The City of Gillespie is considering taking legal steps to abate an infestation of cockroaches at a rental home in the 300 block of East Oak Street after Katina Weller, a neighbor to the residence, appeared at Monday night’s meeting of the council to report that the landlord has taken only minimal, ineffective steps to eradicate the pests and has yet to enter the home to assess the magnitude of the problem.
Also during Monday night’s meeting, the council accepted the unexpected resignation of Ward 4 Ald. Steve Kluthe, authorized payment of $90,000 to Curry and Associates in connection with the city’s upcoming water infrastructure project, heard a citizen complaint about a recent dog bite incident, and pledged $250 to beautify downtown planters for the holiday season.
Reading from a prepared statement, Weller told the council that Tim Loveless, owner of the roach-infested rental property at 309 East Oak Street, hired Byots Pest Control to spray the exterior of the home after she approached the council last month to intercede. She said Loveless, however, continues to refuse to exercise his authority to enter the residence. Last month, the council asked that Loveless notify the city’s housing inspector, Bob Lancaster, when the home was being treated so Loveless and Lancaster could enter the home at the same time. Weller said Loveless’ lease agreement with the tenants gives him authority to enter the home and make an inspection of the property.
“Mr. Loveless told Alderman (Jerry) Dolliger that Byots Pest Control can come back to treat only the outside of the premises,” Weller read. “That’s like giving an amputee a Hello Kitty bandaid and a lollipop. Without entry by the city home inspector to assess the situation and repeated treatment of the inside of the premises, all the of the professional outside treatments are worthless and pointless.”
Without entry by the city home inspector to assess the situation and repeated treatment of the inside of the premises, all the of the professional outside treatments are worthless and pointless.
By treating only the outside of the home, Weller said Loveless had not only wasted time and money, but “also managed to put off dealing with an issue that is causing a quality of life concern for all of us surrounding this infested residence.”
City Attorney Kevin Polo said Loveless has told the city that he asked Byots to repeat treatment to the exterior once a week or bi-weekly until the infestation is controlled, but Weller insisted the exterior treatments will be ineffective until an exterminator is allowed to enter the home and perform repeated treatments to the interior. Last month, she reported that an exterminator had looked in the window of the home and reported that the infestation is so severe that the cockroaches have started to eat the drywall. On Monday night, she told the council that after Byots treated the exterior of the home, she cleaned her trash can with bleach only to find it covered with “baby cockroaches” the next day.
“As a private nuisance, you and your neighbors have the ability to sue,” Polo told Weller.
Weller countered that the tenants probably do not have the financial ability to pay for an abatement or pay a judgment. Polo responded that the financial burden would fall on the property owner in the event of a judgment. In addition, he said the city could pursue the matter as a public nuisance, in which case the city could obtain a court order to abate the nuisance.
The problem with either approach, he said, is that they would take time while the nuisance continues without abatement. If the city pursues the matter in court, he said it would need professional witnesses to testify that interior treatments are necessary to abate the nuisance.
“I would suggest having Bob (Lancaster) to get there and see what we can find out,” Polo said.
Dolliger said Loveless told him that “he doesn’t want to go in” the residence, even though his lease agreement gives him the authority to do so. He said Loveless told him that the tenants refuse to answer the door when he goes there.
“Let’s get another pest controller to go with Bob,” Mayor Hicks directed. “I would recommend Garella.”
“He (Loveless) is wishing we would go away,” Weller said, “but the cockroaches aren’t going away, so I’m not going away either.”
FOURTH WARD ALDERMAN RESIGNS
Late in the meeting, Mayor Hicks told the council that Fourth Ward Ald. Steve Kluthe had submitted a resignation from the council, which the council accepted on a motion by Ald. Dave Tucker, seconded by Diane Brickey. Hick did not read Kluthe’s resignation letter but told the BenGil Post that Kluthe gave no reason for stepping down.
Kluthe’s unexpected resignation leaves Ward 4 with no representation on the council. In April 2016, Colin Mussatto was appointed to fill a vacancy created by the death of Ald. Gus Ottersburg, but Mussatto chose to not seek election to the seat in the 2017 consolidated election. That seat has remained vacant since May 2017.
Originally an appointee to the council, Kluthe was elected to a two-year unexpired term in 2013 and was last elected to a four-year term in 2015. Kluthe served on the Lake Committee with Ald. Frank Barrett and chaired the Public Safety Committee.
Hicks issued a plea to anyone willing to be considered for appointment to either Kluthe or Mussatto’s former seats on the council so that Ward 4 will have some representation on the council.
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT MOVES FORWARD
On a motion by Ald. Dave Tucker, the council unanimously approved the first payment of $89,281.82 to Curry and Associates Engineers, the firm responsible for engineering a massive water infrastructure project expected to get underway this spring. City Treasurer Dan Fisher noted that the payment will be reimbursed to the city through a USDA Rural Development grant awarded to the city. The total engineering tab for the project is expected to top out at about $640,000.
Fisher reported that construction bids for the estimated $10 million project will be opened at 2 p.m., Oct. 18, at the Gillespie Civic Center. A pre-bid meeting with potential contractors will be held a week prior to the bid opening.
In a related matter, the council approved Real Estate License Agreement with Weye and Nancy Schmidt which will allow the city to use dirt excavated during the project to be deposited in a low, swampy area behind the Super Bowl Bowling Alley. The wetland is a result of a mine subsidence and covers an area that shares ownership with the city. The agreement will allow the city to spread soil across the entire subsidence area rather than restricting the fill to property it owns.
Fisher said whoever the contractor turns out to be for the project, an area will be needed to store rock to be used for laying a base for new water lines. Street Department Supervisor said there is enough room at the Street Department next to City Hall to handle rock storage needs for the project.
DOG BITE INCIDENT
Mike Bertagnolli, the victim of a dog attack a week ago on Biddle Street, appeared before the council to complain about the alleged ineffectiveness of the county’s Animal Control Department’s policies on dangerous dogs. Bertagnolli said he was walking his family’s dog when his dog was attacked by another dog running at large. He said he tried to separate the animals and was bitten four times in the process.
“If a dog turns and attacks someone, then my understanding is that Animal Control takes the dog,” he said. Animal Control reportedly keeps the animal for 10 days, in part to check whether the dog has rabies, then returns the dog to the owner with a “dangerous dog” designation, which carries specific restrictions, including a mandate that they keep the dog confined.
“That’s where I have a problem,” Bertagnolli said, noting that a “dangerous dog” could escape its owner’s custody and attack another person or dog. “If that had been my son or daughter walking my dog, I don’t know what would have happened,” he said. “I don’t want to wait for someone from my family or your family to be hurt.”
Polo said Gillespie was among a number of Macoupin County communities that relinquished animal control responsibilities to the county several years ago. Before that time, the city had an ordinance that banned ownership of pit bulls and other breeds. Such ordinances were later deemed to be too restrictive.
“I understand the frustration,” Police Chief Jared DePoppe said. “Declaring a dog dangerous doesn’t mean you can destroy the animal. You almost have to have multiple incidents. Until then, they can have the dog with restrictions. If they violate the restrictions, then you can petition the court to destroy the dog.”
“Our hands are tied and we wish we could do something but we can’t,” Mayor Hicks said.
The council voted unanimously to donate $250 to the Gillespie Beautification Committee to buy materials to decorate planters in the downtown area for the holiday season.
Earlier in the meeting, Renee Katich, representing the committee and Grow Gillespie, made the request, noting “this may be the last year we can do anything with the planters” because of the disruption the water infrastructure project is expected to cause.
Katich said the planters will be uniformly decorated with greenery and ribbons.
POLICE OFFICER RESIGNATION
DePoppe told the council that Michael Stephenson had resigned as a full-time officer to accept a full-time position with the Carlinville Police Department. Stephenson will remain on the roster of Gillespie part-time officers. DePoppe said he will return to the council at a later date with recommendations for a full-time hire to replace Stephenson.
DePoppe also reported that officer T.J. Rakey is credited with apprehending a person wanted in connection with a Green County homicide on Sunday, Sept. 9. Brothers Ronald Plummer, 55, and Billy Plummer, 54, both died as a result of stab wounds about 10:30 p.m. Sunday in Rockbridge. A caller to police reported that persons were stabbed during an altercation at a large gathering at 585 State Road in Rockbridge. State Police issued a bulletin for a car registered to a Greenfield person wanted in connection with the incident. Rakey reportedly identified the car in Gillespie and initiated a traffic stop at 11:15 p.m. The suspect was remanded to Illinois State Police who are conducting the investigation.
REVOLVING LOAN FUND CLOSED OUT
The council approved two resolutions to facilitate closing out the state-funded Revolving Economic Development Loan Fund. With support from the state Department of Commerce and Economic Development, the fund previously was used to provide low-interest loans for new businesses and business expansions in Gillespie. Earlier this year, the state announced its intention to end support of the program for communities that have minimal activity and handle relatively small loans.
One of the resolutions formally closes out the Revolving Loan Fund, while the second authorizes the expenditure of $111,526 from the city Tax Increment Financing Fund to pay back the state for outstanding loans. Fisher said the state will reimburse the $111,526 to the city’s General Fund to be used for an undetermined improvement project within the TIF District. Despite the reimbursement, however, the city will continue to collect payments on the outstanding loan, with the payments going into the city’s coffers.
The actions could potentially result in a profit of more than $111,000 to the city.
TWO ORDINANCES APPROVED
The council approved ordinances to vacate about 150 feet of Columbia Avenue for the benefit of Donald Stewart, who owns property on each side of the street. Also approved was an amendment to the city’s building code ordinance to relieve property owners of paying for a building permit to construct residential wheelchair ramps for disabled access. Homeowners still will have to apply for a building permit before beginning construction but will be exempt from the permit fee.
In other action, the council:
- Approved a lake lot transfer for 50 Bishop Drive to Patrick Halliday, Oquawka.
- Gave the Mayor the power to act on placing an advertisement for farmers to submit bids to rent 10 acres of farmland owned by the city on Spanish Needle Road.
- Voted to donate a $130 sponsorship to the Gillespie High School yearbook.
- Voted to move a “seasonal” Street Department worker to part-time status, allowing him to continue working for the department for a maximum of 30 hours per week.
- Agreed to spend $1,000 to purchased used playground equipment for installation on city-owned properties.
- Set the date for treat-or-treating in Gillespie for Oct. 31 only.
- Set Dec. 2 as the date for the city’s annual senior citizens Christmas dinner.