Members of the Benld City Council voted unanimously Monday night to enter into a contract not to exceed $40,025 for HMG Engineering to develop bidding specifications and supervise work associated with a project to repaint the city’s water storage tower located north of City Park.
Justin VonderHaar, an engineer with HMG, told the council his firm is consulting with outside professionals to determine whether the tower can be power washed to prepare it for painting or if it will need to be stripped to bare metal. Removing the old paint, he said, would substantially increase the cost but HMG’s contract is limited to $40,025 in either case.
VonderHaar said he would return for the council’s next regular meeting in November with bidding specifications and cost estimates for the project. Tentative estimates for the project range from $150,000 to $200,000, depending upon the extent of preparatory work needed. The project is expected to get underway next spring.
Council members also were told personnel from Water Treat Technologies, Central, are expected to be in town Monday, Oct. 25, to treat the city’s sewage lagoon to eradicate an infestation of duckweed at a cost of $8,380. The duckweed eradication is necessary before Water Treat Technologies can return with a remote control ground penetrating radar device to measure the amount of sludge in the lagoon a cost of $3,250.
VonderHaar previously reported that Illinois Environmental Protection Agency investigated the lagoon last February but only recently issued a final report, which basically approved the lagoon for continued operation but questioned the amount sludge the lagoon might be carrying. Water Treat Technologies’ study will determine whether or not the lagoon needs to be dredged or improved with an aeration system and the addition of biological agents—a project that could cost in the neighborhood of $85,000.
According to VonderHaar, city workers are in the process of lowering the water level in the lagoon prior to the duckweed treatment. The chemical Water Treat Technologies plans to use requires the city to avoid any discharge from the lagoon for a period of one to two weeks.
VonderHaar also reported that an extensive grant-funded project to replace or re-line aging sewer lines on the city’s northeast side is nearing completion. A major component yet to be completed involves installation of a new electrical panel and electronic controls for a sewage system lift station. Final clean-up from the project will take place in the spring.
On a motion by Ald. John Balzraine, the council also approved a new contract for the annual cleaning and inspection of the water tower interior.
CIVIC CENTER OPEN HOUSE
Balzraine announced the city will host an open house for members of the public to view the newly renovated Civic Center from 2 to 4 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 29. Rick DeStefane, a Benld native and former resident who financially subsidized the remodel, will be present and the city will rededicate the facility as the DeStefane Event Center. The center will be available to rent beginning November 1.
The renovation includes a remodeled and updated kitchen, updated bathrooms that are handicapped accessible, new ceiling, updated finishes and a resealed floor. A platform formerly located at the front of the room has been removed. Photos and biographies of Benld veterans that were installed for the Benld Centennial have been removed and relocated to the City Library to make them more accessible to the public and make the Civic Center more amenable to events such as wedding receptions.
In formal action, the council approved the rental agreement for city facitilites, including the Civic Center and City Park. The agreement includes provisions that require dram shop insurance for events serving alcohol, prohibiting smoking on city-owned property, and requiring persons using the Civic Center kitchen to comply with public health food handling requirements.
Ald. Jerry Saracco said the Italian-American Club, which uses the park for its annual Italian-American Days festival, could not practically monitor smoking on the grounds, nor could it comply with a provision banning on-site cooking at the park. The club purchases its own dram shop insurance because the size of the event precludes them from going through the city for insurance. He agreed to approve the rental agreement with those exceptions carved out of the document.
The council met in executive session for 35 minutes to discuss legal issues with City Attorney Rick Verticchio and personnel. Verticchio made a report in open session on the status of ordinance violation cases brought against several nuisance properties, but the council took no action on the personnel issue. A city employee attending the meeting was briefly called into the closed-door session but left immediately when the council returned to open session.
COUNCIL RAISES MINIMUM FINES
By unanimous vote, the council approved an ordinance increasing the minimum fines assessed for ordinance violations. Under the ordinance the fine assessed for a first offense is no less than $200, nor more than $500. A second violation of the same ordinance within a three-year period will result in a minimum fine of $750 up to $1,000. The minimum fine for a third violation of the same ordinance within three years is $1,250 and can go as high as $1,500.
Council members also approved a resolution formally increasing the minimum water rate for service outside the city limits. Last month, the council raised the minimum rate for residential users from $12 to $13 per month but neglected to include rate increases for users outside the city limits. With Monday night’s action, that rate is now increased from $14.51 to $15.51. The one dollar increase across the board is expected to recoup the extra expense incurred by the water department as a result of a rate increase imposed by the City of Gillespie, which supplies treated water to the Benld system.
FATE OF GAY HARDWARE BUILDING
Catherine Young, owner of the former Gay Hardware Building at 409 East Central Avenue, appeared before the council to report on her progress toward demolishing and removing the building. She said she has found a facility in which to store items currently stored in the deteriorating building. She said she expects to have her personal property removed within the next three weeks.
Ultimately she expects to raze the building and have the debris removed. Saving the building, she said, is cost prohibitive. The estimated cost for a new roof is a minimum of $25,000. She discovered the floor is weakened and would need substantial structural repair and the building would need a new heating system.
“I hate to take it down but I don’t know what else to do,” she said. “I don’t have that kind of money.”
At Ald. Saracco’s insistence, Young agreed to return next month to report on her progress. She said she is working with a couple of contractors to demolish building and also negotiating with neighboring property owner Ken Snider who has expressed an interest in acquiring the property for a vineyard.
The council approved a business license for Blessing Boxes, a not-for-profit, charitable organization operated by Don and Laura O’Brien and a staff of volunteers. The O’Briens plan to use office space at 210B East Central Avenue for administrative offices and temporary storage of non-perishable food items.
Eleven “Blessing Boxes” have been set up on the grounds of Hebenstreit Apartments in Benld, Mt. Clare, Gillespie, Bunker Hill, Carlinville, Litchfield, Staunton and Livingston. Using donations of food and cash, the group plans to stock the boxes weekly with food items for individuals and families in need of food.
In other action, the council:
- Voted to renew a liability insurance policy offered through the Illinois Municipal League with an annual premium of $22,456. City Clerk Terri Koyne said the premium represents an increase of about $2,000 from the previous year but that the premium has remained unchanged for the past three years. In the meantime, the city has added a new tractor to the list of insured items and increased the bond for the Mayor and Clerk for purposes of grant administration.
- Accepted a bid of $1,900 from Emmon’s Tree Service, Carlinville, to remove soft maple trees in the 400 block of South Illinois Street and the 200 block of North Seventh Street, trim seven Bradford pear trees downtown, and remove three stumps.
- Agreed to purchase for the Water Department a utility locator at a cost of $899.83, a water leak detector at a cost of $16145.88, and an emergency back-up pump at a cost of $2,170.90.
- Agreed to appoint Bill Bertetto, Jr. to a three year term on the Library Board. Bertetto will fill a spot formerly held by Cathy Barlyske.