By David Porter
The Tuscola City Council on Monday gave tentative approval for the county to build an addition to the animal shelter on city property. The county plans to use federal America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay for the addition.
County Board President Don Munson said the ARPA funds allow the county to do something that helps everyone in the county without a direct contribution from the taxpayers. He said the county is trying to do as much as it can with the federal funds for as many people as possible.
The county stressed the need to expedite their plans. Spencer Dyke of the animal shelter said the facility is at capacity and cannot accept any more animals, thus the urgency to get started on the addition.
Drew Hoel, city administrator, said, “We don’t want to hold you up.”
Mike Salmon, building and electrical inspector, said it’s usually the architects that slow a project down if a change needs to be made. He said once he has the necessary drawings, he can turn them around in a day or two.
In lobbying for the city’s help, County Board Member Bibby Appleby reminded the Council that the county committed $1 million toward the Joint Water Agency line to Cabot, which will benefit Tuscola, Arcola, West Prairie Water Company and most residents in the western half of the county. “we help each other,” Appleby said. “Remember the water?”
The county wants to build a 24-foot by 48-foot building next to the existing shelter and connect the two with a breezeway. They also want to move the existing fence 6 to 10 feet west. The addition will include additional dog runs, a cat run and an animal bathing area.
Alderman Scott Day moved to allow the addition with the stipulation that the drawings are approved by the building inspector. Tim Hoey seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.
Adam Munds was also on hand Monday to ask the Council to approve the use of Wimple Park for another radio-controlled festival next summer. He said the facility worked well this year, and he said attendees, which came from 18 states, gave positive feedback about the community including its restaurants and clean hotel rooms.
He said there were more than 100 participants and the event held late last month raised $4,400 for ImpactLife, which collects blood donations. A blood drive was held with the event.
Mayor Dan Kleiss said he went out to the park a couple of times during the event and was impressed with the passion people have for the sport. “It’s amazing what they can do with them [radio-controlled vehicles]. I was pleased.”
Denny Cruzan, city services foreman, said he went out to the park Monday and praised the clean-up effort. “You can’t even tell they were out there.”
Kleiss said he thinks it’s OK to “pencil in” the date for next year. Munds suggested July 29-30, 2023. He said he thinks the RC Festival was “a great addition” and “a little something extra” for the community.
He also congratulated the Miss Tuscola, Jr. Miss and Little Miss contestants that competed over the weekend. “It was quite the crowd, and pretty well run.”
In other business, the Council approved spending $7,500 with Donohue & Associates to prepare a loan submittal to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for water department upgrades. Hoel said if the loan is approved, it could be at an interest rate of 1.25 percent over 10 years with up to half of the borrowed amount forgiven.
He said the last time the city borrowed from the IEPA, 25 percent of the loan was forgiven, which was the maximum allowed at that time.
This loan would be to replace the master meter station, which he said is 30 years old. Costs continue to increase he said. What had been an anticipated $350,000 project is $600,000 or $700,000 now. He said he thinks it’s “worth a shot” to apply for the IEPA loan.
In his written report, he said the city’s water loss ratio continues to improve. Last month saw a loss of 22 percent despite two fires in the city and filling the mud volleyball pits with water. Water for those items are not metered and are reflected in the loss ratio. “We are still hoping to see a ‘clean’ month with few known leaks, no hydrant flushing or significant fire flow, etc. so we can compare to historical norms, but it appears that we are at least back to a normal range of system loss,” he wrote.
The Council also approved filing a nuisance lawsuit against the owners of the Castle Mall property at 202 S. Main St., which was destroyed by fire. Kleiss said the city has been in contact with the owners and Andrew Bequette, city attorney, said the issue may be resolved without litigation. He said he thinks it’s “a good idea to start the process” because it can take a long time. If the owners raze the remaining structure on their own, “we can happily dismiss the lawsuit,” Bequette said.
Kleiss said last month that the city is also working to clean up a house fire on South Parke Street.
In other business, the Council approved an outdoor shopping event Sept. 16-17 for Rainbows and Sunshine Boutique downtown and approved the retirement resignation for Angela Hawkins. Treasurer Alta Long said Hawkins has been with the city for 14 years and that she appreciates Hawkins’ service.
“I second that,” Kleiss said. The city has been interviewing candidates for the position.