Members of the Gillespie City Council on Monday night approved a $14 million appropriation ordinance for the current fiscal year, hired a new city police officer, and accepted the resignations of two city employees.
Totaling $13,933,250, the annual appropriation covers anticipated spending for the fiscal year that began May 1 and nearly double last year’s appropriation of $7,229,050. The additional expenditures are related to anticipated expenditures of grant funds in the amount of $1.2 million for continued water line improvements and $4.5 million for an anticipated streetscape project in downtown Gillespie.
Approval of the appropriation was preceded by a brief public hearing, required by law, during which no members of the public appeared to ask questions or make comments.
Appropriation ordinances are required by law and set the maximum amounts a municipality is allowed to spend for specific line items. They are not necessarily budgetary documents. Setting a spending ceiling for specific line items does not necessarily mean the city will spend that much. The appropriation simply sets the amount of spending the city cannot legally exceed.
The Water Department appropriation totals $3,208,500, including $1,200,000 for water line improvements, compared with a $1,983,500 last year. Other line items for which more than $1 million is appropriated include $4.5 million for the Streetscape program; $1,172,500 for the Police Department, compared with $1,081,500 last year; $1,113,000 for the Street Department, compared with $978,000 last year; and $1,313,400 for General Administrative Expenses, compared with $1,308,400 last year;
The newly adopted ordinance sets the appropriation for City Lakes and Parks at $518,800 and $190,000 for Parks and Recreation. Both appropriations were combined for one line item last year totaling $478,100.
The newly adopted ordinance sets maximum spending for the Sewer Department at $759,160, compared with $604,160 last year; $42,020 for elected and appointed city officials’ salaries which is identical to last year’s appropriation; and $201,300 for Municipal Administrative Building costs (which includes $150,000 for repairs and maintenance), compared with $66,300 last year.
Other appropriations include $33,900 for Emergency Services and Disaster Administration, compared with $21,400 last year; $40,670 for the Public Library which is identical to a year ago; $5,000 for the Municipal Band, compared with $3,000 last year; $150,000 for FICA participation, compared with $110,000 last year; and $65,000 for Liability Insurance, compared with $50,000 a year ago.
A total of $350,000 is appropriated from Motor Fuel Tax funds for street maintenance, compared with $200,000 last year.
The ordinance appropriates $270,000 in potential TIF Fund expenditures, compared with $215,000 last year.
Early in the meeting, the council voted unanimously to accept Police Chief Jared DePoppe’s recommendation to hire David Schaeffer as a full-time police officer. Schaeffer currently is employed as a Springfield Park Police officer, according to DePoppe.
Following a 45-minute executive session, the council approved a motion to suspend Water Department employee James Graves for the final two days of his employment without pay. Council members also voted unanimously to accept Graves’ formal resignation, along with that of Jared Link, a Gillespie Lake employee.
On. a motion by Ald. Landon Pettit, the council voted unanimously to hire Justin Johnson as a full-time Lake employee.
LAKE MANAGER AUTHORITY
Upon the recommendation of City Attorney Rick Verticchio, the council voted unanimously to grant Lake Manager Gary Thornhill authority to suspend lake privileges for guests who commit serious violations of lake rules. Under terms of the motion, Thornhill’s actions to suspend privileges will be subject to review and final approval by the full city council.
The action follows two recent incidents during which City Police were summoned to the lake to deal with serious infractions. Thornhill said in one case, local police did not know how to respond because the incident involved possible environmental issues. A lake user reportedly discharged an estimated 25 gallons of gasoline onto the ground near the lake shore, requiring lake workers to bring in tractors and materials to clean up the spill before it could contaminate the water supply. Thornhill said firefighters and other personnel were on scene for upward of four hours to contain the gasoline.
The individuals involved claimed they thought the tank they were emptying contained water and only discovered it was gasoline after they discharged the material onto the ground. Thornhill said the city incurred $1,183 in expenses to clean up the spill. Verticchio said he planned to draft a letter to the responsible party to seek recovery of the city’s expenditure. No charges apparently were filed.
In the other incident, boaters rode a jon boat over the spillway and down the concrete apron on the front side of the dam.
Apparently council action is required to permanently revoke lake privileges but Monday’s action authorizes Thornhill to revoke privileges, pending review and final action by the council.
DRAINAGE ISSUES/WATER IMPROVEMENTS
The council referred to committee a proposal from Ald. Wendy Rolando to prepare a public notice to inform residents that work on the city’s water infrastructure improvement project is ongoing.
“I’d like to draft something to let people know that yes, we are continuing to work on the water project; no, it’s not finished; and hopefully it will be finished by such and such a time,” Rolando said. She said she is hearing complaints from residents and that the public’s patience is “wearing thin.”
On a motion by Rolando, seconded by Ald. Dona Rauzi, the council directed Rolando to prepare a draft notice to be reviewed by committee and ultimately published to bring residents up to date regarding the project’s status.
Rolando also discussed drainage issues on Plum Street and the surrounding neighborhood.
“I’ve been out there a week after a big rain and there is still water standing,” she said. The standing water, she said, is a breeding ground for mosquitos and poses a health hazard for residents. She asked for an engineering survey to determine what can be done to alleviate the problem.
City Treasurer Dan Fisher, however, said such a study already has been done and there is literally no solution to the issue. Prior to the construction of BenGil Elementary School, he said, the city attempted to piggyback with the school district to improve drainage in the area. Because the school project was grant-funded, the school district could not expand the project to include municipal drainage. He said the city also looked into diverting drainage into the Illinois Route 16 ditch but was rebuffed by the Department of Transportation.
“The only way to take care of that is to put in a storm sewer with a lift station to lift water to the top of the grade to flow away from the area,” Ald. Pettit said. A lift station, he said, would cost a minimum of $500,000, excluding the associated storm sewer work. “You’re looking at a million-dollar project.”
Early in the meeting, resident Mary Gucciardo approached the council with concerns about a clogged drain on her property in the 600 block of Edwards Street. She said she has complained about the issue for at least 15 years.
“When we get a big rain, it overflows the road,” she said.
Ald. Pettit said lack of money has prevented the city from addressing the issue previously but plans are in place to rent a vacuum truck this fall to clean storm drains throughout the city. With two to three workers on the truck, he said it may take three days or more to get around to all the drains the Street Department has identified as problems.
ROYELL COMMUNICATIONS LEASE
City Treasurer Dan Fisher reported that a three-year lease allowing Royell Communications to provide internet service to Gillespie residents expired on June 14. Before the city had a chance to contact Royell to renegotiate terms of the lease, Royell sent a check to cover 2022-23 at the current rate of $3,047. Fisher said the City Clerk had not deposited the check, awaiting direction from the council on how the city wanted to proceed.
Acting on the advice of City Attorney Verticchio, the council voted to deposit the check, essentially extending the current contract for one year at the same rate, with an eye toward renegotiating the lease at the end of the contract.
Continuing the city’s more aggressive stance toward derelict properties, the council approved resolutions declaring 206 Frey Street, 414 West Walnut Street and 503 West Chestnut Street as public nuisances. The resolutions formally empower the city attorney to pursue legal action to seek court orders requiring property owners to remedy deficiencies on the properties. If the lawsuits are successful, the city ultimately could win authority to raze the houses and take possession of the properties if the owners fail to abate the nuisances.
Additionally, the council authorized Verticchio to contact the owners of alleged nuisance properties at 608 North Adams Street, 602 North Adams Street and 702 North Francis Street. The letters will give responsible parties a specified period of time to abate the nuisances to avoid court action.
With the actions approved Monday night, Ald. Rauzi said the city has addressed 10 properties out of 19 originally identified by the city for nuisance abatement.
Mayor John Hicks announced a special meeting of the council set for 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 29, with representatives of the Illinois Housing Development Authority to discuss the results of a housing survey conducted in conjunction with IDHA’s Revitalization and Repair Program.
Adam Kilduff appeared before the council to discuss his plans to build a pond on property he is redeveloping on the city’s southeast side. He said he wanted to address concerns the council or residents might have regarding the proposed pond.
“I’m cleaning up the property,” he said, noting he removed three dump truck loads of used tires and cleaned up a burned-out house and garage. “I’m out there at 4 in the morning before I go to work and I’m out there at 9 at night.”
He reported to the council that the property will be fenced to enclose the pond in compliance with city ordinances.
“I think I’m doing a good thing,” he said. “I just don’t want any problems.”
“I don’t think there’s any problem,” said Ald. Frank Barrett. “We just wanted to be sure (it would be fenced).”
“I think it’s an asset,” Ald. Rick Fulton added.
CIVIC CENTER REVAMP
Fisher reported that architect Dennis Schuette has been retained to prepare preliminary architectural drawings to direct discussion about possible uses and configurations for the space formerly occupied by the Gillespie Fire Department. Possibilities include creating multiple use areas or space to house the Gillespie Police Department.
Ald. Pettit briefly discussed the possibility of purchasing surveillance cameras to combat vandalism in city parks. Earlier in the meeting, Ald. Barrett discussed the purchase of new playground equipment for Welfare Park that has been damaged beyond repair. Pettit suggested that if the city plans to install cameras at the Water Department and other city-owned properties, it might be possible to get a better price by bidding all the city’s camera needs as one project.
Fisher noted that as park of Streetscape program, there has been discussion about installing cameras in the downtown business district. Urban cameras have become a trend, he said, because residents feel more secure with camera surveillance. Curry and Associates Engineers, he said, already is in the process of contacting surveillance camera companies to get prices for cameras and monitoring interfaces that would connect to computers at City Hall. In the event cameras become a part of Streetscape project, Fisher said it might be possible to add cameras at city parks and other properties for the cost of cameras alone. The cost of the interface, the most expensive component of the system, would be borne by the Streetscape project.
In other action, the council:
- Voted to close the 100 block of East Chestnut Street and the 100 block of Montgomery Street for a chili cook-off sponsored by the Lions Club on Sept. 24.
- Approved expenditure of $22,504 from the TIF Fund to pay Bolash Roofing for work completed on the Civic Center Roof.
- Approved expenditure of $3,015.95 from the TIF Fund to Moran Economic Development for consulting work in connection with establishing a new TIF District.