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PAXTON — The Paxton City Council will wait until its May meeting to vote on whether to grant 3 percent raises to the city’s six non-unionized employees.
The council discussed the proposal briefly during its April 11 meeting, opting to postpone a vote until three newly elected or appointed aldermen are seated in May.
Mayor Bill Ingold suggested the council vote on the issue immediately or instead at an adjourned meeting set for April 25.
“It doesn’t make any difference,” Ingold said.
But Ward 4 Alderman Mike Wilson and other council members agreed that waiting until May would be a better idea.
Wilson noted that a few of the city’s eight aldermen are expected to be absent from the adjourned meeting. Waiting until May would also allow “several new folks” who will be taking their seats as aldermen that month to “have a say” on the issue, Wilson said.
If granted, the raises would go into effect retroactive to May 1, the start of the 2017 fiscal year.
The one-year raises would affect the salaries of six non-unionized employees: Police Chief Bob Bane, whose current base salary is $56,018; Police Capt. Coy Cornett, whose current base salary is $45,047; Public Works Director Mark LeClair, whose current base salary is $63,861; Assistant Public Works Director Jeff Ingold, whose current base salary is $42,748; Utility Billing Clerk Heather Haile, whose current base salary is $31,467; and Comptroller/Treasurer Julie Burgess, whose current base salary is $51,105.
The raises would cost the city about $9,704, the mayor said.
The 3 percent raises would reflect the same percentage increase granted previously to the city’s unionized employees for the upcoming fiscal year, Burgess said. As negotiated between the city and the two unions representing city workers — the Teamsters and Fraternal Order of Police — those raises will go into effect May 1 for police department employees and July 1 for public works department employees. The unionized employees’ raises will cost the city about $13,880, Burgess said.
Also at the April 11 meeting:
➜ The council made plans to amend the city’s appropriation ordinance for the current fiscal year, which ends May 1, during an adjourned meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, at City Hall, 145 S. Market St. The mayor said the ordinance is typically amended each year to reflect actual spending throughout the fiscal year, rather than the projected spending that is outlined within the ordinance when it is created at the start of the fiscal year.
➜ The council voted 5-1, with Ward 3 Alderman Rob Pacey abstaining, to approve the public works department’s hiring of two Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School ICE students for this summer and next school year. LeClair said the department has “plenty of work for them to do” — including putting in new curbs and sidewalks — and that the students can gain valuable experience in the workforce. The cost to the city is expected to not exceed $6,000 per student for the next year.
➜ The mayor said he had contacted three local lending institutions regarding the city’s plan to obtain a low-interest, short-term loan of $500,000 to bring in enough funds to complete the re-painting of the city’s two water towers, plus a variety of work related to maintaining the city’s wastewater system. “We heard back from one (of the banks) about a week ago,” Ingold said, “and we heard back from another one this morning (on April 11). We have yet to hear from the third one.” Ingold said the council should be prepared to vote on the approval of the loan at the May meeting. In order to pay off the loan, the city intends to raise the debt-service fee listed on each bimonthly water bill by $8.59.
➜ Greg Gustafson, an engineer for Urbana-based Berns, Clancy & Associates, said that as of April 11, the exterior of the water tower on the west side of town had been washed and was looking “pretty spick and span,” Gustafson said. “They’ll be getting prepped and ready for the coating work and starting the inside,” he added.
➜ Gustafson said that as of April 11, a telemetry system that the council approved last fall had been “fully installed and started up” at the water-treatment plant and downtown water tower. Gustafson said the new system will help the communication process between the two facilities, given that no landline telephone will be required to communicate data anymore. The telemetry system instead uses radio signals to communicate data. Gustafson said there were no problems noticed with the new system so far. “We spent quite a bit of time making sure everything was good, and Mark (LeClair) and his guys were there, and they were very concerned about making sure it was fully functional,” Gustafson said. “So that’s a huge improvement in our operations in that it will — short of a power failure and exhausting the internal batteries — be a lot more reliable.”
➜ Pacey asked LeClair if a proposed list of streets to be repaired this summer using motor-fuel tax proceeds had been prepared yet. LeClair responded by saying the Farnsworth Group was “looking at” the list of proposed streets to be repaired “right now.”
➜ Paxton Emergency Response Service (ERS) Director Ed Hanson said seven ERS volunteers had completed a search-and-rescue class in order to be certified by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
➜ Hanson said the ERS would be holding a breakfast as a fundraiser from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at the ERS building on West State Street downtown. An all-you-can-eat meal of pancakes and sausage will be served. Also available will be full and half orders of biscuits and gravy.
➜ The council voted unanimously to approve the rescinding of an ordinance that had banned alcohol sales in Paxton on Election Day but had apparently not been enforced for quite some time. “This is a matter of housekeeping to get that off the books,” the mayor said.
➜ The council voted unanimously to eliminate language in the ordinance books requiring the city to have a “board of local improvements,” a public body tasked with making suggestions to the council on infrastructure projects. “To my knowledge, it’s never been used,” Pacey said. “And we have a (city council) committee on public works, and the planning commission also has the power to suggest infrastructure improvements, so I don’t see (a board of local improvements) as being necessary.”
➜ The council voted unanimously to approve a reduction in the size of the planning commission, from nine to seven members. The mayor said doing so would “make meetings more efficient and make it easier to reach a quorum.”
➜ The council agreed to wait until May to vote on a proposal to reduce the number of members serving on the zoning board of appeals, from seven to five. The city attorney, Marc Miller, suggested waiting to vote on the proposal so that a required legal notice regarding the proposal could first be published in a local newspaper.
➜ The council made plans to further discuss in May proposed revisions to the city’s ordinance governing transient merchants and solicitors. The council is considering rescinding the requirement that transient merchants pay a nonrefundable $50 fee for a five-day permit. The proposed change was requested by a woman who wants to sell ice cream in town over the summer but thinks the $50 fee would be too much to make a profit.
➜ The council voted unanimously to approve a variance to allow a taller-than-allowed accessory building to be built on a residential property at 301 W. Center St. Doug and Julie Higgins requested the variance to allow a proposed accessory building attached to their two-car garage to stand nearly 19 feet tall, rather than the 15-foot maximum height permitted by the city’s zoning rules. Doug Higgins said his neighbors had no problem with the proposal, which was unanimously approved by the zoning board of appeals on April 6.
➜ Pacey said the council’s community committee would hold a public meeting from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Saturday, April 22, at City Hall. The meeting is being held so that aldermen can receive input from the public about upcoming projects. Pacey said the meeting will be operated in a question-and-answer or town-hall-style format. “It will be very informal,” Pacey said. “We’ll open it up to the public to ask aldermen questions — either those who are on the committee or those who are here in some capacity. And we may also have some type of short survey to get people to prioritize upcoming projects, since we have a lot of them, just to get some community feedback. The public is certainly invited to give their input.”
➜ Pacey suggested that the council determine an amount for the city to invest in the downtown improvement project, and he asked that whatever amount is determined to be appropriate be reflected in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins May 1. The mayor said the budget-planning process would begin April 20.