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Sparks Fly During Hillsboro Council

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Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2008 12:00 am

Matters of controversy spark interest in government affairs, and the sparks were flying at the end of Hillsboro's city council meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 14. At the previous city council meeting on Sept. 30, former Illinois State policeman Leland Storm had presented his commissioned-by-the-council report concerning low morale in the local police department; Mayor Bill Baran divided the report into two action items.

The first dealt with Chief Gary Satterlee. Based on Storm's recommendation and the mayor's request, Commissioner Dennis McCammack moved and Commissioner Connie Hill seconded that Satterlee be given approximately sixty days under Storm's tutelage to develop into an effective police chief. That motion gained 5-0 approval.

The second item dealt with Chris Sherer in his role as commissioner of the police department. The mayor asked and McCammack moved (Hill seconded) that Sherer and Hill exchange roles. Hill will become head of the police department while Sherer maintains his oversight of the fire department. Hill retains her duties with the street department and Sherer takes over her duties with public properties. After considerable discussion Commissioner Geoff Trost opined it would be fair to give Sherer the same second chance as Satterlee was receiving, and Sherer wondered why he hadn't been informed of the change. The motion was called to a vote.

Voting yes were Hill, McCammack, and Baran; voting an emphatic no was Trost, with Sherer's no couched in even more emphatic terms.

Mayor Baran said the change may not be permanent, but, ". . . at this time it's best for the city." He continued, "I'm very proud of our city's fire department, and I want to have the same pride in the police department. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction."

The earlier parts of the meeting were more routine, but other seeds of controversy were planted. Both sides in the zoning dispute (an out-of-town developer wants a zoning ordinance change so multi-resident housing may be built along Hiltop Drive) asked to appear before the council on Oct. 28 to appeal the zoning board's refusal to change a zoning classification, and that was put on the agenda.

Commissioner Hill opened the meeting with good news; the Haunted Forest hayride, hosted by the Henry McDonald family, entertained over 1,000 people. Her thanks went to the McDonalds, Sam and Barb Whitlow, and others for a "wonderful evening." The Antique Tractor Show committee had also written a check for the parks department.

Work on the Challacombe House is well underway; new windows will be installed within the week, so the structure will be inclosed so work can proceed inside despite the weather. Weeds and grass around the city have been cut, "Hopefully, for the last time." Finally, the downtown area has been lined and "looks great."

City employees Mike Claybrook and Dan Robinson drew praise for work on a broken water line in hazardous conditions.

Commissioner Trost inquired if the city had been paid by property owners for the lots workers have mowed around town; city attorney Doug Jarman said liens had been placed, but to his knowledge no money had been received.

Commissioner McCammack said city fire hydrants would be tested and flushed beginning Oct. 21, and that the waste water plant had been nominated for a "Best Operated Plant" award by the IEPA.

Mayor Baran said the EPA had again visited the Eagle Zinc area; he anticipates installation of a security fence soon, and that demolition of the buildings will begin by spring.

City engineer Scott Hunt said site work at the new water treatment plant, including grading, would be done over the next couple weeks; a pay request of $256,612.98 was granted. The council also approved bills totalling $245,561.96 other than the pay request in order to conduct the city's business.

Hunt said the contractor who applied the sealant on Main Street intends to return to correct "ponding issues." The Hixson railroad spur work is still awaiting Union Pacific paperwork.

Mayor Baran introduced a truck route ordinance for the city by praising the work of Officer Tim Shelton. The ordinance passed 4-0 (Commissioner Sherer was absent for the earlier part of the meeting because of work commitments).

A zoning board meeting was set for Nov. 5 to act on a request to change zoning on land committed to the Deer Run mine to Ag. Zoning District. The action of annexation as well as zoning changes was tabled until legal descriptions can be verified.

John Billington and Mark Leible appeared to ask about pond problems on their properties. According to a 2003 agreement between them and the city, the city could use their private ponds to drain water on the southwest portion of the city if the city would maintain the structures. Leible's pond washed out last spring and Billington's pond is silting in quickly; the two asked that at least a dialogue over the problem begin, and the city acknowledged responsibility.

Geoff Springer's move out of state necessitates his resignation from the library board; Janice Collins will take his place. Idabel Evans and Jane Calvert resigned from the zoning board because of health problems; Cory Davidson and Clyde 'Tub" Chesser will replace them.

The meeting then recessed until Sherer could be present.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m.

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