Litchfield Council Meets Virtually

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The Litchfield City Council met on Thursday, April 2, at 6:30 p.m. at Corwin Hall… and four other locations. 

With the COVID-19 epidemic still wreaking havoc on everything in sight, the meeting was held virtually, with Mayor Steve Dougherty, City Administrator Tonya Flannery, City Clerk Carol Burke and Aldermen Dwayne Gerl, David Hollo, Woody Street and Mark Brown at Corwin Hall, and Alderwomen Marilyn Sisson and Kassidy Paine and Aldermen Ray Kellenberger and Tim Wright contributing by Zoom or by phone from their homes. All told the experience went well, with Mayor Dougherty thanking Kurtis Land of CTI for helping the city set up for the virtual meeting.

The majority of the meeting, which adjourned at 8 p.m., was spent discussing the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 budget for the city, with Budget Officer Jereme Zook of KEB on hand to present the information. Zook said the budget calls for a $319,000 surplus in 2021 and a $276,000 surplus in 2022 to get the city’s emergency reserves back up to the amount mandated by ordinance, a third of reoccurring expenditures. Zook said the surplus will make up for a $250,000 deficit in last year’s general fund.

The budget also calls for $125,000 in cannabis sales revenue and a projected 2.5 percent increase in sales tax revenue. Zook said that number may be different due to the current COVID-19 epidemic affecting retail sales.

Alderwoman Paine asked if the city is able to estimate how much the current shutdown will affect the sales tax numbers. Mayor Dougherty said that some adjustments may have to be made to rectify the slowdown in retail sales. The budget will be voted on at the next council meeting.

Prior to the budget presentation, the council approved two old business items, to accept the minutes from the March 5 meeting and to transfer funds and pay bills, and heard from Shannon Hall of Diamond Brothers Insurance regarding the renewal of the city’s health insurance, which passed 8-0. Hall said that the city’s plan increased by 14 percent due to the fact that the insurance company actually lost money last year due to increased claims. She added that Blue Cross Blue Shield initially proposed an increase of 24.82 percent, but that was negotiated down to 14 percent.

Hall said that the city offers five plans for employees, so they have some control in the coverage they would like and that this year’s plans are similar to the ones they have had for the last three years.

In other business, the city approved a motion to temporarily suspend utility shutoffs, late payment fees and credit card payment fees due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to establish a committee for determining payment plans. 

Burke said that the city would like to work with people who may have had their work situation affected by COVID-19 and added that other municipalities in the area are doing the same. City Attorney Kit Hantla said that the shutoff policy is also at the direction of Governor J.B. Pritzker.

The council also approved motions to advertise for bids for replacing the HVAC system at city hall, to accept a pay request for Kamalduski Excavating and Grading for $3,492, to approve a proposal from Ameren for installing a three-phase transformer for the new lift station at the I-55 commerce park for $19,363.15 and to solicit bids for the rehabilitation of North Illinois Avenue through grant money through the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity.

In police business, the council approved the installation of emergency lighting and radio equipment through Global Technical Systems and to apply striping for the recently purchased squad car and to approve an intergovernmental agreement between the city and county for police radio and telephone services.

In lake business, the council approved the clearing of areas for the Section 319 Lake Lou Yaeger project area for an amount not to exceed $10,000, approved a proposal for engineering services for the construction phase of the Lake Yaeger sanitary sewer, pump station and force main project with Crawford, Murphy and Tilly for $85,000 and approved the engineering services for final design drawings for the Lake Lou Yaeger watershed implementation project.

Before adjourning for the evening, the council approved motions to renew the contract with Kerber, Eck and Breckel and Jereme Zook as budget officer, approved a contract with Foster and Foster Actuaries to prepare actuarial reports for the police and fire pension funds for an amount not to exceed $3,275 per plan and approved an emergency declaration regarding the COVID-19 public health emergency.

With Governor Pritzker’s shelter-in declaration extending to April 30, if the council meets again on April 16, the meeting could once again be conducted virtually.

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