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VG City Council discusses Wind Energy Ordinance

The Villa Grove city council met on Monday, August 10 at 6 p.m., with all councilmen, save Derek Johnson, present.

After the call to order, role and the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Eversole-Gunter called for approval of the consent agenda, which included:

* Minutes of the July 13, 2020 regular city council meeting.

* Closed minutes of the July 13, 2020 regular city council meeting.

* Minutes of the July 27, 2020 Committee of the Whole meeting.

* Closed minutes of the July 27, 2020 Committee of the Whole meeting.

* Authorization for payment of bills in the amount of $196,106.30.

* June 30, 2020 financial statements.

* July 31, 2020 Cash balance report.

* IDOT resolution for 2020 MFT plan.

Next, Eversole-Gunter opened the floor for public comments.  Ken Cordes requested that the city allow the lights to be turned on at the tennis/basketball courts uptown, and it was agreed that it would be done.  

Belynda Allen then addressed the city regarding several topics.  First, she exhorted the citizens of Villa Grove to complete their census, citing the fact that several public funding sources were based on census data.  Next, she mentioned that she worked closely with the WIU Illinois Institute for Mapping, and that Villa Grove should consider collaborating with them.  Finally, she stated that the council should allow the public to vote on any sale of public utilities.  She proposed that the city agree to a binding resolution to allow the issue to be put on the November ballot.  

Next, city engineer Andy Kieser gave the council an update on several topics. First, the instrument readings on the aerator concerning Hydrogen Sulfide emission were completed and ready to be analyzed.  Kieser then stated that the bids for the annual MFT project will be opened at a public meeting on August 27, at 10 a.m.  Next, Kieser proposed that the next step in the sewer treatment plant project would be for a committee consisting of a member of the council, Public Works Director Scott Arbuckle, and an engineer sit down and go through the plant’s needs, item by item so that a clear understanding of what lies ahead would be gained.  Kieser then noted that VGHS graduate Cameron Johns, who recently joined Fehr Graham’s staff, would be doing engineering work concerning the demolition of the old water plant.  Finally, Kieser noted that the Forced Main project associated with the Sycamore Street bridge had been completed by Cross Construction, and that Administrator Athey would be applying for reimbursement from the state, as previously noted.

Administrator Athey then discussed the public planning meetings which are to be held on Zoom in the coming weeks.  It was later decided that no council members or city administrators be present for the public meeting, as their presence could serve as a deterrent to public discourse.

Next, Police Chief Bob Rea was on hand to discuss the purchase of body cameras for the officers and dash cams for the squad cars. 

Then, Villa Grove resident, Mike Cline, a licensed engineer who has volunteered his time looking into the public utility issue, shared information regarding the rate structures for the companies most likely to be interested in the purchase of the utility.  Illinois American uses a regional structure to set their rates, while Aqua Illinois sets their rates state-wide for all of Illinois.  He also noted that both companies’ rates are overseen by the Illinois Commerce Commission.  

City Attorney Mark Miller then addressed the council, stating that he wouldn’t suggest putting out an RFP for the utility until all information had been gathered.

Mayor Eversole-Gunter then reported that at the request of the council, she had called several other mayors whose cities had chosen to sell their utilities.  She reported that all the mayors that she contacted indicated that in general, they were satisfied with the arrangements.   Eversole Gunter then mentioned that she had spoken with the Chamber of Commerce, whose president, Bruce Allen, had previously expressed the Chamber’s opposition to selling the utility.  “The consensus of the Chamber is that they want the choices to be clear,” Eversole-Gunter stated.  Mayor Eversole-Gunter then noted that she had also addressed the Villa Grove Rotary, and that they understood that the process is just beginning and that they support the research that the city is conducting to make the right decision.  Finally, the mayor took a moment to personally thank Mike Cline for all of the personal time he’s spent doing research on the issue.  

The City then moved to new Business including:

* Unanimously Approving Ordinance 2020-MC10, approving the sale of surplus property.

* Unanimously Approving paying the final balance due ($67,786.00) to Cross Construction.

* Tabling a resolution to place a question regarding utility operations on the November 3 ballot.

* Motioning to authorize the mayor to engage, in consultation with the city attorney, special legal counsel to advise the city on a wind energy ordinance with fees not to exceed $400 per hour or a total expense not to exceed $7000.  

The council then motioned to go into closed session at 6:59 p.m., coming out at 7:47 p.m., and finding no further items, unanimously moved to adjourn at that time.

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