The city of Litchfield’s hopes for economic development growth on the west side took another step forward on Thursday, Nov. 1, as the city council approved three motions paving the way for work to begin on the industrial park on the west side of I-55.
The council approved a proposal from the four Litchfield banks, Litchfield National Bank, First National Bank of Litchfield, Bank & Trust Company and Litchfield Community Savings, to finance the infrastructure and public improvements for the west side industrial park and to authorize the bond counsel to begin the process for the six million dollar bond.
City Administrator Tonya Flannery said that the locally issued revenue bonds are part of what is expected to be a 14 to 15 million dollar project. Flannery said that going with the local banks saved the city up to $80,000 in bond fees, which the council also approved through a moton to hire Hart, Southworth and Witsman for bond counsel for an amount not to exceed $20,000.
The third motion pertaining to the expansion was approval of a bid from Legends Underground Utilities for a contract amount of $831,510 to extend the water main to the west of I-55. Flannery said that the city had received approval of the bids from the EDA. Alderman Ray Kellenberger asked when the project might begin. Ronnie Paul, project engineer with Heneghan and Associates, said the company wants to start by December and has to be done by March due to the impact on farmland on the other side of the highway.
The council also approved a motion to have an agreement drawn up to run another water main extension for the purpose of selling water to the KAHO Public Water District. Flannery said that the water district requested that the city contract with HCS, LLC through the design-build process to allow the project to get started quicker and to save costs. The water district would then reimburse the city.
Water Superintendent Ray Weller would address the council and say that he had asked for a water rate increase earlier this year and had been told no and to go out and sell more water. Weller said that this was the first of several interested parties in purchasing money from the city and that the project was a no-brainer.
Alderman Kellenberger asked if this meant that the city would not have to raise water rates. Mayor Dougherty said that the city has major issues with water lines and at some point those issues will need to be fixed and could require funds beyond that generated by water sales, whether it be during this council’s tenure or another.
The council would also approve the minutes of the previous meeting, approve the transfer of funds and payment of bills and approve the replacement of telephone lines to the lift station alarms to a satellite transmitter from Mac’s Fire and Safety for an amount not to exceed $3,360 annually. Flannery said that if the new process for the lift stations isn’t satisfactory, the city can go back to using the phone lines.
Flannery also spoke about the city’s revolving loan fund, the money which has been recalled by the state. The funds were originally distributed incorrectly by the State of Illinois, which forced the Department of Housing and Urban Development (the original source of the funds) to recall them. Flannery said that Litchfield had two options: to pay one million dollars to the state from the general fund or find local banks that would take over the loans.
With the latter much more attractive, the council approved assignment of the loans with J&B Partners and Lilly Pad Learning Center to Litchfield National Bank as part of closing out the revolving loan fund.
The money will then be returned to the state to fulfill the city’s obligation. One other loan was paid off while four others are in negotiations with the city.
The council would also hear from Tom Franzen regarding the city’s insurance renewals. Franzen focused on a few topics in particular, including cyber security. The city currently has cyber exposure built into their current policy, but it pays $50,000 per occurrence and has a $100,000 per year limit.
Franzen said that wasn’t sufficient and suggested that the city contract with Beazley Furlonge, a Lloyd’s of London company, for additional cyber insurance. The contract, which carries a premium of $4,219 and a two million dollar limit, also provides pre-loss education and post-loss support services.
Franzen also said that worker’s compensation continues to be an issue for the city. In 2013 through 2017, the city has had a premium of one million dollars in worker’s comp and has had claims of $1,130,000. Franzen said that this has resulted in a rate increase for the city, from $225,000 to $297,290, even though worker’s comp rates are trending down in general in the insurance industry.
Franzen said that the city’s property premiums have remained flat and that the city’s operational insurance rate decreased from $126,482 to $125,291.
Before the council approved the contract with Franzen and Scheller Insurance, Franzen would introduce Eric Braasch, who will handle the city’s insurance needs when Franzen is not available.
To start the meeting, the council heard from Chuck Napier, who leases Lake Lot #114 at Lake Lou Yaeger. Napier was on hand to discuss the city’s regulations about storing items at lake lots during the offseason. He was unable to attend previous meetings on Aug. 2 and Aug. 14, when the city discussed the regulations, which allow for certain pre-existing structures to remain on the lots, but reinforced rules that required that the lots be cleaned up prior to the end of the season.
Napier said that he and others at the primitive camping lots were notified that they needed to have their lots cleaned up on Oct. 18 and he felt that the city should have given the campers more time and notice. He said that he has had the lake lot since 2005 and he believed that some of the items should be able to remain, including trash cans.
Napier said that his lot does not have road access and that it was an undue hardship to have to remove all of the items, which included a picnic table in good condition. He added that owners of several neighboring lots felt the same way and that these campers spend money in town and the city should work with the campers.
Mayor Dougherty said he understood that the lake lot owners all have their unique set of issues with the clean-up but that the regulations are not new, they are just being enforced more than they had in the past. Dougherty said that the council will continue to discuss the matter.
The council would go into closed session at 7:17 p.m. and would re-enter open session a short time later to approve the release of closed session minutes from the Nov. 2, Nov. 16, Dec. 7 and Dec. 21, 2017 meetings and the Jan. 18, Feb. 1, Feb. 15, and March 1, 2018 meetings. The council will meet again on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at Corwin Hall.