Meeting primarily via the Zoom remote conferencing platform, members of the Gillespie City Council on Thursday night voted to partner with Grow Gillespie to bring a Peace Corps community development specialist to Gillespie for 11 months and agreed to hire outside legal counsel to work on labor relations issues.
The meeting was reconvened from an abbreviated meeting Monday night during which the council dispensed with time-sensitive business. The extra precautions are due to a majority of the city government being in quarantine after a city employee tested positive for COVID-19. The employee reportedly had been in contact with co-workers and elected officials immediately prior to testing positive.
On the recommendation of Acting City Attorney Dan O’Brien, the council voted unanimously to execute an agreement for legal services with Jill D. Leka, Springfield, an attorney with the law firm of Clark, Baird and Smith, LLP, based in Rosemont. According to the firm’s website, Leka specializes in labor issues in relation to public bodies, including litigation resolution and collective bargaining.
Speaking with the BenGil Post, O’Brien declined to say whether Leka was retained for any specific issues and indicated she would serve the city on an “as needed” basis. Though it was listed as an agenda item for Thursday night’s meeting, the council took no action regarding a “grievance settlement.” Council members did spend some time in executive session to discuss personnel and litigation, though the specific nature of those issues was not disclosed.
PEACE CORPS AGREEMENT
On a motion by Ald. Rick Fulton, seconded by Ald. Frank Barrett, the council voted unanimously to enter an agreement under which a Western Illinois University master’s degree candidate would move to Gillespie to work on community development projects under the auspices of the Peace Corps.
City Treasurer Dan Fisher presented the proposal to the council.
“We have an opportunity for the City of Gillespie, in conjunction with Grow Gillespie, to get a Peace Corps Fellow,” Fisher said. The individual will start in January and stay in the community for 11 months, working 37.5 hours per week on community development projects in conjunction with non-profit organizations such as Grow Gillespie and the Gillespie Caring Center. “Our total commitment for this is $5,000.”
Fisher confirmed Grow Gillespie plans to “kick-in” a minimum of $1,000 and possibly up to $2,500 to defray the cost of the program.
Fisher said he talked to other local governments that have participated in the program. The City of Sullivan, he said, was well pleased with the work done by a Peace Corps Fellow in their community. Pike County, according to Fisher, has been so enamored of the program that it is on the cusp of entering into a Peace Corps agreement for a third year.
“I think this is money well spent,” Ald. Fulton commented.
EXPANSION TANKS NEEDED
Mayor John Hicks advised that city residents who have not installed an expansion tank for their home water heaters should do so in the near future to preclude possible flooding damage in their homes. With the completion of the ongoing water infrastructure improvement project, water pressure to Gillespie homes is expected to be increased substantially. That increase in water pressure could cause water heater pop-off valves to activate. Unless the water heater is equipped with an expansion tank, the pop-off valve could cause flooding in the home.
When the new water lines are in service, water pressure is expected to increase from an average of 41 pounds per square inch to 50 pounds per square inch.
“If they don’t have an expansion tank,” Hicks said, “they should have one installed to prevent the expansion valve from popping off and possibly flooding their basement.”
LAKE KAHO CONTROVERSY
Council members voted formally to reject the latest offer from the Village of Lake KaHo to purchase water from the City of Gillespie and to authorize O’Brien to handle any litigation that might arise from the action. The proposed contract has been the focus of controversy for several months after Lake KaHo refused an offer to sign a 40-year exclusive contract with Gillespie to provide water at a discounted price. Several other satellite customers, including Benld and Wilsonville, signed the contract and committed to buying water from Gillespie for the next 40 years.
Lake KaHo opted instead to buy water from the City of Litchfield, which agreed to supply water at a price lower than Gillespie offered up to a certain number of gallons. Water used in excess of the contract maximum apparently would have been charged at a higher rate.
The latest counteroffer from Lake KaHo reportedly offered to buy water in excess of the maximum usage proscribed in the Litchfield contract, provided Gillespie would sell its water at a rate lower than that charged by Litchfield.
The council also voted to send a bill to the Village of East Gillespie for one-half of the cost of replacing water lines in the village as part of the city’s ongoing water infrastructure improvement project.
Mayor Hicks offered congratulations to Detective Laurie Gerdes of the Gillespie Police Department for being named one of two recipients in the state of the Rising Shields award.
Hicks also congratulated Gillespie resident Patricia Long for being inducted in the Department on Aging’s Senior Citizens Hall of Fame for her volunteer work and support of local schools and Adopt-A-Pet.
While not asking for immediate action, Hicks asked council members to think about raising rental rates for the Gillespie Civic Center to cover the additional cost of sanitizing the facility after each use due to COVID-19 precautions.
“There’s no hurry but it’s something for you to think about,” Hicks said. “It’s probably going to be a long time before it’s rented again.”
In other action, the council voted to donate $100 to a Gillespie High School student group planning to buy Thanksgiving turkeys for underprivileged families in the school district.