Alderman raises questions about tree-removal project

By ROSS BROWN
bluehavanaross@gmail.com


GIBSON CITY — Alderman Nelda Jordan questioned her fellow Gibson City Council members Monday night about the city’s tree-removal project and expenses.

Expressing concern before the council approved its bills, Jordan asked why local resident Tom Barrow was paid $100 per hour along with Champaign resident Michael Poor to cut down diseased ash trees in the city, adding that she believed Barrow did not contribute to some recent work.

“Tom was in there a half-hour in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon,” Jordan remarked about a recent tree-removal job she witnessed. “He didn’t take any wood or nothing. Poor hauled all the wood.”

Alderman Doug Parsons asked what the process was for removing the trees, saying that he and other council members were unaware of the situation.

“If we’re going to make a decision, we need to know what’s going on,” Parsons said.

Mayor Dan Dickey said the city has bid out the tree-removal work in past years but ended up reverting back to the local option of Barrow.

“A couple years ago we had a low bid, but they didn’t finish the job and we got stuck with the bill, so we got Tom Barrow back,” Dickey explained. “We’ve had people come in and bid on this, but they stuck us and we ended up having to pay for it.”

Alderman Dennis Pardick added that the city was referred to Poor through Barrow. Poor is a certified arborist who performs complex tree-removal projects in addition to regular tree removal.

“If it wasn’t for Tom Barrow, Michael Poor wouldn’t be in this town,” Pardick said.

Pardick justified the hauling fee by the fact that the city does not have a location to place the wood, saying it would cost more to have Barrow haul it locally versus Poor.

Parsons announced that a committee meeting concerning tree removal plus parking at the Telecare building will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at City Hall.

Land sale to be amended
City Superintendent Randy Stauffer told council members that Bob Purcell was looking to amend his purchase agreement of 8.4 acres at the Jordan Industrial Park to include a half-acre strip which would become a driveway.

Purcell plans to move his trucking business, DCT Trucking, from rural Saybrook to Gibson City. The additional strip of land would become a driveway linking the business to the township road — 300 East — which borders the property.

Due to City Attorney Marc Miller not providing an amended sale resolution to council members, it could not be approved Monday night.

Stauffer said Purcell wants to have a solution as soon as possible, saying he needs the state to approve the sale by winter.

“The bank won’t let him get the money unless he says how much,” Stauffer explained. “If we don’t get this approved in the next two weeks, he won’t get the loan for another month.”

Dickey said the council could vote on the resolution at its regularly scheduled Oct. 22 meeting. The new agreement calls for DCT Trucking to buy 9.14 acres from the city at a cost of $127,200, which is 80 percent of the land’s appraised value.

Other business
Also Monday night:

➜ The council accepted a bid from Kelly Electric of Pontiac to torque bolts holding together the new street lights downtown. Stauffer said the company that erected the poles in 2016 thought it should be done once every few years. The approved cost is $4,000, which amounts to a $200 hourly cost for 33 total poles being worked on. Stauffer said the project is vital if the city wants to install wreaths and lights on the light poles before the lighted parade next month.

➜ Council members approved a recommendation by the city’s planning commission to rezone two lots located at 510 W. 9th St. from single-family residential zoning to multi-family and apartment usage zoning. Alderman Scott Davis, who abstained from the vote, said he has sold the former Gibson City Pentecostal Church building there to an unnamed person who intends to convert the building into apartments.

➜ Mark Webster, superintendent of water treatment plant operations, was granted a pay raise for recently completing a certification. Webster’s hourly pay will increase from $30.39 to $33.39, with an additional week of vacation.

➜ City Clerk Carla Moxley told Davis, Laura Miller and Greg Houtzxel that they needed to sign conflict-of-interest forms related to the city’s tax-increment financing (TIF) districts. Houtzel maintains a residence in TIF 2, while Davis and Laura Miller each own businesses in TIF 3.

➜ Moxley announced the winners of the downtown planter competition. Speakeasy Salon claimed the $200 first-place prize, followed by ACE Hardware and Anderson Ford at $125 and $75, respectively. The businesses donated winnings to local charities, Moxley said.

➜ Council members approved Stauffer’s request to host the 3W water operators’ meeting at the fire station on Oct. 25, with the city providing lunch at a cost not to exceed $300.

➜ Stauffer said city employees were planning to decorate a truck for entry in the Gibson Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual lighted holiday parade in November.

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