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New Aldermen Sworn in at McLeansboro; Firefighters Honored; Cancelled Executive Session Leaves No Update on Joiner Investigation; Dispatch Agreement Talks Coming Down to the Wire

New Aldermen Dale Biggerstaff and Billy Glenn officially assumed their roles on the McLeansboro City Council Tuesday evening replacing Mike Stanart and Mark Beck on the board.

A 15 item agenda took about an hour and twenty minutes to get through Tuesday.  Discussion of the Central Dispatch intergovernmental agreement between the City and Hamilton County was a feature point.  A city report revealed the committee determined an annual payment of $40,000 as appropriate.  The county began negotiations months ago asking for $100,000 per year.  States Attorney Justin Hood delivered a letter on behalf of the county earlier in the day, the first formal request, asking the City to consider $55,000 per year for a term of 3 years.  After lengthy discussion, council members opted to table the request and authorized the committee to continue negotiations, expecting to land an agreement somewhere between the $40,000 and $55,000 mark.  Alderman Richard Lasswell, prior to the motion to table suggested a counter offer of $30,000 and when new alderman Dale Biggerstaff asked aloud what number Council would be happy with, Mayor Dick Deitz replied “nothing”.  The letter from the County indicates that through research, approximately 60% of 911 calls handled thru dispatch originate from within the City.  The previous agreement ended on February 3rd of this year.  The County board has set a deadline of June 30th to have a

new agreement in place.  If an agreement isn’t reached, which doesn’t seem likely, the burden of providing dispatch services to city residents would be left to the City.  That would include purchasing of equipment, hiring and training of employees, LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System) access, and meet requirements necessary to run a dispatch center.  The Hamilton County Board meets next Tuesday, May 21st.

McLeansboro Firefighters were honored earlier in the day at the State Capital for their heroic acts back in late August of 2018.  Assistant Chief Jim Morris told council he and four of his fellow volunteers were recognized at the 26th annual Medal of Honor Awards Ceremony and Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial.  An early morning fire on August 26th, 2018 could’ve resulted in death were it not for Morris, Lukas Dale, Nathan Taylor, Mathew Bryson, and Walter Rexing.  A man was found unconscious inside the burning building and rescued.  

Verbal Blakey, Vice President at BHMG Engineers out of St. Louis, briefed council asking for a formal letter from the city asking SIPC (Southern Illinois Power Cooperative) to pursue a potential interconnect agreement for an electric line that is currently out of service connecting McLeansboro and Fairfield.  The Wayne County city gets it’s power from Ameren and is served by IEMA (Illinois Municipal Electric Agency).  The letter won’t bind the city to making any financial agreement, but allows SIPC to further negotiate terms with IEMA on the city’s behalf.  An updated proposal and more information will be brought back to council in coming months.  Council unanimously approved that letter of support to SIPC.

Richard Woods and Bill Reed addressed council on behalf of the McCoy Memorial Library.  Woods says the library runs on a shoestring budget and relies on donations.  In the near future, they’ll need to replace the library’s 4 computers along with peripheral devices that serve as public use computers.  Beyond that, the library has no line item to buy books, meaning they rely on donations.  Woods asked for permission to be involved in the next tax levy process saying that the money they receive should be .15 percent of the municipality’s assets, yet they only receive about .1338% and he’s not sure where that estimated $2,000 is going.  In addition, Woods brought a list of significant repair needs at the library which include 2 basketball sized holes in the ceiling, 2 holes in the floor, an electrical issue and a soft spot in the floor at a high traffic area.  Woods says all the items were on the last list presented to council somewhere between months and two years ago, minus the holes in the floor.  City Clerk Fred Vallowe also remarked there’s a sewage line that most likely needs replaced that serves city hall and the library.  Workers estimate that line is as old as the building.  The Aaron G. Cloud House, now known as the McCoy Memorial Library, was built in 1884.  It has served as a library since 1922 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in April of 1978.

Bruce Morris, representing the McLeansboro Kiwanis Club outlined proposed maintenance and improvements to the Edgar Satterfield Kiwanis Park, where Kids Kingdom is located.  The Kiwanis Club has authorized $7,000 out of it’s Youth Fund for investment into the enhancements.  Among them, supplying an additional baby swing, adding a sidewalk (concrete and culvert) from the pavilion across a low area to access the west side of the playground, the addition of two park benches on concrete pads, an enhanced entranceway to the park, addressing the parking situation (currently nose to tail parking) moving to slanted parking to accommodate more vehicles.

The City has made hires for the 2019 Pool Season.  Haeley Peters of Dahlgren has been hired as the manager with Raegan Halley named as Assistant Manager.  It’s estimated up to 11 additional lifeguards will be hired as well.

Five permits were approved including a sign for Fairview Estates.  Fence permits were signed off on for Thomas Lytle and Austin Hybbert and two building permits were authorized.  One of those building permits is for Russell Oil Company at 210 East Randolph Street.  Scuttlebutt is that the former Sunstar tanning and video rental location is being turned into a lumber yard given concerns about the sustainability of the Tom’s Mad Pricer and Ace Hardware located on the far east of town.

Finally, with new aldermen, Mayor Dick Deitz unveiled his new appointments.  Tom Maulding and Billy Glenn will head up the Streets and Alleys Committee while Dale Biggerstaff and Richard Lasswell will head up Water and Sewer.  Don Cox and Tom Maulding will handle Electric.  Billy Glenn and Richard Lasswell will take on Gas.  The Police and Fire Committee will be headed up by Biggerstaff and Cox.  Parks and Pool fall under Maulding and Biggerstaff’s responsibility.  And the Finance committee will be handled by the two longest serving Councilmen, Jim Mason and Richard Lasswell.  Professional Appointments remain unchanged with City Attorneys being Tom Malkovich and David Garavalia, both of Benton, who have served since 2013.  Police Chief David Filkins will continue his role.  Fred Vallowe, the City Clerk will remain on as Collector.  Fire Chief Leroy Browning will be assisted by Jim Morris and Pat Stevens will continue as Zoning Administrator.  John Perryman has been appointed to the Library Board.  Jodi Brocket and Bill Reed were reappointed to their posts on that board.  Along with those appointments, Collector Fred Vallowe was given a raise in line with that of other city employees.  Beginning in May, that salary will go up $60 to $1,060 per pay period.

Correction:  In the packet given to WRUL News at the meeting, appointments listed Don Cox and Jim Mason on the Electric Committee.  The correct appointments for the Electric Committee are Don Cox and Tom Maulding.  

Executive Session was on the agenda.  However, it was removed after the public comment portion of the meeting had passed.  WROY/WRUL submitted a formal Freedom of Information Act request.  We’re left to assume the investigation into alleged theft perpetrated by city employee James Joiner is ongoing with no news.  Whether volunteered or not, we expect to have additional information within the next 20 days as per FOIA rules.