Newly elected council members were sworn in Monday night during a meeting of the Gillespie City Council which also featured a discussion about the condition of the dam at Gillespie Lake and a commitment to a $380,000 solar energy project.
City attorney Kevin Polo administered the oath of office to Ward 1 Ald. Dona Rauzi, who won election last month after being appointed to fill a vacancy on the council, and newly elected council members Ward 2 Ald. Rick Fulton, Ward 3 Ald. Bill Hayes and Ward 4 Ald. Wendy Rolando. One vacancy for a Ward 4 alderman remains on the council.
With newly elected council members seated, the project manager for the city’s ambitious water infrastructure project addressed the council, vouching for the structural integrity of the dam and spillway at Gillespie Lake. Residents expressed concerns on social media after heavy rains pushed a large slab of concrete out of the spillway apron. Photos posted on Facebook showed large pieces of concrete lying on the spillway with water rushing around them.
“I know everyone is wondering about the dam,” said Roger Mensing of Curry and Associates Engineers. He said engineers from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources examined the spillway and confirmed the structural integrity of the dam. “They weren’t concerned at all,” he said.
Mensinger said among the issues at the dam is the fact that “no one knows what’s under the weir.” He said the displaced slab of concrete was installed as part of the rehabilitation project but it was not pinned to the existing concrete. At the time, he said engineers believed the patch would be adequate and would stay in place. Apparently, however, there was some uplift behind the concrete that the engineers did not anticipate.
The engineer said workers have identified a large expanse of concrete behind the weir to which a replacement slab might be anchored. Alternatively, the slab could be pinned to the surrounding concrete comprising the weir. A third option could be to simply leave the area open “to relieve any uplift.”
The engineer said workers have identified a large expanse of concrete behind the weir to which a replacement slab might be anchored.
“We’re looking it over,” Mensinger said.
In a related matter, Mensinger said a pre-construction conference with Haier Plumbing and Heating was planned for Tuesday after which the contractor is likely to start work on the $10 million water infrastructure improvement project that includes replacing water distribution lines city-wide.
On a motion by Ald. Dave Tucker, seconded by Ald. Rauzi, the council voted unanimously to accept a low bid of $387,000 from Illinois Solar, Inc. to install a solar panel field to generate electrical power. The action is contingent upon the city finding a suitable site for the project, that tax credits for the project remain in place and that metering by Ameren remains as it has in the past.
City Treasurer Dan Fisher told the council last month that the city could be asked to sign onto a project for a solar field last month, but offered few details about the project or how it would be paid for. “We would provide the land, they would provide the system and we would reap the benefits,” he said a the time.
Monday night’s action anticipates a five-year payback for the cost of the project.
Before the council entered into a 90-minute executive session to discuss personnel and legal issues, Fisher said one of the topics that would also be discussed was the possibility of the city acquiring property for the solar field.
POLICE DEPARTMENT CHANGES
Following the executive session, the council approved a measure to rescind an action take two weeks ago during a special meeting to “temporarily” reduce Sgt. Kenneth Reardon’s rank to that of a patrolman. Upon approving that action, the council immediately voted to accept a resignation from Reardon, effective immediately. Taken together, the actions allowed Reardon to resign as a police sergeant rather than a lower-ranking patrolman.
Council members also voted unanimously to accept the resignation of police officer T.J. Rakey, effective May 28, to allow Rakey to accept a new position with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department. Rakey was promoted from a part-time police position to a full-time position in January 2018 ostensibly to take on duties formerly performed by Laurie Gerdes, who was designated as a police detective at the same time.
On a motion by Tucker, seconded by Rauzi, the council also approved Chief Jared DePoppe’s request to promote Gerdes to the rank of police sergeant.
The council referred to committee a proposal presented by DePoppe to hire a professional cleaning firm from Litchfield to perform regular cleaning services at the police department at a cost of $5,200 per year to be paid in monthly increments. DePoppe said the department has used private contractors in the past with varying degrees of success. “After a while, they can’t keep up with the demand,” he said.
DePoppe said the firm he’s asking the council to consider currently provides cleaning services for other police departments in the immediate area.
The council also referred to committee a proposal to contract with the Village of East Gillespie to provide police coverage for that community. DePoppe said the Gillespie Police Department already provides police services to the Village of Mt. Clare and has been asked to consider providing patrols in the Village of Eagarville.
“Are we adding too much for our officers?” Ald. Rauzi asked. “Do we have enough officers to take on East Gillespie” and Eagarville.
“I believe so, yes,” DePoppe said. He said emergency calls from the satellite communities are minimal. East Gillespie in particular should be easy for the Gillespie Department to patrol because it is adjacent to the city. Moreover, he noted, if county deputies are unavailable to respond to an emergency in East Gillespie, the village already calls Gillespie to respond.
Right now, even with Mt. Clare and adding East Gillespie, we have enough. If we added more, then that’s a conversation we would want to have.
“If we were to enter into an agreement with Benld, we would have to add officers,” DePoppe acknowledged. “Right now, even with Mt. Clare and adding East Gillespie, we have enough. If we added more, then that’s a conversation we would want to have.”
In other personnel action, the council approved a resolution amending the wage rate ordinance for non-union city employees to include Easter and Christmas Eve as paid holidays. The resolution makes the wage ordinance congruent with the laborers union contract.
LAKE LOT ISSUES
Responding to an issue brought up by lake lot leaseholder Charles Knoche last month, the council adopted a new policy governing holding tanks for sewage at the lake. Knoche had used a porta-potty for sanitation on his lot but wanted to make use of a holding tank after the sorta-potty was stolen.
The new rules requires a property inspection by the Macoupin County Public Health Department prior to installing a holding tank and required the leaseholder to supply the city with a copy of the authorization letter from MCPHD. The policy requires the tank to be installed by a licensed installer and to be pumped by a licensed sanitation service at regular intervals. Starting in 2020, tanks must be inspected every five years and a copy of the inspection report must be submitted to the city. Further, the policy establishes a fine of $500 in the event of overflow or leakage and empowers the city to revoke the lease in the event of seepage or leakage. Finally, the policy requires porta-potty owners to submit documentation showing the owner has a maintenance agreement with a licensed sanitation service.
On a motion by Lake Committee Chair Frank Barrett, the council approved the following lake lease transfers:
- Crystal Cope for 14 Stump Lane.
- Eric Linder for 1 Mathis Lane.
- Tresa Eats for 4 Pump House Road.
- Richard Ross for 54 Rain Lane.
The council authorized Steve Joyce to take down signs at the city limits recognizing former outstanding athletes from Gillespie High School. Joyce said the signs have fallen into disrepair and are in need of cleaning. He proposed removing the signs and entering into an agreement for the school district to maintain future signs instead of the city.
On a motion by Ald. Tucker, seconded by Barret, the council agreed to waive sewer charges resulting from a major water leak in Eagarville. Eagarville Village President Don McAllister said the leak has been found and repaired but not before more than 390,000 gallons of water was lost. That water, he noted, did not go through the sewer system.
“It’s a common practice to take those charges off,” Tucker said before moving to forgive the $188 in sewer charges.
On a motion by Ald. Tucker, seconded by Ald. Hayes, the council approved an ordinance authorizing the placement of stop signs to make the intersection of Fillmore Street with Burton Street a two-way stop.