A conversation over the hours at Library Park kicked off the Litchfield City Council meeting on Thursday, Aug. 4. The public interest in the subject sprung from a proposed amendment to Ordinance #2187, which sets the hours the park is open and the terms of trespassing.
The proposed amendment would change the hours of the park to being closed between 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. The fine amount would also change to "not more than $750" for a violation. The previous ordinance, passed July 5, 1974, closed the park between 5 p.m. and 6 a.m. and cited a fine amount of no less than $10 and no more than $100.
The reason for the amendment was due to complaints of people being in the park area, including some who had been in the memorial area of the park (even on top of the monuments in some cases) overnight. There had also been issues with individuals using the electrical outlet boxes in the park area and rocks and debris in the fountain.
Jennifer Willows was on hand at the meeting to oppose the changes. Willows said that she and family and friends had often used the park at night for socializing and other activities and that they had not encountered some of the issues that had led to the complaints (including the people in the memorial park and in the fountain), saying that most of the people that use the park are respectful of the property and try to keep it picked up.
Willows did say that she and others believed the power outlets were public, but would not use them anymore.
Willows said that while the previous ordinance had been on the books, it had never really been enforced and she felt that the fines were too steep. Mayor Steve Dougherty said that the new fine structure was pretty standard for the city and that just because the limit was up to $750, that did not mean all fines would be that much.
Willows added that many people work late night shifts and use the park to socialize or unwind after work. She proposed having the park stay open until midnight to help accommodate those individuals.
Mayor Dougherty said that he believed that Willows and her family and friends were not the cause of the problem, but a select few had made safety and the conditions of the park had made the amendment necessary. He also pointed out that the ordinance change actually extends the park hours significantly.
Willows asked if the entire park would be off limits or if people could still use the sidewalks. Mayor Dougherty said that the intent of the amendment was to allow the sidewalks to remain open.
Later in the meeting, the council would pass the amendment, with Alderman Jake Prange noting that he had also heard from concerned residents not wanting to limit the park's hours too stringently.
Willows was the first of two individuals to address the council before the meeting. Rich Bohar was on hand to speak about Sargent Street, which he said was in desperate need of repairs.
Bohar said that the road had been tore up for seven years and that the city had been promising to fix it for three. He added that he had seen "better roads in Vietnam."
Mayor Dougherty said that the project was scheduled to be done this spring, but the Illinois Department of Transportation had put off the project until next spring.
Bohar asked if the city could do anything to remedy the problem.
Dougherty said that the problem is that the road needs to be completely rebuilt, an expensive proposition.
City Administrator Tonya Flannery said that according to IDOT, the bid letting will begin in June 2017. Bohar said that anything the city could do to speed up the project would be good.
The remainder of the meeting would go fairly quickly, with the aldermen approving the minutes of the previous meeting, the payment of bills and six other motions.
The approved motions included the solicitation of bids for a new Ford Explorer and a new Ford F150 SSV for the police department, to approve an ordinance to zoning ordinance #2831 that fixes a previous omission, the solicitation of bids for a new ambulance (with pricing for both four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive models), the approval of the large water meter testing ordinance and the approval of a special cabin rate for all six cabins for three nights (Sept. 22-24) for the Golden Eagle Intertribal Powwow for a total of $480.
Also approved was a proposal with Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Engineers for permit preparation for the land disturbance at the proposed subdivision at Lake Lou Yaeger, west of the Solar Circle subdivision.
According to CMT senior project manager Ted LaBelle, the work will include preparing the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit application for the IEPA, signoff from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and signoff from IDNR for threatened and endangered species.
The work will include a site visit to the subdivision site to evaluate the road alignment that is staked and to determine the safest location for the intersection of the subdivision road with 16th Avenue. The cost of the work is not to exceed $5,800.
The council would enter into closed session at 6:50 p.m., reemerging at 7:08 p.m. with no further action taken.