The Ward 2 alderman spot once again led off the Litchfield City Council meeting on Thursday, Aug. 29, as the city continues to have a vacancy for the position.
Former alderman Harold Ellinger was on hand at the meeting to be recognized for his eight years of service to the city. Ellinger resigned his position on July 31, after moving outside the city limits.
A motion to appoint a new Ward 2 alderman was tabled until the next meeting, but the council did hear from Litchfield resident Mark Brown, who spoke about his interest in the position.
After the initial discussion on the council vacancy, the aldermen continued with their regular agenda, which included a motion to hire an actuary consultant to review the city’s fire and police pension plans in order to obtain the correct amount to be levied for the real estate tax levy. The motion called for the police and fire pension funds to pay for 50 percent of their portion for the service.
City Clerk Denise Lueker said that the city had always gone with the state’s actuary when determining the number, but that is a group actuary for the entire state and not focused on the city individually. She added that bids for the service were between $2,500 and $3,000 per pension plan, but could save the city a great deal of money.
After going up 10 percent in 2011, the state projected increase for the police and fire pension funding was at 44 percent for 2012, an increase of $213,065 over 2011. The total amount of funding suggested by the state was $697,504, compared to $484,439 in 2011.
Mayor Steve Dougherty said that the city was advised by budget officer Levi Suhrenbrock to have the independent consultant review the pension plans.
Alderman Robert Ostendorf asked if other communities had seen a similar increase in their pension plans. City Attorney Kit Hantla said that the pension increase had been almost across the board.
Ostendorf also asked if the actuary consultant was in this year’s budget. Mayor Dougherty said that it was not, but the service could save the city money. City Administrator Tonya Flannery said that the city would be required to use the number provided by the state if they did not go through their own independent actuary.
After the discussion the council members voted to move the motion forward to Tuesday’s full council meeting.
Also moving forward were motions to grant a façade grant to Whitlock Chiefs, Inc, for the property located at 602 North State (with Alderman Ostendorf abstaining), to approve a revolving loan fund request for Action Powersports Holdings, LCC in the amount of $150,000 for work on the expansion of their business, to approve the sale of a 2004 Ford E-450 ambulance for the amount of $10,000 to Dunn’s Ambulance Service, and to approve the second reading of an ordinance declaring a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid as surplus, with the proceeds from the sale augmenting the police department’s equipment replacement needs.
A motion to approve the renewal of a lease agreement with Arch Air Medical Services was tabled for 30 days due to contract negotiations. Hantla told the council that there was the possibility that the contract could be completed by Tuesday, but that it would most likely be brought to the council at the October meeting.
Mayor Dougherty asked if the current contract had expired, which Hantla said it had, but the past contract rolled over to make sure there was no interruption in service. Mayor Dougherty also asked if there would be any significant changes to the contract. Hantla said that he didn’t expect any, but the sticking point was on some insurance waivers that Arch was requesting.
Dougherty asked if the city was facing any budget impact with the new contract. Hantla said that he didn’t think so and if anything, the city could receive more money from rent for Arch.
Two other motions, one regarding the release of executive session minutes and another regarding a reimbursement request from Brown Shoe Loft, LLC, were pulled from the agenda.
The council would also have a lengthy discussion on who to send to the Illinois Municipal League conference in Chicago in October. During discussion on the bills, Alderman David Hollo said that the total cost, if everyone from the council that was planning to go went, would be more than $11,000. He stated that he thought the city should pass on going to the IML conference this year, due to the city’s current budget woes.
Alderman Ray Kellenberger and Alderwoman Marilyn Sisson said that they were not planning to attend anyway. Alderman Woodrow Street said that he felt like he had gained a lot by attending the conference in the past, but agreed that it might not be good for the budget. He added that he felt like the mayor, city administrator and possibly the city clerk should go though.
Alderman Ostendorf stated that he felt like the meetings were informational and wished to attend the conference. Sisson mentioned that she felt like those who attend the conference should report on what they learned if they decided to go.
After further discussion, it was determined to allow those who wanted to go to do so. A quick headcount to see who was planning on going to the IML conference resulted in Alderman Ostendorf as the only alderman planning on attending the event.
Alderman Dwayne Gerl did state that he felt like the matter should have been brought up before now and that arrangements for the event had already been made by some of the aldermen.
The council also heard from acting Police Chief Lee Jarman during Thursday’s committee meetings about the city’s animal nuisance ordinance. Jarman told the council that the current ordinance doesn’t cover cats, just dogs, but it had been the department’s policy to pick up cats in the past under previous chief BJ Wilkinson.
Jarman said that the issue with picking up cats was that there was no way to recoup the expenses incurred by the city and that the financial impact would more than double his animal impound budget.
Alderman Street asked how these expenses were previously paid. Jarman said they were taken out of the police department’s budget and while he wasn’t sure if they went over budget in the past, he was certain they would this year if something didn’t change.
Alderman Ostendorf asked about adding a cat tag, similar to the city’s dog tag requirement. Jarman said that issues with the dog tags included that they are sometimes not replaced when they become old or fall off and that the $4 tag doesn’t make much of a dent in the $50 bill for impoundment by the county.
Alderman Kellenberger suggested just leaving the ordinance as it was, meaning that only dogs will be picked up under the nuisance ordinance.
To end the meeting, the council moved forward motions to hire a temporary worker for the “Q the Lou” event on Sept. 13-14, to obtain a special event liquor license for Dennis Coatney to serve alcohol at the “Do the Lou” celebration, to purchase a trailer mounted air compressor from Rahn Equipment Company for the street department for $12,076 after trade in, to enter in a five year lease agreement with IKON Financial Services for a Ricoh copy machine for the wastewater treatment facility and to approve the hosting of a Rt. 66 half-marathon, 5K, and kids’ race on Nov. 9. More information on the half-marathon can be found on page B1 of this edition of The Journal-News.
The council will meet again on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at Corwin Hall, for the final votes on Thursday’s motions.