City Council Hears Pitches from TREC, Courthouse Group

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Published on May 2 2012 12:59 am
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Effingham City Council members Tuesday heard requests from Trails Recreation Effingham County and from the Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum Association.

TREC Board President Frank Brummer asked for no money from the City, only the City's agreement to serve as a pass-through agency for a grant that would help pay for a project to connect portions of the trail network. 

The section would run along Calico Road north from Fayette Avenue and then head west and under Outer Belt West.  The plan would avoid a bridge that used to carry vehicles across a creek along Calico Road, but has now been judged unsafe for vehicular traffic.  It would also give trail users an option besides walking or biking across Outer Belt West.

Brummer said TREC would raise the local match in hopes of obtaining the grant monies.

Council members were generally agreeable to the request after Mayor Merv Gillenwater asked Brummer for the project scope of work, assurance of no obligation to the City, and oversight of the work to make sure it fits with the City's overall development plan.

The Cultural Center and Museum Association asked for the City to provide the $50,000 match if they received the $200,000 in grant funds.  City Commissioner Brian Milleville said he had no objection, saying that TREC has received City funds in the past as have other entities.  Milleville said the project would "bring a valuable asset to the City".

Association Board member Dave Ring said the City and grant funding would pay for $100,000 in sprinkler system improvements, $60,000 in restroom upgrades, $40,000 in mold and mildew work in the basement, and $9,000 to bring the elevator into compliance.  Ring said, "Once we get these things done, we think we'll see a big step forward."

Association President Delaine Donaldson said he saw good response to the cause during last weekend's Artisan Fair.  We'll talk with Donaldson at 8:30am Wednesday on Community Calendar on 979XFM and KJ Country 102.3.

The grant applications for both agencies are due by the end of May, so it's expected the Council will vote on both requests at their next meeting.

The Council also discussed revamping water rules and regulations.

City Administrator Jim Arndt said the proposed changes would help the process of collecting revenue from non-paying water customers.  Arndt said there are cases of people who didn't pay their bills at one location of getting someone else to sign up for water service for them at another address.  He proposed raising the deposit fee to $100, which he said would cover most of the delinquent bills rung up in the City.

City Commissioner Matt Hirtzel said he's hearing concerns from some residents about some of the changes, and said he doesn't agree with "going after the property owner" if a tenant is delinquent on a water bill. 

City Attorney Tracy Berberich said the City needs to be protected, and a property owner can take safeguards to guard against a bad tenant.

City Commissioner Brian Milleville said he was concerned over the Director of Public Works signing off on matters, rather than the City Council.

Arndt said that the regulations is putting into writing what is current practice by the City.

The guidelines will be considered for a vote at the next Council meeting.

Council members approved engineering work by Milano and Grunloh of Effingham for street resurfacing on 5th Street, 1st Street and Lawrence Avenue; for the reconstruction and patching of Illini Drive, and for reconstruction work on Merchant Street.  Also approved was $116,000 in street resurfacing work on 4th Street from Temple to Virginia Avenues, Virginia Avenue from 4th to 3rd Streets, and Roadway Avenue from 1st to 3rd Streets.  The Council also approved $148,000 in sidewalk removal and replacement across the City, and $56,000 in pavement patching on the Raney Street overpass and approaches.

Council members named Bill Utz to succeed Kenny Longwell on the City Building Code Board of Appeals and reappointed Chuck Bierman, Ed Grunloh, Bill Mette, and Don Niebrugge to the Board.  Mandee Hirtzel was reappointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals with Commissioner Matt Hirtzel abstaining from the vote since Mandee Hirtzel is his wife.  Arndt was reappointed to the Board of Trustees of the Fire Pension Fund, John Bredenkamp was reappointed to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, and Arndt was reappointed to the Human Relations Board.  The Council reappointed Kristie Campbell, Patty Greene, Norma Lansing, Deana Nuxoll and Janie Oldfield to the Tourism Advisory Board; and appointed Lisa Kingery to the Ethics Commission to succeed Bob Willenborg.  The Council also reappointed Kurt Buehnerkemper, Brian Hayes and David Storm to new three-year terms on the City Plan Commission.

Council members also granted the Altamont Chamber of Commerce permission to hold the Illinois High School Rodeo Association State Finals parade in Effingham on June 13.

Commissioner Don Althoff asked about a place for citizens to dump yard waste.  Director of Public Works Steve Miller said for major storms, the City will collect debris and would notify citizens through the local media of available resources.

Milleville reminded citizens to attend the funeral of World War veteran Charles "Butch" Moritz this Saturday at Oakridge Cemetery; Hirtzel gave kudos to the Artisan Fair; Arndt reminded of Law Day activities this Thursday; and Miller reported that bids on the City's long-discussed downtown streetscape project came in well over the engineer's estimated cost.  He said he'll check on additional grant funding to cover some of the overage, and will see where costs could be cut.  The project would chiefly involve street lighting, ADA-compliant street crossings, and landscaping.