Benld City Council members voted Monday night to amend the city ordinance requiring inspections of residential rental properties and voted unanimously to purchase a pump to replace a unit damaged by cold weather, as well as an aerator for the city’s sewage treatment lagoon. Council members also heard a brief update on plans to redevelop the former site of Benld Elementary School as a public park
The meeting was postponed to Friday due to inclement weather on the regularly scheduled meeting date of Monday night.
Ald. John Balzraine’s motion to amend the property inspection ordinance was approved unanimously by the council His motion was seconded by Ald. Mickey Robinson, who returned to the council after a lengthy absence due to ill health.
The ordinance amendment requires landlords to register their properties in writing with the Benld City Clerk within 30 days of acquiring the property. Landlords who currently own rental properties are required to register their properties within 30 days of the ordinance’s passage. The ordinance applies to owners of single-family or multi-family rental units, as well as property owners who are leasing their property to tenants or selling property on a contract-for-deed arrangement.
The current city ordinance requires rental properties to pass a home inspection before it can be rented to another tenant after a previous tenant has left the property. The amendment is designed to prevent landlords from slipping through the cracks if city officials are not aware of whether or not a property is being used as a rental property.
Failure to comply with the ordinance can carry a fine of $150 for the first offense and $300 for a second offense. Upon a third offense, the property owned is subject to a fine of $500 to $1,000.
PUMP, AERATOR PURCHASE
Council members voted unanimously to approve on an emergency basis the purchase of a pump to pump water into the city’s water tower and aerator for the city’s sewage treatment lagoon. The pump was damaged beyond repair during a recent spate of extremely cold weather and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has mandated installation of the aerator.
Vandeventer Engineering, St. Louis, is the vendor for both pieces of equipment. The new pump comes with a price tag of $19,800. The aerator’s cost is $15,000.
The loss of the pump interfered with the city’s ability to supply water to residents, resulting in an extended boil order.
Mayor Jim Kelly recommended insulating the pump house building to guard against equipment damage in the future, but no immediate action was taken on his recommendation.
Ald. Dustin Fletcher noted that city workers should “check the building during cold weather” even when frigid temperatures occur over the weekend. “A little bit of overtime will save a lot of money,” he said.
City Clerk Terri Koyne said her office fielded numerous calls from residents “thanking us for the work the maintenance crew did this week.”
She also announced that this month’s water bills will include a request for water customers to supply the city with email addresses that can be used to advise customers directly when boil orders are issued in the future as well as other emergency notifications.
BENLD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PARK UPDATE
Anthony Kravanya, chair of a citizens committee coordinating plans to develop the former site of Benld Elementary School as a public park, reported to the council that completing plans for the back has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kravanya said the committee is working with a group of students from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, to survey the site and develop plans. The group had originally expected to have drawings completed in March.
“Because of COVID, they (the SIU students) have not been able to get together like they would like to,” Kravanya said “With COVID nothing has been normal.”
Completing the plans will depend upon how SIU deals with the COVID issue this semester, but Kravanya said he expects drawings to be completed by May since the university students will be graduating this spring.
The focus of the park will be on providing playing fields for competitive sports in which Community Unit School District 7 students will compete. In that regard, the delay in plans have not been a serious setback since high school and middle school students have been prohibited from competing until recently.
Kravanya said the group is working toward establishing the oversight committee as a 501-c corporation capable of accepting tax-deductible donations. That process will take about 18 months, he said.
In the meantime, he said he had been approached by several individuals who want to donate money when the 501-c designation is achieved and plan for the park are in hand.
Following a 10-minute executive session, the council agreed to sell the so-called “Gima Property” at 203 South Seventh Street to Roy Conlee for $3,350. The purchase price includes Conlee recovering back taxes on the property as well as legal fees. The property, acquired by the city through condemnation, has been the focus of litigation for several months. As a condition of the contract, Conlee is required to make the property livable or tear it down within six months. Failure to comply with the terms of the contract will cause the property to revert to city ownership at no cost to the city.
On a motion by Balzraine, seconded by Ald. Brian Frensko, the council also voted unanimously to designate the property at 410 South Seventh Street as a public nuisance. The action provides leverage to require the property owner to abate the nuisance or transfer the deed to the city.
IDHA GRANT UPDATE
Ald. Jim Tilashalski announced that the city was unable to meet the deadline for applying to the Illinois Department of Housing Administration for a grant which, if awarded, would have provided funds to tear down nuisance properties.
City Attorney Rick Verticchio said that when he reviewed the application, he found some of the properties identified in the application were not owned by the city, which is a requirement for the grant.
“One of the reasons we didn’t take the last step was that some of the properties listed were not under city ownership,” Verticchio said.
Since another round of grants is anticipated in September, Verticchio and Tilashalski recommended working toward the acquisition of the nuisance properties identified as concerns with an eye toward submitting a grant application later this year.
In other action, the council:
- Accepted a letter of engagement with Scheffel Boyle, CPAs, to complete this year’s state-mandated city audit at a cost not to exceed $12,000. The tab for last year’s audit came in at $11,800.
- Gave Mayor Kelly power to act on replacing equipment lost as a result of a burglary and theft last month at the City Maintenance Building. Kelly noted that some of the stolen equipment may be recovered upon completion of the investigation and prosecution of yet-to-be-identified suspects. In the meantime, he asked for authority to replace equipment on an “as needed” basis.