After years of delay, the Gillespie City Council on Monday night accepted bids totaling more than $100,000 to erect fencing around the city’s water treatment plant and adjacent solar panel field. Collins and Herman Infrastructure Solutions, St. Louis, was the sole bidder for the projects.
On a motion by Ald. Wendy Rolando, the council voted unanimously to accept a bid of $69,850 to construct a chainlink fence around the water plant and a bid of $35,750 for fencing around the solar field. The company also offered a bid of $57,250 for chainlink fencing around the city’s tennis courts.
“I’d like to see us move on the solar field and the water plant,” said Ald. Landon Pettit. “The water plant should have been done years ago and we promised people we would fence the solar field.”
Before opening the bid, Pettit reported he had been contacted by a couple of other contractors who had missed the deadline. City Treasurer Dan Fisher said the project could be rebid to accommodate additional bidders. In the meantime, he said, the city had the option of rejecting bids if the bid in hand was too high. Council members expressed some surprise at the size of the bids, but Fisher pointed out that the engineer’s estimate for the solar field project was $40,000, meaning the Collins and Herman bid came in below the estimate.
“Do we have that kind of money in the Water Department?” Pettit asked.
Fisher said he didn’t have a copy of the appropriation ordinance with him so he could not confirm what the Water Department had appropriated for capital improvements. He recommended accepting the bid “and we’ll figure out the finances later.”
The council agreed that both expenditures were necessary despite the amount of money involved. Ald. Bob Fritz said the water plant needed to be fenced not only for security but also public safety because of open wells on the property. “We get after people to fence their pools in town,” he said, indicating the wells pose a similar hazard.
“We promised (to fence the solar field) and most solar fields do have fences around them,” Fisher said
The council took no action regarding the tennis court bid. Pettit said the City Property Committee asked for the bid primarily because it was a requirement for a grant application.
MINERS PACKAGE LIQUOR LICENSE
The council took no action on a preliminary request for a package liquor license from the owner of Miners Restaurant. Mayor John Hicks said the owner had contacted him to say “he wants to get out of the restaurant because the price of food and keeping help.” Hicks said the owner wants to keep his electronic gaming license and open a package liquor/smoke shop in the restaurant location.
Hicks indicated he is not in favor of the proposal, adding the city already has a package liquor operation. He said he’d rather explore options the city has at its disposal to keep the restaurant open.
“We already have one package liquor store,” said Ald. Rolando, “plus all the convenience stores have package liquor.”
“When you drive down Macoupin Street, it seems like all you see now are the big flags for gaming,” Ald. Pettit added.
“I’ll talk to him and see what we can do to help him keep the restaurant,” Hicks said. “I’d rather do that.”
FOOD TRUCK ORDINANCE
Council members voted unanimously to approve a new ordinance governing the operation of food trucks in the city but tabled action on a proposed ordinance regarding residential fences.
The new food truck ordinance establishes minimum sanitation and public health standards for food trucks, and restricts food trucks to operating only on private property in the city. The ordinance also establishes a permit fee structure calling for $100 for four days of operation, plus $25 for each additional day in excess of four days.
The proposed fence ordinance includes requirements on the height of fences and their location in regard to property lines. The council tabled action on the ordinance and directed the city attorney to add a clause to grandfather existing fences.
Police Chief Jared DePoppe told council members he had secured permission from the Mayor to hire Lesli Frank as a full-time dispatcher to fill a vacancy on the police staff. Frank has a master’s degree in criminology, DePoppe said. Originally from the Staunton area, Frank most recently was employed as a dispatcher in Hillsboro.
DePoppe also secured permission from the council to send a yet unnamed recruit to the Illinois Police Academy for training. DePoppe said he had narrowed candidates to three finalists and expected to make a decision on hiring one of them soon. The next Police Academy training sessions begin in November.
The police chief also reported to the council that he is investigating a program under which the city can lease police cars from Enterprise Car Rentals. He said several police departments in Illinois use the program. DePoppe said he believes the program will save the city money overall while ensuring older cars are rotated out of service before they become repair and maintenance liabilities.
DePoppe advised the council that he wants to upgrade the department’s security camera system at a cost of $1,500. The current system is aging, he said and is a critical component of the police department’s operation. In addition to monitoring activity at the headquarters, the system also is used to record interviews with suspects and witnesses and is frequently used by other agencies.
Hicks commented that the city is considering purchasing security cameras for the Street Department and Civic Center. “We might be able to get a better price by bundling them together,” Hicks said.
WATER MAIN BREAK
The council spent several minutes discussing a recent water main break that precipitated a boil order for the city as well as satellite customers.
Ald. Bill Hayes allayed concerns that the break posed a threat to fire suppression in the city and surrounding communities. He said Fire Chief Larry Norville was “on top of it,” arranging for standby firefighting capabilities. Additionally, he said, the water tower was full and a fire hydrant at the base of the tower would have provided access to water for tankers if needed.
Ald. Pettit praised city workers for their rapid response but reported that water main maps the city has on file are inaccurate. He said the valve locations on the maps are wrong in many cases. To find a shutoff valve for the most recent break, city workers had to use a metal detector, according to Pettit.
The city will seek to collect phone numbers for all Water Department customers in anticipation of acquiring an all-call system to contact customers in the event of a citywide boil order. Ald. Dona Rauzi said she had consulted with Mark Carpani about a program the city could try for as little as $375 but council members declined to act until the city figures out how to compile nearly 2,000 phone numbers into a spreadsheet.
Rauzi said the system she looked at operated on the basis of “credits” with each credit representing one automated phone call. She said the city could purchase 10,000 credits for $700, or 5,000 credits for $375. The city could purchase additional credits in increments as small as 1,000 but unused credits at the end of the calendar year would be lost.
The system also would allow the city to send text messages to customers with a limit of 160 characters. The system also can deliver a recorded 45-second message. For phone customers who do not pick up and do not have voice mail, the system would try calling up to 11 times in an eight-hour period. The system requires no new software or hardware.
The council appeared poised to authorize the purchase of 5,000 credits until questions arose about compiling the spreadsheet of phone numbers.
“Who’s going to type these phone numbers?” Fisher asked, adding that office staff in the City Clerk’s office did not have time to devote to the project. Ald. Pettit suggested that aldermen could volunteer to come in during evening hours to type and proofread the list. In the meantime, city water customers will be contacted—probably through the billing system—to provide phone numbers for the all-call system.
Once the phone numbers are compiled, the council is expected to take final action regarding the purchase of the system.
On a motion by Ald. Bob Fritz, the council agreed to pay for materials to replace a sidewalk in the 600 block of Adams Street that was damaged during the recent water infrastructure replacement project. The sidewalk project will replace about 151 feet of walkway, using about 8 yards of concrete and costing approximately $1,100.
A heated exchange between visitor Dave Link and Ald. Bill Hayes focused on the decision to remove a 10-foot section of damaged sidewalk on Macoupin Street. Link appeared before the council to again comment about residents parking on sidewalks in the residential area of Macoupin Street.
“I’ve been here I don’t know how many months complaining about people parking on the sidewalk,” Link said. He said police finally responded to his complaints and the behavior temporarily stopped. However, he said, residents have again begun parking vehicles on sidewalks.
Link complained about the removal of a section of sidewalk on Macoupin Street, alleging city officials decided it was easier to remove the sidewalk rather than stop people from parking on them.
A clearly perturbed Ald. Hayes said the damaged sidewalk was removed to accommodate a disabled person who could not navigate the broken walkway.
“Why didn’t you fix it?” Link wanted to know.
Hayes responded that Link allegedly has an unlicensed truck behind his business with weeds growing around it in violation of city ordinance.
The exchange eventually was ended by the Mayor calling for order.
After the argument, Fisher said that people parking on the boulevard is an issue the city should take seriously and should address.
“We need to give some thought to it,” Fisher said. “It impacts our drainage. It’s something we need to take seriously.”
Council members also heard from Bill Bruhn who thanked the Street Department and Mayor Hicks for responding to his complaint about a ditch at his residence damaged by the water infrastructure project. He also criticized city aldermen for failing to respond to his concerns previously.
“I got more done in an afternoon (talking to Hicks) than I got done in three years,” Bruhn said. “I fell in the ditch once and my grandson fell in it. There are several of you who knew it was a hazard.”
The council referred to the city attorney a request from Justin Hagen to vacate a portion of Biddle Street behind his residence in the 400 block of Diana Drive. Hagen said he and his neighbor have maintained the unused portion of the street for several years.
Later in the meeting, the council voted to refer the issue to City Attorney Rick Verticchio to determine if vacating the street is prudent and possible.
In other action, the council:
- Declared 515 Frey Street a public nuisance.
- Authorized Dave Pickett to attend an Illinois Rural Water Association conference later this month.
- Approved a resolution to reimburse the city $4,988 from the Tax Increment Finance Fund for landscaping work done. By Patrick’s Landscaping.
- Approved a resolution to pay Schuette Design $2,800 from the TIF fund for work Dennis Schuete completed on analyzing the possibility of moving the Police Department into space at the Civic Center vacated by the Gillespie Fire Department.
- Approved payment resolutions for $3,925 to Wells Fargo Vender Financial, $2,689 to Curry and Associates Engineers and $1,318 to Sunbelt Rentals.