Litchfield Turns Back Turnaround Agenda

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More than 120 union members made their opinion of Governor Bruce Rauner's "turnaround agenda" known to the Litchfield City Council on Tuesday night as the group flooded Corwin Hall.

"It's good to have this many people in city government," Mayor Steve Dougherty said to begin the meeting. "I wish we had this more often."

The meeting got off to a delayed start due to the overflow crowd, and more than a dozen additional chairs were set up.

Due to possible safety concerns, the crowd was not allowed to stand along the wall behind the aldermen and mayor. Those who didn't find a seat were asked to wait in the hall, where the door would be open to allow them to hear the meeting.

The interest from the labor unions arose from the second item on the agenda, a motion to rescind the previous vote to adopt a non-binding resolution of support for the turnaround agenda, which includes changes in union power and wages and the creation of "right-to-work" zones free from union mandates.

The resolution passed at last month's meeting, but at least one council member asked that the vote be rescinded. Another motion, to adopt a resolution urging the governor and general assembly to protect full funding of Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF) reserves failed last meeting, but that vote was also on Tuesday's agenda to be rescinded.

The LGDF motion was the first on tap for the council, although the two motions to rescind seemed deeply connected throughout the motion.

Alderman Tim Hancock was the first to speak, saying that he was against telling the governor to not take funds from local governments, but that it was ok to take money from hardworking laborers.

Mayor Dougherty said they were two different issues, with the LGDF resolution aimed to fix the current budget and the turnaround agenda aimed at building a better future.

He would add that the Illinois Municipal League had identified problems with the "turnaround agenda and that there would have to be compromise on both sides. Mayor Dougherty added that the resolution was non-binding and stated that the city was not anti-union.

Alderman Bob Ostendorf clarified that the vote to rescind the previous vote did not reverse the council's decision, but merely nullified the previous vote.

Things would get slightly heated soon after as several members of the audience spoke up about their opposition to the turnaround agenda. Mayor Dougherty explained that since they were not on the agenda, they were not allowed to speak.

Dean Webb, president of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor, asked if there was a sign-up sheet to speak at the meeting, saying that most municipalities allow for the public to sign up to speak up to 15 minutes before the meeting.

City Attorney Kit Hantla said that the city has established procedures, which include filling out a public participation application that must be turned in by 5 p.m. the day of the meeting. Webb then asked if the council was going to let anyone speak, with the mayor saying that would set an unwanted precedent.

Eddie Caumiant, AFSCME Council 31 regional director, also spoke up on the matter, saying that there were 120 constituents at the meeting that wanted their voices heard. Caumiant also said that the city was violating the open meetings act by not having the meeting in a venue that would hold the crowd.

After several more comments, Police Chief Lee Jarman informed the crowd that Mayor Dougherty had established procedure and if there was further discussion from the public, the room would be cleared.

Mayor Dougherty would call for the vote shortly after this, with the motion to rescind the voted on LGDF reserves passing by a 5-3 margin, with Aldermen Hancock and Dwayne Gerl and Alderwoman Sisson voting no.

Mayor Dougherty said the motion for the LGDF resolution was back on the table, which Alderman Hancock disputed since it was not on the agenda. The mayor and city attorney disagreed with Hancock's assertion and a vote on the motion was taken after the motion was made by Alderman Ray Kellenberger and seconded by Alderman Woodrow Street.

The vote would be split 4-3-1, with Alderman Ostendorf abstaining; Hancock, Gerl and Sisson voting no and Street, David Hollo, Eric Hollo and Kellenberger voting yes. Mayor Dougherty would cast the deciding yes vote in support of the resolution that opposed the cutting of LGDF reserves.

With most of the discussion having taken place earlier, the vote to rescind the turnaround agenda resolution happened more quickly. Alderman Street, David Hollo and Eric Hollo would vote against the rescinding of the vote, which passed by a 5-3 margin.

On the revote for the resolution to support the turnaround agenda, the council voted the motion down by a 5-3 margin, with Street, Hollo and Hollo supporting the resolution and Sisson, Gerl, Ostendorf, Kellenberger and Hancock voting against it.

The next three items would go quickly, without any discussion. Motions to amend a contract for auditing services from Kerber, Eck and Braeckel, to approve the purchase of eight ballistic vests in the amount of $6,024 and to approve preliminary and design engineering from Crawford, Murphy and Tilly for work on the Sargent Street repaving project in the amount of $69,241 all passed unanimously.

Following the last vote, the meeting was adjourned, then reconvened to swear in the newly elected officials. Mayor Dougherty invited everyone who was interested in local government to stay, but announced those who did not want to were free to leave, which most of the crowd did.

Among those sticking around were Mark Brown, the newly elected alderman for Ward 2, and Tim Wright, the newly elected alderman for Ward 3. Brown, Wright and re-elected aldermen Dwayne Gerl, Dave Hollo and Woodrow Street were sworn in by City Clerk Carol Burke, who was sworn in just before the aldermen by Mayor Dougherty.

Prior to calling the meeting back into session, Mayor Dougherty recognized Eric Hollo and Tim Hancock for their service to the city as aldermen.

The first action of the new council was to approve Christopher "Kit" Hantla of the Hantla & Hantla Law Firm as city attorney and Burke as city treasurer.

The council also approved the following committee assignments: Administration - Woodrow Street; Economic Development - Ray Kellenberger; Finance/City Clerk - Dwayne Gerl; Fire/Ambulance - Woodrow Street; Building/Planning/Zoning - Ray Kellenberger; Police/Code Enforcement - Tim Wright; Tourism - Marilyn Sisson; Building and Grounds - Mark Brown; Lake - Dave Hollo; Streets/Drainage - Bob Ostendorf; Water - Dave Hollo; Wastewater Treatment - Dwayne Gerl.

Liaisons were also named for Economic Development (Kellenberger-Chairman; Ostendorf and Hollo); Fire/Ambulance Ad Hoc (Hollo-Chairman; Street, Sisson and Brown); Equipment Replacement (Wright-Chairman; Ostendorf, Gerl) and Planning/Zoning (Kellenberger-Chairman).

The meeting would come to a close shortly after, with a reception held after the meeting. The new council will have its first committee meeting on Thursday, May 28, at 6:30 p.m. at Corwin Hall.

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