Council Agrees to Downtown Improvement Projects

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Published on September 4 2013 2:49 am
Last Updated on September 4 2013 2:49 am
Written by Greg Sapp

Effingham City Council members Tuesday approved going halves on three downtown improvement projects.

The City and Wiedman Cleaners will split the $5,584 cost of painting and a new doorway on their business on Washington Avenue; agreed to pay half the $78,740 cost of renovations to the former Sehy and Jones Optometrist Office on Washington Avenue with the work to involve a new door, windows, dryvit work, mansard cladding, soffit, lighting and signage improvements; and agreed to split the $92,623 cost of improvements to The Last Straw on Jefferson Avenue including a new facade, new windows, new doors, new front and rear entrances, new lighting and signage improvements.

Council members agreed to install a sewer force main along Temple Avenue for $115,000; agreed to award work on the City Hall roof to the next lowest bidder for $102,000 after the lowest bidder withdrew from the work; agreed to sell a surplus lot at 804 Grove Avenue that formerly housed a water storage tank; and agreed to issue a liquor license to Ricarda Hela, the owner of Taqueria Don Pedro on West Fayette Avenue.

The Council approved security, fire protection and monitoring at the Water Treatment Plant for $15,000; and agreed to purchase the property at 709 Lawrence Avenue so the building can be torn down due to dangerous and unsafe conditions.  The County had already taken ownership for unpaid taxes so the City will tear it down and then discuss how to recoup the expense.

There was no action on the City's contribution of $25,000 for membership on the Effingham County Economic Development Foundation.  Mayor Merv Gillenwater said he did not handle it properly when he said at a previous Council meeting that he would appoint two people to the Foundation Board as part of what the City was promised for supporting the Foundation.  Gillenwater said correct procedure is to nominate two people and then let the Council decide whether to confirm those appointments.  Gillenwater said the ordinance is being rewritten to correctly reflect that plan.  The Mayor said he still plans to nominate City Administrator Jim Arndt and Economic Development Director Todd Hull to the positions, but the Council will have the final say on the nominations.

Council members agreed to a street closure on Jefferson Avenue downtown during a Chilifest on October 18; agreed to an agreement with Upchurch Group on engineering on repairs on the Water Treatment Plant roof; and agreed to a one-time $500,000 payment to BB&K Development for eligible expenses for building the Hampton Inn and Suites along Avenue of Mid-America rather than five annual payments of $100,000 before the State sales tax portion of Tax Increment Financing expires at the end of 2013.

The Council agreed to resurface the entire length of Holiday Drive for just under $200,000 except for a small portion not in a TIF District.  That portion will have to be done with funding in next year's budget.  Also approved was pavement patching at different locations in the city for $417,000, and platting of property for the recent 5th/3rd Bank project and the former bank building now to be the future home of the city library.

Council members approved the purchase of a city K-9 to replace the soon-to-be retiring Kilo for $14,000 with funds to be used that were donated by the public; approved an agreement with CSX Railroad related to boring under the tracks to make way for a water line; and agreed to temporarily close certain streets for the annual Corvette Welcome Fest on September 19.

The Council approved the purchase of three mobile data computers for the city police department for $11,000; agreed to receive a bid by a firm on valve replacement work at the Goldstein Bend pump station but also to rebid the work since the low bidder needs extra time to complete the work and other bidders might have been more competitive if they'd had the same amount of time to do the work; and voiced opposition to a proposal that certain people who live outside the City limits would be exempt from paying for fire services when they're outside the City limits since they are employees of employers within the City limits or students who attend educational facilities within the City limits.

Council members also discussed a parcel of land in Rolling Hills Subdivision that is landlocked.  None of the neighbors want the parcel, except for City Administrator Jim Arndt who lives near the land.  He said that he would only buy the property, though, if no other buyer could be found.  Contact the landowner or City Hall if you are interested in the parcel.

Commissioner Don Althoff took time at the meeting to commend local resident Jerry Jansen for his work to mow along North Route 45 in the area on the way to the interstate interchange.  Althoff said Jansen does the mowing at no charge and has for many years to keep the area looking good, and he thought Jansen deserves some recognition.