Following the lead of the City of Benld, Wilsonville Village trustees voted Tuesday night to advertise for bids to demolish a fire-damaged residence in the 300 block of Schmidt Street and remove the debris. Trustee Stanley Katich cited Benld’s recent action to raze the former Doggy’s Tavern, also damaged by fire, when he moved to seek bids near the end of Tuesday night’s meeting. Trustee Dustin Calcari seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved.
Village President Jeff Rhodes said there is no money in the village budget to pay for a demolition project and it’s his hope that the owner of the property can be identified and required to abate the alleged nuisance. The residence reportedly was purchased for back taxes by an absentee tax acquisition company. Efforts to have out-of-state law enforcement officers serve an ordinance violation summons on the owner, however, was unsuccessful. The most recent address reported to the Macoupin County Clerk is a post office box no longer in use.
In the Benld situation, the city was able to demolish the building by convincing Macoupin County Circuit Court to declare the property a public nuisance on an emergency basis. The city reportedly justified the emergency designation by arguing that the burned-out building posed a safety hazard. Wilsonville, however, has not taken steps toward having the property designated as a public nuisance.
According to Rhodes, the village intends to accept bids for demolishing the residence with the intent to take the next necessary steps to force the property owners to pay for the demolition.
ORDINANCE VIOLATION ISSUES
A substantial portion of Tuesday night’s meeting was devoted to calling attention to potential ordinance violations to be investigated by local police. Police Chief Kenneth Kallal, Carrollton, who attended the meeting, took notes and indicated he would follow up on the complaints.
Former Trustee Pam Zaksas asked whether or not the current village code requires residences to be inspected and determined to be fit for habitation prior to the village turning on water taps when new owners or tenants move in. She cited a home in her neighborhood which recently was sold contract for deed. The new owner, she said, reportedly is fixing up the residence with the intention of living in it.
“We’ve watched raccoons and possums going in out,” Zaksas said, alleging the home should be inspected before the new owner establishes residency and before water is turned on. She said she understood the village code requires housing inspections when tenants change. In the past, however, she said the ordinance simply referenced a “change in occupancy” and was not limited to rental units.
“Whoever turns on the water should check with whoever is in charge to see if there’s been an inspection,” Trustee Bill Molinar said.
Zaksas also reported to Kallal the presence of ever-growing “burn piles” in the first block of Marcia Street and the second block of School Street.
Molinar asked Kallal to look into a location in the 200 block of Rice Street where a resident has placed loose bricks over a city sidewalk and another location where a resident has built a ramp that extends over the sidewalk. Both situations, he said, pose potential safety hazards.
Calcari said he’d been in contact with the resident who placed the bricks on the sidewalk. “He said the reason he did it was because when it rains there are about eight inches of water that stands there and in the winter it freezes,” Calcari said. Calcari said he told the resident the village would work on a ditch in the vicinity to improve drainage and alleviate the water issue. Meanwhile, Kallal said he would contact the resident and give him a week to remove the bricks.
David Zaksas complained about the damage done to the street in front of his house, allegedly by school bus traffic. He said buses had pushed asphalt to the edge of the street resulting in a hump of dirt between the pavement and ditch. The ridge of dirt, he said, made it impossible for him to mow the right-of-way as required by ordinance. Molinar said he and Katich would use a backhoe to remove the ridge. Rhodes said he planned to contact school district officials prior to the school year regarding bus traffic and damage to village streets. “We’ve got bus problems all over town,” he said.
Molinar also made reference to the need for cleaning ditches throughout the village and suggested taking advantage of an intergovernmental agreement with the township to use the township road grader for the ditch shaping work. He said the only requirements are that the village has an operator capable of running the equipment and adequate insurance for using the equipment. Rhodes said he would look into the village’s insurance coverage for using the grader.
Resident Sharon Borgini chided Village President Rhodes for his response to an FOIA request she filed for access to a recording of the board’s May meeting. Rhodes said the recording is available in a digital format but he did not have the expertise to download the file and make it available to Borgini. Calcari agreed to bring in his laptop, download the file and email it to Borgini.
Borgini also criticized Police Chief Kallal for allegedly failing to follow-up with her regarding a complaint she registered last September. Kallal said he did not contact her again because the situation had been resolved. Borgini, however, said the issue was not resolved and that issues continued for some time after her initial complaint.
“What’s the reason you can’t come visit with people?” she demanded.
“There’s no reason,” Kallal responded. “But that was resolved.”
“Well, it wasn’t resolved,” Borgini said. “I’d appreciate it if you’d come talk to us.”
“I can do that,” Kallal replied.
“You should have done it before,” Borgini shot back. “It would have saved a lot of problems.”
WATER BILLING ISSUE
Village officials agreed to look into the reasons some residents are getting excessively large water bills after one resident appeared before the board to complain her most recent bill had doubled. Calcari said he had received at least three complaints from residents receiving excessive bills. He suggested hiring a person specifically for reading meters to guard against possible misreading. Meters currently are read by city maintenance workers.
“I think the guy reading meters shouldn’t be the one reading them because it takes them away from his other work,” Molinar commented.
Rhodes said it might be possible that some meter readings were incorrectly entered into the billing system resulting in inappropriate bills. He suggested looking at average usage as a means of correcting excessive bills.
“I’m not saying that’s what happened,” he said, “but it could be that they’re getting entered wrong.”
In other action, the board:
- Authorized replacement of a by-pass valve on the sand filters at the village’s sewage treatment lagoon. Rhodes said the valve broke the last time it was used.
- Authorized Ruff n Tuff Tree Service to remove a memorial tree at the village hall the next time the company is in town to remove trees.
- Agreed to purchase one tandem load of cold patch for street repairs at an approximate cost of $4,000.