Nokomis City Council Fires Water Company

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The Nokomis City Council held their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday evening, June 22. Council members present in the room were Mayor Russ Foster, commissioners Ann Brookshire, Mike Holliday, Derek Durbin and Jocko Nash; along with City Clerk Rachel Hill. Visitors attended the meeting live and via Zoom internet connection.

Tim Ferguson of Woodard and Curran, also in attendance live, addressed the board during the hearing of visitors.  He presented hard copies of the firm’s annual report of the city’s water operations to the council and gave an overview of the information contained in the report. 

He explained the annual report was a summary of the monthly reports the board had already seen, plus a financial analysis of the year’s operation.  He said the report also had a health and safety section which included regulatory testing results.  

He pointed out the most notable items in this section were the water softener issues discussed at the previous council meeting and the ammonia violations on product leaving the sewage plant.  Ferguson said he would have more information for the board on the softeners in the next week.  He also reassured them that ammonia violations were common for the style plant the city operates, were dependent on various environmental and seasonal factors, and not imminently dangerous.

Ferguson said he felt the major accomplishment for the year outlined in the report was the replacement and upgrade of the old chlorine system to an industrial grade system.  He said other highlights were that water and sewer plant operation had come in under budget and that labor and maintenance in particular had come in noticeably under budget even while improving the overall system and product.

Commissioner Nash asked Ferguson if there were any EPA issues that the city needed to address soon.

“There are no violations outstanding that need to be addressed by the city right now, to the best of my knowledge,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson then told the board that the city could contact Chris Breeden or himself if they had any questions after Woodard was gone and went on to assure the board that the firm would work up to June 30.

“It was a pleasure to have worked with you.” he finished.

Mayor Foster thanked Ferguson for his efforts and “a very understandable report.”

After the board approved the minutes of the last meeting, with Durbin abstaining due to his absence; the board went into executive session at 7:18 p.m. on a motion by Durbin and second by Nash.

The council came out of executive session at 7:40 p.m.

Commissioner Brookshire made a motion to terminate the city's contract with Woodard and Curran as per the settlement with the Illinois Labor Relations Board and the union grievance, effective June 30. The motion was seconded by Holliday and approved unanimously by the board.

Brookshire then made a motion to offer employment to Hwayong Yi as water operator and also to offer employment to Dylan Goldsmith, Brian Hayes and Austin Bowers.  This motion was also seconded by Holliday.  The motion passed on a unanimous vote by the board.

Nash made motions to approve a building permit for a fence at 422 Oberle Street. The motion was seconded by Durbin and approved unanimously by the board.

Nash addressed a review of the grant approved for Frank Steele that he had asked be added to the agenda at the June 8 meeting, as an old application with incorrect amounts had been used.  Nash explained that Steele had not requested the maximum grant amount available to him by virtue of being given the old application.  Nash then made a motion to amend the business district grant to Steele to the amount of $5,875.68.  The motion was seconded by Durbin and passed on a unanimous roll call vote.

Nash then introduced the matter of Jesse Sadiku of Demi’s Diner.  In attendance, Sadiku addressed the council and explained he was applying for a business district grant after-the-fact because the nature of the repair was more of an emergency situation that could not follow the action steps and timetable prescribed in the grant process.  

Mayor Foster confirmed to the council that he has seen the damage and waiting was not an option available.  Brookshire informed the board that the grant professional used by the city advised that no grant money be awarded for this application.  For his part, Foster thought, given the COVID-19 effects on the local economy, the city needed to be more flexible at this time.  

Brookshire said she was concerned about “possible repercussions” of not following the process.  Nash ended the discussion by making a motion to award grant funding of $5,198.50 for the project.  Durbin seconded the motion and it passed unanimously on a roll call vote.

Earlier in the meeting, Durbin reported revenue received of $53,315.78 and expenses paid of $139,848.30.  

Prior to that, JoAnn Keele spoke to the board about Nokomis’s part in the Montgomery County 200-year birthday events being planned for 2021.  Keele volunteered to serve on any committee formed to work on the project by council, with the caveat that she would not chair the committee.  

She also suggested soliciting the help of the Nokomis Downtown Association. Brookshire said she and her husband were members and she would make contact with the group to that end.  Mayor Foster suggested contacting the art club at the high school to encourage their participation in decorations around town.

In the street department report, Holliday informed the board that the county highway department would be removing the fire hydrant at Raymond and Spruce streets as part of road work to be performed beginning this Thursday.  

A member of the audience in attendance asked if this posed a safety issue for the area.  Holliday responded that there was another hydrant two blocks away. Durbin added that the hydrant “with probably the best pressure in town” was also nearby.  

Foster asked if the hydrant could be moved across the street, but Holliday said there were many other utilities in the immediate area and crossing the road was really not possible. He deferred to Ferguson, who concurred and said the expense to move the hydrant could easily be from $10,000 to $20,000; given the situation. 

Nash made a motion to adjourn at 7:59 p.m. Durbin seconded the motion. Motion passed.

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