The Litchfield City Council had two outside presentations during their meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19, as the council returned to remotely held meetings in light of increased COVID-19 cases in the area.
The first of the two presentations was for the annual audit, which was presented by Rick Gratza and Elizabeth Oakley of Kerber, Eck and Braeckel. Retired partner Paul Osborne introduced Gratza and Oakley, who were doing the audit for the first time.
Gratza said that the audit was an unmodified opinion and that in addition to the financial statements, the audit included management discussions and analysis and other required documents and communications. He added that the audit noted that there were no new accounting policies and the impact of COVID-19 on the fiscal year.
Oakley presented the financial statements to the board and said that the decrease in net position was mainly due to the increased investment in the westside development project. She also noted that for every $1 in expenses the city had, they had $1.21 in revenue, and that while the sewer fund was operating close to self sufficient, there was still a minor deficit in that fund.
All told, Gratza and Oakley said that they did not come across any difficulties with the audit and any adjustments they proposed were accepted.
The council would accept the audit 7-0, with Alderwoman Marilyn Sisson absent.
The second presentation came from Eric Braasch of Diamond Brothers, Inc. Insurance. Braasch said much of the city’s insurance stayed the same or saw small increases, with the exception being worker’s compensation, which went up 26 percent.
Braasch did say that COVID credits are being issued by insurers, which would provide some relief to the city, bringing their increase down to just nine percent over last year. The council approved the renewals with Diamond Brothers as presented.
In other business, the council approved the city comprehensive plan for an amount not to exceed $23,552 with Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets, Inc.; approved an antenna site lease and interagency agreement with Three County Public Water District for the purpose of installing antennas and related radio equipment for fire and police departments on the water tower in Walshville; approved a boat-to-concert series at Lake Lou Yaeger and approved a multi-day racing event with MSE Racing (who conducts the Saint Louis Triathlon).
Also approved was an ordinance declaring 1010 South Walnut as surplus property for sale by sealed bid. Alderwoman Kassidy Paine asked about a structure originally listed on the property. City Administrator Tonya Flannery said that the structure had been removed and the notice would be republished.
In lake business, a motion to extend the construction contract completion date for Endrizzi Contracting to May 15, was approved, with Flannery noting that there was only minor work left to do on the Lake Lou Yaeger watershed implementation project.
Also passing was approval of step two to modify the engineering scope of work for Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Engineering for work on the Lake Lou Yaeger watershed implementation project to include alternatives for the 96-inch culvert and to prepare construction plans as required by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for the 16th Avenue dam construction permit. Step one of the project was approved by the council on Sept. 17, and the original authorization included a not-to-exceed amount of $9,400, which will remain the same.
The last of the three lake items was the approval of the covenants, lot lease agreements and marketing brochures for the Eagle Ridge subdivision at Lake Lou Yaeger. Mayor Steve Dougherty said that there had been a number of interested parties already, with Flannery saying that there had been additional interest after the latest newsletter went out.
Alderman Woodrow Street asked when was the earliest construction could begin. Flannery said there are still several steps, including going through the planning commission, but the earliest bids could be accepted would be in February, so construction could begin by spring.
Alderwoman Paine mentioned that the new leases state that an annual septic inspection is required and asked if this is something current lake leases require. City Attorney Kit Hantla said that current lake leases do not require this, but he is hoping that as these older leases expire, that the city will phase them into the new leases to catch up with the times we are living in now and benefit the community in the future.
Paine also asked if the new leases also ban rentals such as Air BNB, like the old leases do. Hantla said they do not.
The motion to approve the items related to the Eagle Ridge subdivision passed 5-2, with Alderman Dwayne Gerl and Alderman Mark Brown voting no.
A motion to purchase carpet and have it installed in the City Clerk’s office for an amount not to exceed $5,854.80 passed as well, this time by a 7-0 margin.
Alderman Street asked what kind of warranty the carpet would have. City Clerk Carol Burke said she was unsure, but could find out.
Street also asked if carpet was the best floor covering option for the office. Burke said that is what they had gone with in the past and that her employees were often on their feet and felt like it would benefit them. She added that the flooring would be carpet squares so they could be replaced in sections if one area happened to wear out.
The council also discussed providing relief on a late charge at the request of the Henderson Water District, who mistakenly believed that the city offices were closed on Monday, Oct. 12, and paid their water bill on Oct. 13, instead, making it one day overdue.
Burke said the late fee was $1,000 and Henderson Water District was asking to waive the late fee for the misunderstanding. Street said that the late fee was probably too much, but worried about setting a precedent and said Henderson should not have made the assumption.
Paine said also said that personally she believed that $1,000 (10 percent of the total bill) was too much for being one day late, especially if banks and other offices were closed.
Alderman David Hollo said that other people who were late that day would have to pay and believed that Henderson should do the same.
Ultimately, no alderperson made a motion to waive the fee and the late fee stood.
The meeting would go into closed session at 7:15 p.m. Once reconvening, the council approved a motion to give each full-time and part-time employee of the City of Litchfield a $50 gift card to a Litchfield business in lieu of the city’s annual Thanksgiving dinner and holiday party. The gesture not only shows the city’s appreciation for its employees, but also its support for its local businesses.
The council is scheduled to meet again on Thursday Dec. 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Corwin Hall.