Due to shelter in place restrictions, the council had not met since April 27.
After the roll was called, with all present, and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, the city moved on to business.
The first item was the approval of the consent agenda for single vote approval, and the motion passed unanimously.
Next, the council approved the minutes of the April 27, 2020 meeting, with all approving save Alderman Hooker, who voted “present” due to his absence from the April meeting.
The Council then approved claims for the payments in the amount of $83,813.46, for FY 2020 and claims for payment in the amount of $83,923.54 for FY2021.
Up next for the council was the discussion and approval of paying Hartman Consultants to conduct an independent review of Villa Grove’s utilities, including both water and waste treatment.
Items to be considered included Optimization of the current system as well as Value consulting regarding a potential sale of the systems. The consultant, Gerald C. Hartman, has been involved in well over 300 capital charge, impact fee and installation charge studies involving water, wastewater and fire service. Since earning his Master’s degree from Duke University in 1976, the council will await his findings and begin consideration of the best fiscal decisions for the City regarding water and wastewater.
The council then approved the cash balance report for the month ending April 30, 2020.
Next, during the public comments section, the mayor and council heard from Bruce Allen, representing the Villa Grove Chamber of Commerce and the Villa Grove Ag days celebration. Allen noted that the Chamber has tables and chairs that can be made available to local businesses if they wish to open outdoors as the State moves into Stage Three of the COVID-19 response.
Next, Allen, along with Stacey Burnett and Don Dixon, asked for the city’s backing concerning proceeding as planned with Ag Days. After general discussion and several questions from the council, Allen and the Ag days committee agreed that a “drop dead” date of July 1 would be observed, and that the 2020 celebration would be cancelled if restrictions governing public gatherings hadn’t relaxed by that date.
The next item under the council’s purview was the Engineer’s report, and in the absence of Andy Kieser, Scott Arbuckle and Mayor Eversole Gunter made their reports. One of the main items of discussion was another water main break in McCoy subdivision, which is scheduled for major renovations in the very near future. It was decided that the city would move ahead with the McCoy water main project, along with the demolition of the old water plant, based on the $250,000 grant which has been given to complete those projects. Arbuckle expressed hope that with the council’s approval, the city could put the work out for bid and be “turning dirt” by mid-July.
The council then heard from city Attorney Mark Miller about public hearings being planned for June concerning Wind and Solar ordinances, as well as the feasibility of granting approval of a license for the potential opening of a Cannabis dispensary in Villa Grove. Later, at the very end of the meeting after coming out of closed session, Mr. Miller also offered his opinion regarding the sewer and water analysis study, stating that Mr. Hartman’s intent was to tell us “what we have, where it’s going, assessing it’s value and then making a recommendation regarding solutions.” He also noted that Mr. Hartman is one of only 20 sewer and water appraisers in the United States. He also said that we should invite public opinions once all facts were collected.
The city then moved to new business.
First up was a discussion to modify or continue the emergency order that has been in place since mid-March, and it was unanimously decided to lift the restrictions that had been in place.
Second, the council unanimously voted to allow a soft re-opening of all city offices and properties on June 1.
Third, the city discussed the ending of forgiveness programs for water and sewer customers. It was decided that anyone with delinquent accounts would be given an opportunity to set up a payment plan that would include their current bill, plus a portion of any delinquent charges. This measure passed unanimously.
Fourth, the council then unanimously passed an ordinance regarding businesses being allowed to open outdoor dining areas in response to the Governor’s Phase three plan.
Fifth, the council then tabled a vote on Ag Days and other community events moving forward, based on the state’s mandates moving forward, including a July 1 “drop dead” date for cancelling the signature city event.
Sixth, after much discussion, it was determined that as much as the council would love to host the annual celebration of freedom, it would be in the city’s best interest to err on the side of caution and move the fireworks celebration to a later date. Possible alternative dates include September Alumni alternative date and New Year’s Eve. The public is welcome to give their input regarding alternative dates.
Seventh, the council then approved payment to Cross Construction in the amount of $153,594.00 for work related to sewer main relocation in conjunction with the Sycamore St bridge project.
Eighth, the council then approved a proposal by a local scout to create a dog park at Richman park. Arbuckle responded positively that city staff would be able to maintain the property after its installation. The scout in question is in the process of raising the needed funds to move it forward.
Ninth, with great regret, the council unanimously approved accepting the retirement of long time Chief of Police Dennis Gire. With typical dry humor, Gire commented on his impending retirement. “Once you get wise enough to do the job, you’re too old to do it,” he quipped. Members of the council then gave the chief a standing ovation before offering their individual thanks.
Finally, the meeting then went into executive session to discuss personnel and property issues before coming out of closed session, hearing from Mr. Miller and calling for adjournment at 9:30 pm.