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Carmi City Council tackles several important issues at marathon meeting

The Carmi City Council met for a marathon 2 hour 15 minute meeting on Tuesday night to close out August.

Keith Botsch presented the 2015 annual audit for the fiscal year that ended on December 31st and reported that the City ended the year at $78,000 in the red.  While many departments, including public safety came in under budget, reduced revenues, including from City utilities contributed to the deficit.  The utility department in particular was a focus of concern, losing $45,000 last year.  Botsch told the Council that rates, especially water rates, needed to be increased in order to keep up with costs.

Water Department supervisor Frank Elliot, when asked by Mayor Pollard about monthly loses, reported 35% of water generated by the City per month is lost through leaks his department has been unable to trace, leading to close to 10 million gallons lost in July alone.

Botsch also reported that the cost of the City’s contribution to the police pension fund has not yet been calculated by the State, but did expect the payment to be high due to low interest rates. At the end of his portion of the meeting, Botsch reminded aldermen to start considering the upcoming tax levy for next year.

Keith Moran of Moran Economic Development addressed the Council on the proposed TIF district #2, which will encompass the Main Street area from Fairground Road to the City limits of East Carmi.  Moran discussed several issues that allow the district to be formed, including aging infrastructure and properties, and after several procedural motions, the Council agreed to proceed with the formation of the new TIF district.

Moran also gave a quick update on the new enterprise zone that is being formed along with the cities of Albion and Grayville and White County due to new State regulations.  Moran said that within Carmi, the borders will remain largely unchanged from the old zone.  Moran will also be speaking at the Chamber of Commerce Dinner in October.

The Council then tackled the issues of Water department revenue. At the August 2nd meeting, John Acree of Lemac Engineering along with Elliot presented the Council with options to consider to bring water revenues up and show the Illinois EPA how they would repay an approved loan of $1.5 million to compete necessary water pump improvements.

Mayor Pollard presented the Council the option of changing the way water is billed, from the thousands to the tenths.  Pollard said the City is ready to move forward with the change, after making improvements to the billing system and meters.  The Council agreed to the change, and will reinstate the 5% city utility tax this year, while installing a 2% increase over the next four years.  The Council also agreed to amend the ordinance involving costs associated with new connections and repairs.  To repay the IEPA loan, a $4 meter charge will also be voted on next meeting.  As a way to defray the increases, Pollard proposed customers be able to opt out of the Aqualine program.  The proposals will be voted on at the September 6th meeting.

The Council then heard a proposal from City electrical engineer David Coston about the purchase of a Solomon transformer as a backup for the Bradshaw substation from the City of Marshall.  Marshall has agreed to sell the unit to Carmi for $25,000, but refurbishing costs by Solomon will total an additional $134,000.  Coston explained that the unit currently at the City’s only electrical intake is over 60 years old, and if it fails, the City will be without power for an extended period of time until a replacement could be found, and at a much higher replacement cost.

Coston presented several financing options, including one from Duke Energy, who had agreed to absorb the total costs and an addendum to the agreement the City has entered into with the company about the management and upgrades to the Light Plant.  The total cost would increase to a total of $275,760 payable over 12 years with no payment due by the City until March of 2017.  Aldermen Hayes and Davis both supported this proposal, with the understanding the City should pay off the loan well before the proposed period, saving money in the long run.

The proposal was passed on a 6-1 vote, with Alderman Winkleman voting no and Alderman Yearby absent.

In reports, Mayor Pollard thanked Alderman Knight and his crew for their work at the airport, told the Council the email issues at the City office have been resolved, and announced that a showing of the movie Monsters, Inc. has been added to the Burrell’s Woods Halloween activities.  Alderman Hayes proposed the City look into adding GPS tracking to City owned vehicles and showed two proposals he had received, and City Supervisor Mike Buckman told the Council that he is meeting with railroad officials today about the upcoming repairs that will be made to the Stewart Street crossing.

The meeting adjourned at 7:45pm and the Council next meets on September 6th at 5:30pm.