cost of the water infrastructure improvement project. Both measures had been previously approved. Monday night’s actions were technical formalities to comply with terms associated with a USDA loan and grant.
Responding to a complaint from resident David Graham, the council agreed to use city workers to remove trees from an apparently abandoned property in the 600 block of East Chestnut Street that Graham said are threatening his property, Additionally, Polo agreed to determine who owns the boarded-up house so the city can pursue legal action to have the property cleaned up and rendered free of hazards.
Graham said roots from trees on the property are encroaching on his property and at least one of the trees threatens to fall onto the home he owns. He said the windows are boarded up and a garage is starting to fall in. Graham added that he and his fiancé have seen lights moving about in the house at night, and police who checked the property told him there was evidence that someone had been living in the structure. He worried also about the safety of children who sometimes play on the property and even enter the structurally unsound garage.
“It looks terrible,” he said, adding that he believes it reduces the value of his own property. Last summer, he said he took it upon himself to mow the grass since no one appeared to be maintaining the property.
“It’s been dilapidated for years,” said Ald. Dolliger. “We looked it up but we’re not sure who owns it.”
Polo, however, assured Graham that he could locate the owner of record and start proceedings to force the owner to deal with the property. Polo said the city could remove the trees by deeming them an emergency situation, but addressing the structures on the property would have to wait until the city can determine who owns the property.
“Can we at least take care of the trees?” Graham asked. He said he would give permission for work crews to come onto his property to get access to the trees once the ground has dried enough to support heavy equipment without causing ruts.
Graham showed council members photos on his smartphone to support his description of the property. “You’re not exaggerating anything,” Polo commented.
GIRL SCOUTS PROPOSE RECYCLING EFFORT
Speaking for the city, Mayor Hicks told a group of young girls representing Girl Scout Troops 744 and 1044 that the city would work with them to place recycling bins near concession stands at Welfare Park and the Little Dog soccer fields. Reading from prepared notecards, the girls told the council they had monitored the amount of recyclable materials discarded over a period of a week at the soccer fields. According to the Girl Scouts’ data, spectators and players threw away more than 50 empty Gatorade bottles, more than 50 empty soda cans and empty water bottles equivalent to three cases of water. Additionally, the Scouts conducted a Facebook poll and discovered 87 of 89 respondents said they would use recycling bins if they were available.
The Girl Scout Troops asked the council to support the effort, possibly by adding recycling bins to the trash disposal contract the city currently has with Flowers Sanitation.
“We’ll be more than happy to help you getting started out,” Hicks told the girls.
While no formal action was taken, Mayor Hicks directed city aldermen to maintain logbooks to record contacts with constituents regarding various issues.
“If you get a call, log it into your logbook,” Hicks said. “That way if someone says they called you about something on a certain day, you can check your logbook and see whether they did or didn’t.”
POLICE CAR AND ID PRINTER
The council gave the Mayor power to act on the purchase of a new police squad car at the request of Police Chief Jared DePoppe. DePoppe said the Department had planned to buy a Ford Interceptor under a state bidding contract from Morrow Brothers Ford, Greenfield. Police departments have been favoring Sport Utility Vehicles, prompting the Ford Motor Co. to stop production of the Interceptor.
“What he has in stock is all he has,” DePoppe said, suggesting that if the city doesn’t buy the car soon there may be none available. The SUVs, he said, would be somewhat more expensive. Further complicating the issue, the new models of SUVs won’t begin production until May. “If we have to order one, it won’t be here until October.”
“We could give the Mayor power to act,” Fisher suggested. “We’re at the end of the fiscal year. Thirty days would technically bump the transaction into the next fiscal year.”
Council members voted unanimously to give Hicks power to act on a motion by Tucker, seconded by Barrett.
The council took no action on DePoppe’s request to purchase an identification card printer at a cost of $800 to $1,000. DePoppe said police officers need to have identification cards in addition to badges to confirm their authority while conducting police business.
“It’s what separates an actual police officer from someone pretending to be one,” he said.
Until recently, the department used the Macoupin County Housing Authority to produce police IDs, DePoppe said, but that agency is no longer able to provide that service. “We have officers working now who do not have IDs,” DePoppe said.
Hicks noted that if an ID printer was available, it might be prudent to create ID cards for city aldermen and other city employees. Ald. Dolliger said the Fire Department also would like to have ID cards for its approximately 30 firefighters. Given that the Fire Department might make extensive use of the equipment, DePoppe agreed to delay his request until he can talk to the Fire Chief about the possibility of splitting the cost of the unit.
HOUSING GRANT AND SOLAR FIELD
Fisher announced that he is making arrangements for a representative of a firm that has had success in securing housing grants for small communities to make a presentation to the council at a future meeting.
Fisher also announced that proposal is in the works for a large solar energy field to be constructed in Gillespie.
“We would provide the land, they would provide the system and we would reap the benefits,” he said. “We’d have to take action pretty quickly. We may have to call a special meeting.”
In other action, the council
- Voted to renew an easement with NuStar Energy allowing the utility to cross the property on which the city’s sewage treatment lagoons are located with an underground pipeline. NuStar will make a one-time payment of $10,000 to the city in exchange for the easement rights.
- Accepted a low bid of $900 from Bauer Electric to rehabilitate electrical service in the pavilion at Big Brick Park.
- Approved lake lot lease transfers as follows: Lot 379C to Julia Luketich, Lot 369C to Michael Buehlman, Lot 370C and 371B to Jacob Buehlman and Lot 1 Mathis Lane to Mark Allen.
- Agreed to spend $560 for flowers to be place in 25 planters in the downtown business district.
- Approved a resolution defining procedures for employees to borrow from their retirement accounts in the event of a financial emergency.
- Approved a resolution to increase employee wages by about five percent.
- Approved a resolution to close a portion of Illinois Route 4 along Macoupin Street in downtown Gillespie to accommodate the annual Black Diamond Days street festival.