A divided Gillespie City Council voted 4-3 Monday night to purchase a used boat for patrolling Gillespie Lake.
Lake Committee chair Landon Pettit said Lake Superintendent Gary Thornhill has been using his personal vessel for lake patrol after the city sold off a patrol boat two years ago. Recently, Thornhiill’s boat sustained minor damage while on patrol at the lake, according to Pettit. Pettit said he has since found a boat a Bob’s Marine, Litchfield, that is “perfect” for a patrol boat. The new vessel, being sold on consignment, is priced at $13,000. Installing equipment to make the boat serviceable as a patrol boat will cost another $600.
“That boat isn’t going to sit around for long,” Pettit said in moving to authorize the $13,600 purchase.
Ald. Dona Rauzi voiced objections to the purchase, noting the city had spent more than $20,000 on lake expenses the previous month.
“This is cheaper than a squad car,” Pettit said, “and we’ve bought several of those.”
“We have several police officers,” Rauzi responded, “and we have one Lake Superintendent.”
“Yes,” Pettit retorted, “and he doesn’t have a patrol boat.”
Pettit said the boat is needed not only for routine lake patrol but also for more frequent water sampling now required by EPA.
After Ald. Frank Barrett seconded Pettit’s motion, City Attorney Rick Verticchio questioned whether the city should seek bids. Pettit said a bidding process wasn’t needed because the purchase involves used equipment. State law sets the ceiling for no-bid purchases at $20,000.
“You won’t find a better price,” Pettit argued.
“Who knows?” Verticchio said. He said the city could write specifications to match the boat under consideration and advertise for bids. “You could find one at a better price.”
Brought to a vote, Ald. Barret, Pettit, Bob Fritz and Janet Odell-Mueller voted to approve the purchase, with Ald. Rauzi, Bill Hayes and Dave Link voting “no.” Ald. Wendy Rolando was absent.
EQUIPMENT PURCHASES TABLED
The council voted to give Mayor John Hicks power to act on purchasing a $34,000 Bobcat skidster for the Street Department, and tabled action on the purchase of a $37,000 boom mower until the council’s September meeting.
Ald. Fritz said the vendor would sell the 76-horsepower Bobcat for $33,924 with the trade-in of the city’s current, smaller machine. Monthly payments, he said would amount to $673.
Ald. Pettit said the council agreed to buy the current Bobcat a year ago for the water infrastructure improvement project with the intention of trading it in later for a larger machine. The current machine, he said, is too small for the city’s needs.
Ald. Link, however, said one of the complaints was that the smaller machine did not lift high enough to load materials over the sideboards of a truck. He said the problem can be resolved by simply taking the sideboards off. Ald. Rauzi worried about additional expenses if Public Works comes back with proposals to buy new attachments.
Pettit said his committee planned to trade-in a sweeper and mowing attachment because they are not needed, and had no plans to buy replacements.
Mayor Hicks initially proposed referring the issue back to committee, but Fritz moved to give the mayor power to act after an upcoming committee meeting in two weeks. That motion was unanimously approved.
Without taking formal action, the council referred the purchase of a boom mower back to committee with the expectation of a recommendation for the September council meeting. Fritz said the city leased the unit to clean up the creek banks at a cost of $8,000, which would be applied to the purchase price, leaving a balance of $37,000.
On a motion by Ald. Link, the council voted unanimously to declare a residence at 706 Spring Street a public nuisance after hearing concerns from Schatzi Grossglauser who lives next door. Grossglauser cited an accumulation of rubbish, along with tall weeds and grass that have encouraged populations of rodents and snakes. She said she recently had to chase a seven-foot snake out of her yard. She said siding is missing from the rear of the home, leaving the interior open to the elements.
“I can’t let any kids play in my backyard,” she explained.
The homeowner reportedly has been cited for ordinance violations but has not yet abated the nuisance. City Attorney Rick Verticchio said failing to correct a situation after receiving a citation alone is not enough for him to pursue remedies in court. To get the court to authorize the city to clean-up the property, Verticchio said a public nuisance declaration is required.
“I don’t want to attack anyone’s home but this one looks like it’s in pretty bad shape,” Verticchio said. “The question for the council is whether you want to issue an ordinance citation or if you want to ask the court to order her to clean it up or tear it down. Declaring it is a public nuisance will put the city in a position to take action.”
Link also asked about the status of property at 1102 Second Street, which was previously declared a public nuisance. He said people apparently continue to live in the building without basic amenities. Verticchio said the property owners have been served with legal notice and a first appearance is set for Aug. 29 in Macoupin County Circuit Court.
In a related matter, the council approved, on Verticchio’s recommendation, an ordinance amendment that increases the minimum fine for ordinance violations from $50 to $200, and dramatically increases fines for second and third offenses within 36 months. Verticchio said the court has been imposing small fines for ordinance violations, which do not act as a deterrent. The new ordinance will preclude judges from imposing $50 fines by establishing a $200 minimum.
Moreover, the ordinance imposes drastically increased fines for second and third offenses. A defendant with multiple repeat violations could end up liable for fines totaling as much as $1,800.
“That’s enough to get their attention,” said Verticchio.
FULL-TIME COP HIRE
On the recommendation of Police Chief Jared DePoppe, the council approved the hiring of Daniel Huffman as a full-time police officer. Previously employed as a part-time officer for Gillespie, DePoppe said Huffman recently completed mandatory training to serve as a full-time officer.
DePoppe also reported that the Gillespie Police Department is partnering with the National Child Identification program to provide child identification packets to local parents. Department officers will fingerprint children whose parents want an identification record, which will be sent home with the parents to keep in a secure place. The fingerprints and other information can be used to identify a child in the event of a kidnapping, murder or natural disaster. DePoppe emphasized the fingerprints are solely for the parents’ peace of mind.
“They go home with the parents,” he said. “We don’t keep them and they don’t go into a database.”
In other personnel action, the council accepted the resignation of Water Department employee Zach Besserman.
SEWAGE DUMP FEE
Council members voted unanimously to charge a token $1 dump fee for waste haulers dumping city-generated sewage at the city lagoon. The action comes after Ald. Pettit disclosed that waste haulers taking sewage from the lake campground dump station to the lagoon pay a $40 fee for each load. With the expansion of the camping opportunities, Pettit said the lake has two sewage storage tanks totaling 2,400 gallons. Pro-Septic, the lake’s current provider, has a truck that requires two trips to empty the tanks at a cost of about $500 every two weeks. White Sanitation, on the other hand, can haul the entire volume in one trip for $225, plus the $40 dump fee.
“Essentially, he (White Sanitation) is going to save us $300 every two weeks,” Pettit said.
Pettit initially proposed waiving the dumping fee but City Treasurer Dan Fisher said U.S. Department of Agriculture, which financed the sewer improvement project, requires all entities depositing effluent in the lagoon to pay a fee of some sort. He recommended setting the fee for city-generated waste at a token $1.
DUCKS OR WATERFOWL
On Pettit’s recommendation, the council voted to change the official title for the city’s annual hunting blind program from “duck hunting” to “waterfowl hunting” to accommodate waterfowlers who hunt geese. Previously, the city assigned blinds for duck hunting season which ends Dec. 31. Goose hunting season continues through Jan. 31, meaning goose hunters who used their blinds after Dec. 31 were essentially hunting without authorization. The language change addresses and corrects the discrepancy.
LAKE LOT CONTROVERSY
After a 20-minute executive session, the council advised that no one can use a Gillespie Lake lot at 414 Farley Lane until after a background check is completed on prospective renters and the council reaches a decision on whether or not to enter into a lease agreement with them. No details were discussed, but the prospective renters and/or associates of the prospective renters had attempted to use the lot before having a lease agreement in hand.
“This has been going on since December,” Ald. Pettit said. “Nobody is to go onto that lot until we get a background check. No decision will be made on the lease until we get that report.”
Pettit told the prospective renters they could go onto the lot to recover property, provided they notify lake management in advance.
In other action, the council voted to spend $245 to send Water Treatment Plant Operator Dave Pickett to a municipal water conference.