On the cusp of embarking on a $10 million water infrastructure improvement project, the Gillespie City Council on Monday night scheduled an April 6 meeting with representatives from satellite municipal water customers, at least some of which are exploring alternative sources of water for their residents. The meeting is set for 10 a.m. at the Gillespie Civic Center and will be open to the public.
The meeting was set during the Council’s regular monthly meeting Monday night on a motion by Ald. Dave Tucker. In other action, the council adopted increases in camping and boating fees at Gillespie Lake, and adopted an ordinance to increase sewer rates for users of the city’s sewer system.
City Attorney Kevin Polo suggested it would be in the best interest of the City of Gillespie to meet with government officials from surrounding communities now so they can “get water at the cheapest possible rate.” While Polo did not specifically indicate that Gillespie would negotiate new pricing structures for satellite customers, he suggested satellite customers might be able to secure the best rates by acting collectively as opposed to negotiating with water providers individually. “There is power in numbers,” he said.
Roger Mensing of Curry and Associates Engineers is the water project manager and is expected to attend the meeting to field questions.
“There’s been a lot of discussion going on in the area,” Polo noted. “Carlinville is going with the Illinois Alluvial project and Dorchester apparently is going with Illinois Alluvial. Benld is talking about running a line to Litchfield and Lake KaHo is already running a line to Litchfield. So there’s a lot going on at the moment.”
He said he and other city officials recently met with Litchfield city officials to talk about Litchfield’s rates for satellite water customers. “Suffice it to say that maybe it’s time to meet with some of the satellites and talk about how they can get water at the lowest rate possible—maybe even cheaper that Illinois Alluvial.”
Suffice it to say that maybe it’s time to meet with some of the satellites and talk about how they can get water at the lowest rate possible—maybe even cheaper that Illinois Alluvial.
Polo said the meeting would have to comply with the Illinois Open Meetings Act which requires two weeks public notice. He said he also had checked on the availability of the Civic Center space and that April 6 seemed to be the earliest Saturday meeting the public notice requirement.
In related matters, the council adopted a revised resolution awarding the contract for the infrastructure project to Haier Plumbing and Heating, Oquawka, and heard a brief update on the project from Mensing and City Treasurer Dan Fisher.
While the council already had taken action to award the contract to Haier in December, Fisher said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program required the city to adopt specific language to meet requirements for Rural Development to be involved in funding the project. Among other things, that language reportedly includes provisions authorizing the Mayor to sign agreements related to the project on behalf of the city. Rural Development also required the city to take a separate action to accept a change order reducing the cost of the project by about $940,000. Rural Development is underwriting the project with a 40-year loan of about $7.3 million at two percent interest, plus a grant of $3.65 million to cover about 36 percent of the project’s cost.
The action taken by the council Monday night should free up Rural Development to complete paperwork to release money for the grant and loan, according to Fisher.
Mensing told the council that Haier is eager to get started on the project as soon as possible this spring. “We’re just waiting for Rural Development,” he said. “Haier actually would like to start boring in a couple of weeks.”
Mensing said Fisher had advised him that the city has enough surplus funds to start work on the project pending finalization from Rural Development, then reimburse the city’s coffers when the project financing is released.
Responding to a question from Ald. Jane Weidner, Fisher said Rural Development will ask the city to establish a line of credit at a local bank for the initial stages of the project, which is expected to take two years to complete.
“For at least the first year, they’re going to require us to use interim financing,” Fisher said. “We’ll have a line of credit at the bank that we can draw down on just like building a house. We’d make monthly payments for interest only and at some point, Rural Development” will release grant and loan money to pay off the interim credit line.
He said he favored using existing funds until such time Rural Development releases funding. “The bank would probably let us do that before (funding is released) but that would start the clock ticking on the interest we’d have to pay,” Fisher said.
Mensing also reported that he and city officials have had two meetings with vendors proposing remote meter reading systems. Such a system would allow the city to read water meters from City Hall as well as provide daily data monitoring water pressure and the location of possible household water leaks.
“It will take about 10 minutes to read all of the meters in town,” Fisher said.
“That’s the system we need to go with,” Mayor John Hicks commented. “It will get us into the 21st century.”
CAMPING, BOAT STICKER FEES INCREASED
On motions by Ald. Frank Barrett, chair the council’s Lake Committee, the council voted separately to increase fees for boat stickers and camping permits at Gillespie Lake. The fee increases will be effective for the 2019 recreational season.
The council’s action raises camping fees from $15 per night for RV sites with electrical hook-ups to $17 per night and $20 per night on holidays. Fees for primitive/tent camping sites will go from $10 per night to $12 per night and $15 per night on holidays. The fee charged for non-camping RV dumping will go from $6 to $10.
The lake has 24 RV sites and four tent/primitive campsites.
Barrett said the fee increases will help “offset some of the cost for improvements” within the lake campgrounds.
For the first time the boat sticker pricing schedule will include slightly higher fees for non-resident boaters using the lake.
For the first time the boat sticker pricing schedule will include slightly higher fees for non-resident boaters using the lake. Persons with a 62033 zip code for their mailing address are considered “residents.”
For boats with outboard motors of up to 10 horsepower, the new fee will be $25 for residents and $30 for non-residents. Motors ranging from 11 to 20 horsepower will require a fee of $30 for residents and $35 for non-residents. The fee will be $40 for residents and $45 for non-residents for boats with motors ranging from 21 to 40 horsepower; $50 for residents and $55 for non residents for boats with motors ranging from 41-75 horsepower; $60 for residents and $65 for non-residents for boats with motors ranging from 76 to 100 horsepower; and $70 for residents and $75 for non-residents for boats with motors ranging from 101 to 150 horsepower. Boats with motors in excess of 150 horsepower will require a permit sticker costing $80 for residents and $85 for non-residents.
Sailboat stickers are $30 for residents and $35 for non-residents.
The permit sticker fee for canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and other non-motorized craft is $15 for residents and $20 for non-residents.
A daily permit for any boat regardless of size will be $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents.
A $100 permit sticker is available only to persons who hold a lease for a lake lot at a cost of $100 per year for personal watercraft such as jet skis.
Previous boat sticker fees ranged from $20 to $53 depending upon motor size and there was no distinction between resident and non-resident boaters.
Barret said the new fees are lower than the fees charged for boaters using other lakes in the area. Glen Shoals, for example, charges fees ranging from $40 to $185 depending upon motor size for non-resident boaters. At Lake Lou Yager, non-resident boaters are charged from $55 to $120 for permit stickers depending upon motor size.
SEWER RATES INCREASED
With little discussion, the council voted unanimously to increase the minimum sewer rate from $6.50 for the first 1,000 gallons to $8.50. Sewer users will pay an additional $1.50 per 1,000 gallons for usage in excess of 1,000 gallons.
The council deferred action on a resolution to facilitate procedures allowing city employees to borrow from their retirement accounts pending additional information about what it will cost the city to administer the program. The council voted unanimously in December to offer employees the option of borrowing up to 50 percent of the amount vested in their 457 Retirement Plan fund in the event of an emergency. The amount borrowed would then be repaid to the fund via payroll deductions at an interest rate of 5.25 percent. Since the employee essentially would be borrowing from himself or herself, the accrued interest will be paid into their retirement fund.
Council members questioned how much additional time would be required on the part of staff in the City Clerk’s office to administer the program. Fisher said it would be more likely that the city’s accountant would do the work since she is the person who administers payroll. There was no information available, however, about how much the accountant would need to be paid for the additional workload.
“Can we defer this for another month until we can find out how much it’s going to cost?” Ald. Tucker said.
Council members met in executive session for about 15 minutes to discuss the status of collective bargaining negotiations between the city and Laborers Union. Polo previously announced that no tentative agreement has been reached.
Since no agreement has been reached with the union, Fisher also recommended deferring action on setting salaries for employees not covered by the collective bargaining agreement. Only three city employees are not part of the union.
POLICE CAR DISCUSSION
The council discussed but took no action on a request from Police Chief Jared DePoppe to purchase a new police car. DePoppe said that several years ago he proposed a plan to retire aging squad cars and buy one new one every one to two years.
“We’re a little behind on that now,” he said. “We’d like to get a new squad car. Our squads are getting older.”
He said the city could buy a car from Morrow Brothers Ford, Greenfield, on a state bid for $27,000 for a 2019 Ford Intercept or $32,000 for a 2019 Sport Utility. An additional $5,000 would be required for equipping either vehicle with police equipment.
He said he had contacted Rural Development about the possibility of securing a grant but was told that grant funding for that program will not be released until October.
“I’d like to get one now,” he said, “and get another one in October when that funding becomes available.”
Mayor Hicks asked about the possibility of buying a used police car, but DePoppe said the city has purchased used vehicles in the past and that he would like to go with a new vehicle this time.
In the meantime, he said a 2010 Crown Victoria owned by the police department needs to have its transmission replaced, and he is looking into the possibility of taking the transmission from the car currently used by the School Resource Officer if it is interchangeable. Otherwise, he said the city is looking at $2,500 for a new transmission or $2,000 for a used one.
No action was taken Monday night but it is possible the proposed purchase will be included as an agenda item for a later meeting.
BOY SCOUT PROPERTY
The council referred to committee a request from local Cub Scout Leader Ed Bergen to resume use of a parcel of property formerly used as a shooting range on Farley Lane at Gillespie Lake.
“We had it when I had the Boy Scout troop, and about a year and a half ago that fell apart,” Bergen said. Bergen said he has since established a Cub Scout troop and would like to resume using the property. He said about 20 youths are enrolled in the program and he is looking for “more things for them to do.” Activities could include a public service project to clean-up the property.
Ald. Barrett said he’d like to walk the property with Bergen before making a recommendation to the council.
The council also referred to committee with power to act a request from Charles Knoche to install a sewage holding tank on a lot he leases at Gillespie Lake. Knoche relied on a “porta-potty” until that unit recently was stolen.
“I’d rather see a holding tank out there than a porta-potty,” Barrett said.
But Mayor Hicks objected, saying Knoche’s lot is a picnic lot, not a permanent residence.
“I’m worried about setting a precedent,” Hicks said. “You’d be opening it up to everyone.”
Moreover, Hicks said he had concerns about the frequency of inspections for holding tanks at the lake. Current provisions call for them to be inspected only when a lot is transferred to a new resident. “There ought to be some kind of guideline to make sure they’re maintained,” he said.
Ultimately the issue was referred to committee with power to act in two weeks.
The Mayor directed Ald. Jerry Dolliger to locate a candidate to be hired as a seasonal worker this summer in part to help with mowing and maintenance at Welfare Park.
Barrett said Gillespie Middle School ball teams currently play games at the park and that he had informed them that they are responsible for taking care of the ball diamonds. But other maintenance needs, such as regular mowing, are the responsibility of the city.
“We can use money from the concession stand to pay expenses,” Hicks suggested, “until we can get a park district.”
“There are people who are interested in a park district,” Ald. Dona Rauzi commented. Barrett added that if a park district proposal was included on a future ballot, it could include East Gillespie.
In other action, the council:
- Approved a lake lot lease transfer for 45 Bishop Drive to Patrick Sheppard.
- Approved a business license application for Ageless Apparel to open a storefront location for their printing business in the former Dombeck Dentistry building on South Macoupin. The business will employ three people. Fisher commented that Austin Peterson told him that he was interested in opening a downtown location in part because of the plans Grow Gillespie has unveiled to improve the downtown business district and stimulate commerce.