Litchfield Pot Vote To Be Left To People

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“Here we go again, Mayor.”

Those words from Alderman Woody Street started off the discussion on the sale of recreational cannabis in Litchfield for the third time in five months. But after failing to get a super majority from the Litchfield City Council twice, the citizens will now have some input on the process. 

The council approved a resolution for the issue of allowing the sale of recreational cannabis in the city to be placed on the ballot at the next local election in November.

Street was quick to point out that he was in favor of putting the measure on the ballot before the council voted on the measures to set up retail cannabis sales through the current medical marijuana company in Litchfield, The Greenhouse.

Street said he was told that it wasn’t necessary to have it on the ballot, because the aldermen are the voice of the people. He then pointed out that as that voice, they had declined to pass the motion to allow recreational cannabis sales twice.

Street also said that he wasn’t able to get it on the agenda, but Mayor Steve Dougherty got the vote before the council without a problem. Mayor Dougherty said that he had many people ask him why the council had voted against the measure and felt like it needed to be addressed. 

Dougherty also added that it wasn’t his personal feelings on the matter, but what he’d heard from the public. Street, who voted against recreational cannabis sales twice before, said that it wasn’t his personal feelings on the matter either.

Street also said that he’d like the vote in November to be a binding referendum. City Attorney Kit Hantla said that would be impossible for the November vote due to legal restrictions, but the council could do a gentleman’s agreement to follow the vote’s result.

Street said that the city has already acted on the issue twice and spent some money on it. He added that he wanted the city to have a way to say yes or no and that be the end of it.

Hantla pointed out that even if the measure had support from voters, it would still have to come back to the council and pass by a 6-2 super majority. The previous two votes had failed 5-3 and 4-4.

Alderwoman Marilyn Sisson said that she believed it should be the people’s choice, with Mayor Dougherty adding that it would then be the council’s decision to follow what the people recomended or not. The motion to put the question on the ballot would pass 7-1, with Alderman David Hollo voting no.

In other business, the council approved contracting with Credit Collection Partners of Taylorville regarding unpaid for services rendered to the Litchfield Fire Department and Ambulance Service and approved a motion to write off $25,387.50 of invoices prior to Dec. 31, 2014,  as uncollected revenue.

Alderman Mark Brown asked if the group from Taylorville could be used to collect those unpaid invoices as well. Clerk Carol Burke said they are working with Montgomery County, but the city has had an issue with the county getting the credit group the invoices in a timely manner.

The council also approved an Advanced Life Support Intercept Agreement with the Raymond-Harvel Ambulance Service, approved an easement agreement with Envotech-Illinois for the sanitary sewer forcemain project, and approved a water purchase agreement with the city of Mt. Olive, pending approval from their city government.

Alderman Street asked if water pressure on the south side of town would be affected by the sale. City Administrator Tonya Flannery said it would not.

In economic development business, the council approved a pay request from Gelly Excavating and Construction in the amount of $217,245.60 and approved an assignment of the TIF Agreement from Litchfield Unlimited to the Litchfield Community Unit School District.

The TIF agreement pertains to the Litchfield School District purchasing the property where the Milnot factory once stood from Litchfield Unlimited. According to Mayor Dougherty, the school is interested in building an elementary school on the site and if they do not build on the site, they would have to repay the city $100,000 in TIF funds.

In lake business, the council approved a pay request from Endrizzi Contracting for $37,800 for work on the watershed implementation project, approved the purchase of handrails from Hawkeye Steel Sales for an amount not to exceed $10,000 for the Lake Lou Yaeger dam outlet structure, Litchfield Lake spillway structure and 5-Mile Lake outlet structure, and approved a pay request number six from Brewster Construction for the amount of $224,832.19 for work on the Eagle Ridge subdivision, with Dwayne Gerl, Mark Brown and Marilyn Sisson voting no on the subdivision pay request.

In other business, the council approved a resolution to include compensation paid under an internal revenue code section 125 plan as IMRF earnings retroactive to Dec. 1, 2018, approved the start of the condemnation and demolition process for the properties at 220 and 222 North State Street, approved a custom glass privacy wall system for the Carnegie building from Egyptian Workspace Partners for an amount not to exceed $16,140.26 and approved the renewal of an advertising contract with Meredith Media for a sixth of a page vertical ad in the biannual Travel Illinois Magazine for an amount not to exceed $2,000.

The former Litchfield library building will be utilized by the Litchfield Tourism office and the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce. The main floor will house the two offices, while the basement will be used for storage. For the time being, the upper floors will remain closed.

Prior to the council meeting, Mayor Dougherty honored volunteer firefighters Russell Campbell and Dave Wallace for their 40 and 38 years of service respectively.

Just after that, during the bill payment motion, Alderwoman Sisson asked about a $4,400 engineering services contract with Crawford, Murphy and Tilly for the Plummer subdivision project. Mayor Dougherty said it was part of economic development and something the city had done with other businesses.

Sisson asked if Plummer decides not to move forward with the project, is the city just out the money? Both Flannery and Dougherty said that was the case.

The council would go into closed session at 7:10 p.m. Their next meeting will be on Aug. 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Corwin Hall.

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