By Tony Hooker
The Villa Grove City Council met Monday, August 12 for the first of their two regular meetings, with all aldermen in attendance.
After leading the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Gunter then called for approval of the minutes of the July 8 meeting, and of the closed session meeting from July 1, and both were passed unanimously.
Gunter then called for approval of payment of claims in the amount of $305,065.91, for approval of financial statements for the month ending June 30, 2019, and for approval of the cash balance report for the month ending July 31, 2019, and all three were approved unanimously.
Finding no public comments, Gunter then asked Engineer Andy Kieser for his monthly report. Kieser began by noting that an expansion joint on the Front Street Bridge was loosened and would need to be repaired/replaced, and that this was the cause of the sound that can be heard when cars pass over it. He stated that with the council’s approval, he would ask members of his firm who work on bridges to come up with a plan for repair, and all council members were in agreement.
Next, he noted that the water mains that pass under the Sycamore Street Bridge would not have to be moved, but the forced sewer mains would still need to be relocated in advance of the bridge replacement that is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020. He also noted that he had been in contact with the contractor who originally installed the mains, and they were amenable to being involved in the relocation process. Kieser then noted that the city was making their final payment for the new water plant, and that phase two (demolition of the old plant and McCoy subdivision water line replacement) was heading toward the planning stages.
Alderman Garrett asked about some security issues surrounding the plant, and Kieser stated that he and Public Works Director Scott Arbuckle were discussing ways of inexpensively correcting the issue. Finally, Alderman Hooker asked about the presence of the odor stemming from the new water plant, and he stated that the media that is used to filter out the noxious odor had settled, thus allowing a portion to not be treated, and adding additional media, which is on order, to the system would once again alleviate the issue.
Mayor Gunter then called for reports from the committee as a whole, and Alderman Allen was quick to praise the city of Villa Grove and its employees for their assistance and support of the Ag Days community festival.
Alderman Blaney then asked Mr. Arbuckle about the storm sewer cover at Pine and Harrison, and Arbuckle responded that it was supposed to be arriving on Aug. 13.
She also asked about an inoperable water spigot at the senior center, and Arbuckle stated that he had just received the work order and would be taking a look at it on Tuesday. Blaney asked about the process for getting some overgrown trees taken care of on Ash Street, and Arbuckle stated his first focus was on the main thoroughfares through Villa Grove, but he would be expanding the operation as time allowed. Blaney finished by praising the city workers.
“I just want to say that you’re doing a good job,” she stated.
The sentiment was unanimously echoed by the council.
Alderman Johnson stated that he was impressed by the amount of work that was being done, as well.
Alderman Allen then mentioned the possibility of the city having some sort of fall festival again.
“I don’t want last year’s bad weather to keep us from trying again,” Allen said. Gunter then mentioned the possibility of working with a local establishment to host some sort of festival.
Finally, Hooker stated that he was impressed by all involved with the Ag Days festival.
“I couldn’t believe how clean Main Street and Harrison Park were,” Hooker stated. Allen was quick to point out that Coach Wilson and his football players were largely responsible for the cleanup.
Gunter then called on Jackie Athey for the monthly City Administrator report, and Athey stated that in the month previous, she attended a department of revenue workshop, and they are automating many of their processes. She also stated she attended the national treasurer’s conference in Oklahoma. Athey also attended a Douglas County Enterprise zone meeting, the purpose of which was to form an advisory board, at the meeting. Brian Moody stated that he had already been approached by two different vendors concerning expansion based on the tax benefits available from the enterprise zone. She also stated that at the meeting, they discussed the boundaries of the enterprise zone, and that they were fluid rather than static. She added that someone from near Sidney had approached them about being included, even though they’re located in Champaign County. When questioned about how that would help Villa Grove, Athey stated that the idea is to bring new jobs to the area, and that Sidney is fairly local. She also said there was discussion of the issues surrounding address changes and the US Census, since a great deal of the census process is now online and many Villa Grove residents don’t have access to a computer or the internet at home. She stressed that it is important for Villa Grove residents to take part in the census, because an accurate count affects how the government is funded. Finally, Athey mentioned that E911, through a state law mandate, was working to correct address issues in Villa Grove, specifically mentioning North Douglas and South Henson roads. She also mentioned the issue with duplicate street names in town, specifically Elm and Walnut streets, and that E911 hoped that the city would address the issue.
Gunter then moved to new business.
The council then unanimously approved an ordinance approving an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the school regarding services of a School Resource Officer.
Next, the council unanimously approved the Arrow Ambulance service agreement for 2019-2022, final contractor payment in the amount of $231,619.37 for water plant construction, payment in the amount of $768.88 to Bud’s Auto (with Alderman Allen recusing himself), reimbursement in the amount of $43.79 to Alderman Johnson for materials needed at Henson Park, (Johnson also recused himself from the vote) and the purchase of 15 LED shop lights for the facilities garage at a cost of $3,225.
The council also approved an engineering agreement for downtown streetscape planning and design with Fehr Graham Engineering, and the waiver of a formal bidding process for tree and stump removal.
With a unanimous vote, the council also chose to purchase a new water pump for the street sweeper at a cost of $1,193, to spend $550 to send the city clerk to her annual conference/institute, to hire a part time janitor for the administrative offices and council chambers and to purchase a portable generator for $2,169.
The council also approved the purchase of yard hydrants for Richman Park, with Hooker voting no.
Finally, the council questioned Scott Arbuckle about his plans for sidewalk replacement and tree removal.
Also on the agenda, but tabled with no action being taken were discussions about electric service for Richman Park and the consideration of issues pertaining to the bargaining unit’s agreement, city employees and a grievance by the Teamsters Union.
The council then moved to close session at 7:23 pm, returning to open meeting and adjourning at approximately 8:15.