A somewhat reluctant Gillespie City Council on Monday night voted to permit the Black Diamond Days Committee to host a two-day Labor Day Bash over the Labor Day weekend at Gillespie Lake. Council members also approved the purchase of property from Community Unit School District 7 for construction of a solar panel field to power the city’s water treatment plant and voted unanimously to enter into a contract to provide police protection for the Village of Eagarville.
Landon Pettit, representing the Black Diamond Days Committee, told the council that even though this summer’s annual street festival was smaller and had less attendance than previous years, the Committee did well enough financially to underwrite a small Labor Day festival at Gillespie Lake.
“We haven’t been able to give back to the community as much as we would like,” Pettit said. “The lake looks better than it ever has. We’d like to have an event out there and maybe give back more to the community.”
The Black Diamond Days Labor Day Bash is planned from noon to midnight on Saturday, Aug. 31, and Sunday, Sept. 1. The event will feature food and beer, a band, a washers tournament and a corn hole tournament. Pettit said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Gillespie Bass Club will sponsor a fishing clinic for kids. Bounce houses and other activities for youngsters also will be available.
“We’re going to try to keep kids around the Old Lake away from boat traffic,” Pettit said.
He emphasized that the event will not be as “big” as Black Diamond Days and is not expected to draw crowds comparable to those that attend the summer event.
The council unanimously granted the committee’s request to use the lake for the festival, with Ald. Jerry Dolliger, a member of the Black Diamond Days committee, abstaining. The vote came, however, with some trepidation on the part of Mayor John Hicks and some of the council members.
Ald. Dona Rauzi questioned Pettit about plans for parking, insurance and whether or not the event will require city police officers. Pettit said the committee has enlisted volunteers to serve as parking attendants. He said the committee will request one or two police officers to be on duty, but the committee will handle clean-up after the event. Regarding Dram Shop insurance, Pettit said, “we will have all the proper permits and insurance.”
Mayor Hicks and City Treasurer Dan Fisher questioned whether or not there is ample space at the lake to accommodate parking.
“If there’s a big crowd, I don’t think the parking plans are adequate out there,” Fisher said. “I’m in favor of something happening out there and I’m in favor of these guys doing it, but I think we need to be cognizant of the fact we’d be turning our lake over on one of our busiest weekends of the year.”
Grow Gillespie, a civic improvement group Fisher heads, had considered sponsoring an event at the lake but decided there was not enough time to fully plan a festival before Labor Day. Fisher said the Black Diamond Days Committee discussed its plans for the Labor Day Bash during a recent meeting of the Grow Gillespie Group. Apart from parking issues, Fisher questioned how fully developed plans for the event actually are.
Fisher said “It cannot be stressed enough” that Black Diamond Days is able to easily access city infrastructure and resources because of its location in downtown Gillespie. The Police Department, he noted, is only a few blocks from the festival site, as are other city resources. “Anything you do out there is going to be a little more difficult than in town.”
Pettit and Lake Manager Gary Thornhill said they believed there is room for 200 to 300 cars “if they are parked right,” but Fisher characterized that assessment as overly optimistic. Pettit said he expects most of those attending the event will be residents and campers who are at the lake for the Labor weekend.
“You’re going to have people out there for Labor Day weekend anyway, and then you’re going to put this on top of it?” Mayor John Hicks said. “You’re not going to be able to do it.”
Pettit said he expects people to come and go during the day and, if necessary, the committee may have to turn people away if available parking is full.
PROPERTY PURCHASE APPROVED
City aldermen unanimously approved the purchase of six city lots from Community Unit School District 7 at a cost of $24,000 to be used as the site for a proposed solar panel field to supply power to the water treatment plant. The lots lie to the south of the plant.
The action followed a 45-minute executive session during which council members reportedly discussed collective bargaining and the acquisition of real estate.
Monday night’s action was contingent upon the Board of Education approving the sale. Meeting in special session on Wednesday night, approved the sale by a vote of 6-1.
In May, the council unanimously accepted the low bid of $387,000 from Illinois Solar, Inc., to install the solar panel field.
Also following the executive session, the council voted to send a letter to the Fraternal Order of Police to advise the union that the city and local police had reached an agreement regarding compensation for a Police Department Detective recently promoted to the rank of Sergeant. According to the agreement Sgt. Detective Laurie Gerdes’ hourly compensation will be increased by $1.50 (75 cents each for the positions of Sergeant and Detective).
EAGARVILLE POLICE PROTECTION CONTRACT
On a motion by Ald. Frank Barrett, the council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance authorizing the city to contract with the Village of Eagarville for the Gillespie Police Department to provide police services to the village at a cost of $400 per month for a period of one year.
“I cannot express my gratitude and the gratitude of the village enough for the willingness of Gillespie to work with us on this,” Eagarville Village President Dan McAllister told the council earlier in the meeting. “It means a lot to us. It’s going to make a big difference in our village.”
While no action was taken, Ald. Rick Fulton reported city-wide issues with residents using fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday. Fulton said he heard numerous “legitimate” complaints about fireworks during the holiday and said he hoped to address the problem before next year. Some residents apparently complained that police did little to control the situation when residents called them.
“I’m hoping the next year, we don’t see that,” Fulton said of the excessive fireworks. “They were shooting stuff that shouldn’t ever have been shot off in the city. If I’m still here next year, I’m going to make every effort to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
A resident attending Monday night’s meeting said fireworks were fired for several hours during a pig roast in her neighborhood. The display included large aerial shells that rained debris on her property and neighboring properties, she said. The revelers started lighting fireworks in the street. When police told them they couldn’t do that, they moved to a vacant lot. In addition to monitoring her property for potential fires, she said she spent several hours picking up debris in her yard the next day.
Mayor Hicks recommended meeting with the Police Chief prior to next Fourth of July to provide him with some guidelines on what city officials are willing to tolerate when it comes to using fireworks within the city limits.
The council took under advisement a complaint from a city resident regarding an alleged nuisance property in the 500 block of Wilson Street. The derelict property allegedly is the frequent scene of drug activity.
“It’s been sold,” the resident said, “but it’s still in terrible, terrible condition. It’s close to the highway. People coming into town can see it.”
He said the property is in close proximity to Reid’s Heating and Cooling. “I’m sure it affects his business,” he said. “It affects the whole neighborhood.”
The resident said the buyer paid cash for the property and appears to be financially capable of cleaning up the property.
Mayor Hicks said city officials would make contact with the new owner and advise him to abate the nuisance.
On the recommendation of the Police Chief, the council voted to rescind ordinances banning the sale of so-called bath salts and setting the minimum age for tobacco purchases at 18. As a result of the action, local law enforcement will defer to newly signed state laws raising the age for tobacco purchases to 21 and banning the sale of bath salts statewide.
The council tabled action on eliminating the local ordinance on cannabis possession, noting that some municipalities are opting to retain recreational cannabis ordinances that are more stringent than the new state law set to take effect Jan. 1.
“Some municipalities are saying ‘no cannabis’,” Mayor Hicks said. “The Chief wants to investigate that a little further before we do anything.”
Council members quickly shot down a proposal by Ald. Barrett to build a new 60-by-100-foot pavilion at Gillespie Lake at a cost of $47,000.
“If we were going to spend $47,000, I’d rather have it spent on this building,” said Ald. Rauzi, noting that the Civic Center is in desperate need of a new roof. When no interest in the project was shown, Barrett withdrew the proposal.
Barrett also reported a need to revise some lake rules for lease holders. Lake rules currently mandate “quiet time” starting at 10 p.m. in the campground, but residents who lease cabin lots or camping lots sometimes continue to play music past 10 p.m. Mayor Hicks recommended making the quiet time rule effective “lake-wide.” Barrett also recommended liberalizing a rule limiting the size of storage sheds to 10-by-10-feet. A number of residents are using golf carts and have asked for exemptions, which the committee generally grants, to erect 12-by-12-foot sheds to store their carts.
In other action, the council:
- Approved the Mayor’s reappointment of Linda Vidmar, Mary Hicks and Lydia Reid to the Gillespie Public Library Board.
- Approved the transfer of a lake lot lease for 13 Circle Drive at the Old Lake to John Huber, and the transfer of a lake lot lease for 15 Circle Drive to Alphonse and Barbara Hepperman.
- Agreed to bill the Village of East Gillespie for $115,000 representing the village’s share of work completed on water infrastructure replacement in the village.
- Agreed to allow Grow Gillespie to use surplus fencing from Gillespie Lake to enclose a community garden.
- Approved payment of pay requests totaling $843,935 for construction work, materials and engineering costs associated with work completed on the water infrastructure replacement project.