Members of the Gillespie City Council voted Monday night to draft a “letter of support” authorizing Peace Corps Fellow Ethan Fogg to initiate work on a plan to guide the city’s long-term economic development efforts.
The council also approved a measure to increase bulk sewage rates and voted to hire a full-time police officer.
Fogg told the council the city needs both a Revitalization Plan and a Comprehensive Plan, with the Revitalization Plan being the least extensive. Essentially a “road map” to guide long-term economic development efforts, the Revitalization Plan also will be an asset to improve the city’s odds of obtaining state and federal grants for economic development projects. Last month, Fogg discussed with the council the availability of an Illinois Housing Development Authority grant for demolishing decrepit properties. At the time, the council determined there was not enough time to complete the grant application before the mid-February deadline, but Fogg said Monday night that he should be able to complete the Revitalization Plan before September when there is a possibility of a new round of IDHA property grants.
“It’s not something I can do alone,” Fogg said, adding that he would need input from the council and community members to draft the Revitalization Plan. Ald. Wendy Rolando noted it would be inadvisable to hold a community meeting because of COVID-19 precautions, but Fogg said much of the needed input could be gathered by using surveys.
Fogg said he would provide council members with samples of Revitalization Plans created for other communities. Plans for larger cities sometimes run to hundreds of pages while a plan for a smaller community like Gillespie could be 36 pages or less and can be completed in a relatively short period of time.
The Comprehensive Plan, Fogg said, will be much more extensive and detailed, and could take up to a year to complete.
“Basically it’s a road map of where we want to go and how to get there,” Mayor John Hicks said of the Revitalization Plan.
BULK SEWAGE RATES
Council members voted unanimously to increase bulk sewage rates from $3 per 100 gallons to $4 per 100 gallons. The increase will not go into effect until after the council approves a formal resolution next month. In the meantime, the City Clerk will send letters to current bulk haulers to notify them of the impending increase.
Mayor Hicks said there are three or four haulers to bring loads of up to 20,000 gallons each month to run through the city’s sewage treatment system.
“Over a year’s time, it’s about three-quarters of a million gallons of sewage from other places going through our plant,” Hicks said. Revenue realized from bulk sewage treatment, he said, amounts to about $20,000 annually.
“I think we could raise it to $4 and no one would complain,” said City Treasurer Dan Fisher.
“They did the last time,” Ald. Frank Barrett noted.
Despite the rate increase, Hicks said he doesn’t anticipate any reduction in the volume of bulk sewage the city handles. The nearest other facility accepting bulk sewage, he said, is in Granite City.
“I think we must be about the cheapest around or otherwise they wouldn’t be coming to us,” Hicks said.
NEW POLICE OFFICER
Following a 20-minute executive session with Police Chief Jared DePoppe, the council voted unanimously to hire Nicholas Pratt as a full-time police officer.
Pratt will replace a full-time officer who recently resigned to accept another position. Pratt, 29, Palmyra, has previously served as a part-time police officer for the City of Gillespie.
In other personnel matters, the council voted to pay $575 for Water Department employee Ethan Martin to attend a class to acquire certification as a sewage treatment operator but left open the question of whether or not the city would pay the fee upfront or reimburse Martin upon getting his license.
Appearing before the council, Martin said there are only two other workers with sewage treatment certification, both of whom are set to retire in five to 10 years.
“I think this is small investment for someone this young who will be here for years and years,” Ald. Rick Fulton commented.
Ald. Dave Tucker, who chairs the Water Committee, told Martin he would have to pass the licensing test before being reimbursed for the cost of the course.
“That’s not been past practice,” Martin said, citing several employees for whom courses were paid for in advance.
Mayor Hicks said the council would discuss paying the fee in advance. In the meantime, he said it was a good idea for Martin to obtain his certification not only because of upcoming retirements in the Water Department but also to have someone with licensing available in the event another employee is sick or otherwise unable to work.
REVOLVING LOAN FORGIVEN
Council members unanimously approved a resolution to release a $3,505.95 lien against the property that formerly was the location for True-Value Hardware. The lien represents the amount reportedly owed by former owners Gene and Roxanne Smalley on an economic development loan executed between them and the city sometime before the store closed. The resolution essentially forgives the delinquency in order to facilitate the possible sale of the building.
Bill Toprani approached the council last month to ask the city to consider releasing the lien as he explored the possibility of purchasing the building.
FACADE IMPROVEMENT GRANTS
Council members approved a $2,785 facade improvement grant application from Austin Peterson, owner of AJ Pete Co, for improvements to the front of his building on Macoupin Street. The grant, to be paid from Tax Increment Financing revenue, will cover less than 50 percent of Peterson’s planned $7,300 project. The grant will be awarded as a reimbursement after the project is completed.
The council also approved a resolution to release TIF funds to pay a facade improvement grant awarded to Dave Link of Lumpy’s Bar and Grill, pending verification and submission of receipts.
The council authorized creating three separate checking accounts to deposit TIF funds and pay grant awards for three pending facade improvement grants previously approved by the council.
In other action, the council:
- Heard a report from City Treasurer Fisher regarding the status of work on a major water main leak that occurred near the Gillespie High School football field and affected water pressure and distribution in the city. Fisher said the situation occurred when workers attempted to remove a faulty fire hydrant that broke off due to rusted bolts. Workers then attempted to shut off the main but was unable to do because of a faulty shut-off valve. Temporary measures are in place, but water is continuing to leak because of an undiscovered cross-connection. Fisher said further work won’t be possible until there is a break in the current cold weather snap.
- Voted to give the Mayor Power to Act on accepting a low bid for replacing the pump house roof when those bids arrive next week.
- Declared a retired 2010 Crown Victoria squad car and a 2011 Crown Victoria squad car as surplus property to be offered for sale by sealed bid.
- Approved a pay resolution to authorize payment of $18,043.58 to Curry and Associates Engineers and $85,968.79 to the City of Gillespie in connection with the water infrastructure replacement project. The payment to the city is for work completed by city workers that is reimbursable under the Rural Development loan and grant used to finance the project.