Public comments limited to 5 minutes per person by Paxton council

PAXTON — The Paxton City Council voted unanimously during a special meeting Monday night to limit comments from the public to five minutes per person during the council’s meetings.

City Attorney Marc Miller told aldermen that it used to be sufficient for city councils to cap public speaking by announcing a time limit at the start of each meeting. However, in rare cases when a “hot-button topic” arises, it “makes sense” to have a formal policy in place to help “control large groups of folks” who want to address the council, Miller said.

“I don’t anticipate any of that ever happening, but I think in a touchy situation it makes sense for everybody to be able to make sure that the information gets to you as a public body,” Miller told aldermen.

Alderman Mike Wilson said he thinks adopting such rules “makes sense.”

“It seems like it’s probably a good idea just to have a permanent rule in the (council) chambers, so I’d be in favor of that,” Wilson said prior to the 8-0 vote.

Under the new rules, all persons wishing to address the council and comment upon city business during the designated “public comment” period listed on each meeting’s agenda must list their name on a sign-in sheet at the meeting. They will then be given five minutes to address the council. Only the mayor and city council, via a vote, have the authority to extend the time to speak.

Speakers are required to refrain from using profanity or threatening language, as well as personal attacks. Disruptive behavior can result in a person’s removal from a meeting.

Prevailing wage ordinance
Also Monday, the council voted 6-2 to approve a prevailing wage ordinance, which requires contractors hired by the city to pay a designated wage to their employees as required by state law.

The state requires each municipality to approve such an ordinance each year, Miller said.

Voting against the ordinance were aldermen Eric Evans and Rob Steiger.

“The reason I voted ‘no’ was I feel that there are a lot of small business owners that are one- or two-man operations and it’s hard for them to pay the higher wage (required by the ordinance),” Evans said. “In my personal opinion, I just don’t think you should be mandated what you have to pay (your employees). ... This is just basically, to me, a form of eliminating a small mom-and-pop business (from competing for government contracts).”

Steiger agreed with Evans in his assertion that “it forces smaller companies not to be able to compete in a government structure.” Steiger also added that he does not think the prevailing wage “accurately reflects the wages in the area” paid in the private sector.

“It’s nearly 100 percent higher than what typical labor is,” Steiger said, “so I don’t think it accurately reflects the cost of labor in our area.”

Airport sale looming
Also Monday, the city’s tax-increment financing (TIF) consultant, Springfield attorney Dan Schuering, told aldermen that he expects the long-delayed sale of the Paxton Municipal Airport to a private party to be finalized by the “end of the summer.”

Schuering said there has been some progress in getting the deal done in recent months. Among the next steps is to have two parcels of land toward the back of the airport property appraised so that the city can negotiate a price on those two parcels, Schuering said.

“Then it will be down to nailing down the final documents,” Schuering said.

The airport’s fixed-base operator, Jef LaRette, terminated his lease agreement with the city as FBO as of June 10. Ingold said LaRette is now leasing the airport’s main hangar from the city until the airport is sold to prospective buyer David Hrupsa of Roper, N.C.

Meanwhile, letters have been sent to the renters of other hangars at the airport, informing them that they are now on a month-to-month lease with the city until the airport is sold. Each renter will have the opportunity to renegotiate his or her lease with Hrupsa once he buys the airport.

Alderman Bill Wylie noted that the condition of the airport property has been improved in recent weeks following the termination of LaRette’s lease agreement as FBO. The mayor sent crews to the airport to repair the runway lights and rotating beacon, as well as mow the grounds, Wylie said.

“In just a couple of days, they had the airport shaped up and in pretty respectable condition, at least safe condition,” Wylie said.

Wylie said the improved condition of the airport should make it easier to close the deal.

“All of the loose ends are taken care of, and now there should be a lot less worry (by the prospective buyer) in taking care of the airport,” Wylie said.

The city is also hoping to sell its landfill property located next to the airport. In preparation for doing so,  the city last month entered into a contract for the testing of groundwater at the landfill, which has been closed since 1991.

The testing was requested by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) as a requirement for the agency to certify the landfill as having completed its “post-closure care” period.  As long as the groundwater tested passes the monitoring parameters listed in the city’s most recent IEPA permit for the landfill, the agency is expected to certify the landfill as having completed its post-closure care period.

If the IEPA ends up issuing the certification, the city will no longer be required to monitor the landfill’s groundwater, and the city could also move forward with the proposed sale of the landfill property.

Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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