Chillicothe City Council explores to-do list

Marianne Gillespie
Chillicothe City Hall

The Chillicothe City Council is putting a few estimates on items that have been on the city’s “to-do list.”

At its Feb. 24 meeting, the council approved paying Midwest Engineering up to $2,500 for cost estimates on four projects: remodeling City Hall in its current location; remodeling the former Commerce Bank building, which is currently up for sale, to use as City Hall; constructing a new Public Works facility and constructing a new fire station on the west side of town.

“We have been discussing areas of concern, for example, this very building. We’ve talked about some other building areas. We’ve talked about some other areas of concern, and in taking a look at these things, before we make just a flat out ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ we should investigate to some extent some of the cost factors, some of the things it’s going to cost us …” said Finance/Economic Development Committee Chairman Jim Thornton.

Aldermen and Mayor Doug Crew have been creating a list of capital improvement projects that could be funded through a bond.

Thornton said, for example, the cost figures could help officials decide what is more cost efficient: renovating City Hall or buying, remodeling and moving City Hall to another location.

“Is the cost difference enough so that we could move from here to there if we felt, you’ve got to have some justification for doing some of these things and those things could give us the justification for doing it with a better understanding of costs,” Thornton said.

City Engineer Ken Coulter is expected to have the figures at the first council meeting in March.

Alderman Mike Hughes asked if the issue was going to be discussed more before it’s brought to the council table.

Crew said he thought it probably would be a topic at one of the Committee of the Whole meetings, which are in between council meetings.

In other items, the council:

• Heard resident Todd Hammer, who lives in the 1200 block of Truitt Avenue near Bradley Avenue, ask about an update from last fall about alleviating the problems of water drainage in that area. “I just wanted to check in and see ’cause it’s reared its head again,” Hammer said. Crew assured him that the area, as well as Hushaw and Elm streets, are at the top of the city’s list come spring. What may help, Crew said previously, is connecting drywells in the area to help with the drainage. If that did not work, then a new drywell may need to be installed in the middle of the street.

• Heard Alderman Mel Witte say a resident called him who lives on Truitt Avenue, and complained about the speeding from the corner of Truitt and Bradley Avenues heading west out of town. Crew asked that he, Witte and Chief Scott Mettille chat after the meeting about discussions they already have had.

• Heard Alderman Mike Hughes say a resident talked to him about traffic going through the cemetery, which some residents use to cut through to South School or the other side of town. It was on the March 4 public safety committee agenda.

• Heard Alderwoman Trish Connor thank the council, on behalf of the Town Theatre and Chillicothe Optimists, for their support in loaning funds for the theater’s improvements. That same night, the Optimists were passing out the profits of the year to non-profit youth groups at the theater during Kids Count Night.

• Heard Crew say he received communication about the deregulation of natural gas, a similar process to the deregulation of electricity. The city joined with many other municipalities to offer its residents a cheaper rate for electricity using group purchasing power. He said he understood it will not be available until at least the fourth quarter this year.

• Approved an ordinance amending the liquor license classifications in city code to allow additional licenses for Class B, which is a classification for packaged alcohol.

• Approved insulating the north wall only of 940-944 N. Second St., which is the location formerly known as Jane’s Ceramics. Central Illinois Insulation will do the work for $1,260.

• Adopted a resolution appropriating $65,000 of Motor Fuel Tax funds to maintain streets in 2014.

• Approved an ordinance which calls for paying off the city’s 2006 debt certificates of $2 million for the water tower near RiverSound Subdivision by issuing $1.5 million general obligation refunding bonds. The city has 13 years left on its bond, which originally started at 20 years, for the improvement. The measure allows the city to refinance at a lower interest rate, which was at 3.17 percent in early January, but depending on when the papers are signed, it is possible the interest rate could be under 3 percent, Alderman Jim Thornton said.

• Heard Crew say he and Office Manager Denise Passage spent time on a phone call with an analyst from Standard & Poor as part of the process for the bonds to be purchased again for the water tower. The city’s rating came to a AA-, “which according to the underwriter probably is as good as we can get for a community our size,” Crew said. He thanked Passage for gathering all the information needed for the process.

• Heard parent Brook Cranford present information about the upcoming Peoria County school facilities tax referendum, which is an initiative to add 1 percent to the sales tax within Peoria County that could only be used for school facilities. The tax does not apply to groceries, prescriptions, big-ticket items that are titled, such as vehicles, and some services that are currently not taxed. She asked for their support in the measure. Also on hand was Steve Garrison, who came as a citizen, but also is on the IVC District 321 School Board. The money is disbursed through the county based upon school enrollment and spending trends, Cranford said.

• Went into closed session for personnel, which was not listed on the council’s agenda. According to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, it is permissible for the council to convene in closed session, but since it was not on the council agenda, it cannot take any action afterward in open session under the Illinois Open Meetings Act.