Council makes changes at riverfront official

Marianne Gillespie
A stop sign now marks Walnut and Front streets before the street ends into the boat ramp at the Illinois River.

Traffic around the Chillicothe riverfront is changing after the tragedy of a young woman losing her life by driving her car into the Illinois River.

Walnut Street is the focal point not only because the body of 22-year-old Julie Peters and her car were located a few feet from the shore there but the road leads directly to the boat ramp. Peters was missing for more than a week after leaving a wedding reception at the American Legion in downtown Chillicothe Sept. 28.

Both Walnut and Pine streets, however, received changes at the Oct. 28 Chillicothe City Council meeting.

On Walnut Street, stop signs were erected at First and Front streets. The move makes the intersection with First Street a four-way stop.

At Front Street, along with the stop sign, a solar flasher will be purchased from Traffic Control Corp. for $2,360, including a mounting bracket, to go along with the sign.

Superintendent of Public Works Josh Cooper said the flasher charges for 150 days and is the same kind that the Illinois Department of Transportation uses. It requires minimal light to charge, Cooper said.

In addition to the red flashing light, which will be added as soon as possible, city workers already striped the boat ramps at Walnut and Pine streets with reflective paint.

There have been blinking barricades on each side of the boat ramps.

Public Works Committee Chairman Denny Gould said there would be additional caution signs as well.

Cooper explained where the signs would be erected.

"Right above the alley, there's going to be a sign that says, 'Road ends in 300 feet,' and then once you come down and stop at Front, your headlights will be illuminating a sign by the ramp that says, 'Chillicothe boat ramp,'" Cooper said.

Mayor Doug Crew said the changes should be a "pretty good indication of what lies ahead."

The warning signs also will be on Pine Street, Gould said.

Peters' sister was in the audience but when asked, did not comment on the changes during the meeting.

Her family had attended the Oct. 14 council meeting and expressed their desire for changes to be made in a timely fashion. It was the same day they laid their loved one to rest.

In other items, the council:

• Heard a presentation on the city's annual audit from L. Patrick McElhiney, CPA.

"In general, the city's doing fine. The major operating funds would be the general, the road and bridge and the water and sewer — all three of those funds could operate a year, over a year, actually, without any additional revenue. So, (it's) a nice situation to be in," McElhiney said.

He mentioned that one thing the council should look at is additional funding for police pensions.

In the early 1980s, he said, the property tax levy equaled to $9,000 for the fund and even though it is at

almost $190,000 now, it still is underfunded.

"It was terribly underfunded and, actually, still is," McElhiney said of the police pension fund.

He added that he thought the unfunded liability is at $1.5 million and should be eliminated by 2033.

Finance Committee Chairman Jim Thornton said if aldermen had questions on the 72-page audit, a committee meeting could be set and have McElhiney return to explain the figures.

Crew also mentioned an article he read about how municipalities who ended up "in a bind" financially would ask the state for assistance years ago, but "those days are gone," the mayor said. He encouraged the aldermen to read the audit and be aware of the city's finances.

The audit was placed on file at the city clerk's office.

• Heard Alderman Trish Connor remind the council that the Town Theatre appreciation night was Nov. 4. They were all invited to the event which allows the Chillicothe Optimist Club to thank its sponsors.

• Authorized Cooper to advertise for bids for the sale of a 1999 Chevy pickup truck used by the public works department.

• Granted a request from the American Legion Post 9 to have live entertainment in its beer garden Nov. 2 and Nov. 9 and extend the noise ordinance from 11 p.m. until midnight.

• Authorized Fire Chief John Myers to attend a volunteer/combination officer conference in Florida Nov. 6-10.