Villa Grove City Council discusses sewer plant options

The Villa Grove City Council met on November 23 at 6 p.m. for their monthly non-voting Committee of the Whole meeting, with Aldermen Griffith and Garrett absent, and all other members of the council plus Mayor Eversole Gunter, Administrator Athey, Clerk Osborne, Police Chief Rea and Public Works director Arbuckle in attendance.

After saying the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Eversole Gunter called for public comments, and finding none, made a short report in which she thanked everyone who had lent a hand in decorating Main Street for the holidays. She also noted that she was looking forward to the Christmas Tree Lighting Festival, which is held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Next Administrator Athey gave her report, stating that she had received a letter informing the city that Waste Management had purchased Advanced Disposal, and that there were no plans at this time to change the management team which is in place at the Charleston Advanced Disposal office who oversees local services.  She also noted that City Attorney Mark Miller had recently moved his office and that the Plexiglas installation was proceeding and would be completed soon.

Public Works Director Arbuckle then noted that the Sanitation Jetter needed throttle work, and the council determined by consensus that the work should be completed as quickly as possible.  

The City then moved on to new business including:

* Announcing the tentative 2020 tax levy of $334.301.30, which represented a 1.69 percent increase.

* Chief Rea read the proposed changes to the city parking ordinance which includes the restriction of busses or semi’s on residential streets and the prohibition of parking vehicles on the grass rather than on an approved driveway surface. Rea emphasized that this was in conjunction with the abandoned and junk vehicle ordinance, and that his officers would have discretion on enforcement of the proposed changes

* Pending solar energy and cannabis ordinances-Council was directed to educate themselves on the issue prior to the next voting meeting in order to make an informed decision

* Discussion of reduced or appointment only hours for COVID prevention-Council agreed by consensus that the combination of limiting the number of customers in the office, enforcement of mask wearing, and plexiglass shield should be sufficient at this time, and that no reduction in office hours or staffing are necessary at this time.

* Administrator Athey then brought forth a proposal for automated billing services for water and sewer from CUSI corporation that would allow customers to gain much of their information online, including billing, usage and other data.  It would also allow the city to communicate and bill customers digitally, if the customers chose to sign up for the service.  When prompted by Alderman Johnson, Administrator Athey noted that over 200 of the 1000 water customers were using the online payment option that is currently available.  After further discussion, it was decided to table the proposal until after the pandemic had been further mitigated due to uncertainties about future city income.

* A consensus was reached, with Alderman Blaney dissenting, to forward the recently received Fehr Graham proposal for the immediate and future upgrades/new construction of the Waste Treatment facility to Hartman Consultants LLC for review.  The Fehr Graham proposal would call for an initial $5 million-dollar upgrade.  To pay for the initial upgrade, FG hypothesized the average sewer bill for Villa Grove customers would increase from $39.53-$59.01.  This represents a 1.3 percent increase for the median household income in the city at this time.  The Fehr Graham proposal also included the complete rebuild of the sewer treatment facility at an additional cost of approximately $10 million in 10 to 15 years.  Of course, this would also force the city to raise additional funds through increased fees.  

Finding no other business, the council then moved to executive session at 7:06, emerging at 7:20.  The council then adjourned at 7:21 p.m.

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