The Gillespie City Council is likely to vote on raising sewer rates as early as next month, City Treasurer Dan Fisher told council members Monday night during the panel’s regular monthly meeting.
Fisher’s discussion followed the council’s approval of $40,000 in emergency spending to repair a deteriorating sewer line on Clark Street which feeds the Clark Street Lift Station—the first in a series of lift stations within the system to keep raw sewage flowing to the treatment plant.
“It’s in bad shape,” Mayor John Hicks acknowledged.
Fisher said the council will consider next month a measure to authorize about $60,000 in repairs for the Clark Street Lift Station itself.
“That’s $100,000 for this project alone, and this is just a small part of our system.” Fisher said. Meanwhile, according to Fisher, the city has only $212,000 in the Sewer Fund, meaning nearly 50 percent of the entire fund will be spent on the Clark Street project.
“I talked to you about raising sewer rates in the past,” Fisher said. “It’s time to do that now.” He said a draft ordinance to raise rates will be presented to the council in September but did not announce the size of the increase to be proposed.
In March 2020, Fisher advised the council the City of Gillespie would be ineligible for state or federal loans or grants because the city’s sewer rates are too low. At that time, Fisher said state grant administrators are invoking a previously seldom-used rule requiring municipalities to meet a minimum threshold for water and sewer rates. That rule requires rates for 5,000 gallons of usage to be one percent of a community’s average household income. That would put Gillespie’s minimum rate at about $30 for minimum usage.
The council earlier raised water rates to improve the city’s eligibility for grants and loans to finance the recently completed $10 million water infrastructure replacement project.
Gillespie residents currently pay about $15 for minimum usage sewer service—about half of the state’s recommended minimum. During his presentation last year, Fisher said he would present a plan to incrementally raise rates over a period of time to preclude doubling the rate at one time.
In other action Monday night, the council learned that the Gillespie-Benld Ambulance Service had tentatively agreed to a contract for the city to provide dispatching services for one year, appointed a Mayor Pro Tem, and concurred with the Police Department’s hiring of a new Resource Officer to provide policing services at the Community Unity School District 7 school campus.
Ald. Dona Rauzi told the council the Gillespie-Benld Ambulance Service had verbally agreed to a proposed contract that would require the Ambulance Service to compensate the city $12,000 for dispatching services. The contract is awaiting formal approval by the Ambulance Service Board of Trustees, after which the council will give its final approval for the agreement.
The development ends months of contentious negotiation between the city and the Ambulance Service. The city originally proposed a three-year contract starting at $12,000 for the first year, increasing to $17,500 the second year and increasing to $25,000 in the third year. Representatives of the Ambulance Board had sought to limit the amount compensation to $10,000 a year—about double the $5,000 the Ambulance Service traditionally gave the Police Department as an annual donation.
The new contract, if ratified and signed, is good for one year.
MAYOR PRO TEM
At the urging of Ald. Bill Hayes, Mayor Hicks appointed Ald. Dona Rauzi as Mayor Pro Tem, essentially a “vice mayor” who can sign documents and preside over meetings in the event the mayor is absent or incapacitated. Hayes cited a recent incident during which a second in command took action at the Water Treatment Plant when the council’s Water Chair was unavailable. He said it would be wise for the city to also have a second in command at the city’s executive level to take emergency action in the mayor’s absence.
Hayes disclosed his recommendation for the post would be Rauzi. City Attorney Dan O’Brien pointed out, however, that the Mayor Pro Tem is technically a mayoral appointment, after which Hicks immediately appointed Rauzi to the spot.
The previous Mayor Pro Tem was former Ald. Dave Tucker, who was defeated in last April’s consolidated election. Mayor Hicks had not appointed a successor after newly elected aldermen were seated in May.
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER
On a motion by Rauzi, seconded by Ald. Frank Barrett, the council approved Police Chief Jared DePoppe’s decision to hire Roby Iroy, Hillsboro, to serve as a School Resource Officer within Community Unit School District 7.
DePoppe said Iroy has “extensive police experience,” including a lengthy stint with the Secretary of State/State Capitol Police and the Girard Police Department.
Iroy will fill a vacancy created by the June 11 retirement of long-time School Resource Officer Jassen Stinnett.
COAL MUSEUM FACADE GRANT
With one dissenting vote, the council approved payment of the second portion of a facade improvement grant to the Illinois Coal Museum from the Tax Increment Financing Fund (TIFF). Fisher said half of the $53,800 project will be covered with a museum grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources with the city subsidizing the remaining $16,900 portion.
The TIFF reimbursement grant will help cover the cost of an extensive facade update that includes new signage and the addition of a plaque listing the names of about 400 Macoupin County miners who died on the job while working in Macoupin County coal mines.
Ald. Bob Fritz voted against the measure without further comment.
BOAT PARKING LEASE AGREEMENT
On the recommendation of Lake Chair Barrett, the council approved an agreement to allow boat owners to lease parking spaces at Gillespie Lake to store their trailered boats when not in use. Lease agreements will be available at a cost of $100 for six months or $200 for a full year.
In other action, the council:
- approved an ordinance to convert the intersection of Shelby Street and Chestnut Street from a two-way stop to a four-way stop.
- approved an ordinance to facilitate the city receiving funds from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.
- heard a complaint from Andrew Stokes who said his water bill jumped last month from an average usage of 3,500 gallons to 15,900 gallons. Hicks told Stokes that Water Department employees would be directed to recheck Stokes’ water meter.
- approved an outdoor liquor license for Josh Taylor of Cee-Joos Tavern on Oct. 16. Taylor plans to block of the parking lot on the north side of the business for an outdoor party.
No action followed a 30-minute executive session to discuss personnel.