The Prophetstown City Council met for its October meeting at the PLT#3 School District Office to ensure social distancing. Lengthy discussions included a possible change to the utility shut off ordinance and the status of a condemned building on Railroad Street.
Tara Miller address the Council about a trunk-or-treat event she is planning on Friday, October 30 at the Prophetstown United Methodist Church parking lot. She asked and received permission from the city to close Lafayette Street between Riverside and Second Street from 5:30 to 8:30 for the event. She also encouraged anyone interested in setting up a table or vehicle to arrive at 5:30 with the event running from 6 PM to 8 PM.
Darren Mosher submitted a request for a zoning variance for an addition to his home at 601 Jackson St. Mayor Steve Swanson said he would pass the request on to the city zoning board for discussion.
A lengthy discussion ensued over a possible amendment to the building permit ordinance. Alderman John Gibson had suggested denying building permits to anyone who owes money to the city for city services or violations. The consensus of the Council was that the measure would not make much of a difference in enticing people to pay city debts. Discussion turned to overdue water bills and how to address users that are several months in arrears. City legal counsel Tim Zollinger pointed out that municipalities can shut off water during the pandemic, saying that public utilities are barred from shutting services at this time, but municipal utilities are exempt.
Swanson suggested adopting an ordinance that was recently proposed by the Tampico Village Board that would give the city a three-day window to re-establish service once it has been turned off. Swanson said the typical scenario of shutoffs is that once the service is stopped the resident quickly comes to City Hall to pay the bill and asks for the service to be re-established immediately, which is usually is done. Public Works Director Brian Strike said the scenario happens quite often and crews can be called out to restore service after normal business hours and on weekends. Swanson suggested that the new amendment include stipulations that allow the city a three-day window to restore service and only during regular business hours. Zollinger will draft an amendment which will be discussed at the next council meeting.
Birch Street Drainage
An update was given on the water issues that have plagued residents on Birch Street for the past few years. Swanson reported that the public works department found a drainage line that runs from the corner of Riverside and Birch Streets to a rock well approximately 115 feet to the southwest. City crews updated the drainage system which should help the situation.
Aldermen Daryl Drennen suggested that the subdivision was built in a low area and said that he did not feel the city has an obligation to correct the problem that has existed since the subdivision was developed. The engineering firm of Willett and Hoffman have studied the problem and have made a few suggestions that Swanson said would be very costly to pursue.
The mayor updated the Council on the city’s attempt to purchase a condemned building at 116 East Railroad St. owned by Tom and Renee Lanphere. The instability of the structure has caused the closure of an adjacent alley. Swanson explained that the roof line of the building extends into an adjoining building owned by Gary Hinrichs which is used as a storage facility for his plumbing and heating business. In order to demolish the Lanphere building Hinrichs would need to construct a new exterior wall and rework the rafter system.
Two options would be for the city to get a quit claim deed and pay for the cost of demolition or for Lanphere to sell the property to Hinrichs who could then request TIF money from the city to help pay for the cost of construction and demolition. Aldermen Drennen questioned whether the value of the Hinrichs’ property would increase if TIF money was used on the project, which is the intent of TIF money. Zollinger said the absence of the condemned building would increase the value of the building next door.
Swanson indicated that Hinrichs simply wanted an assurance from the city that they would be willing to approve TIF money for the project. The Council agreed but no formal action was taken.
Grove Street Paving
Discussion was held on approving paving a section of right-of-way on Grove Street next to Maes Collision Repair and Custom Restorations at a cost of approximately $2,000. Aldermen Ryan Inskeep expressed his displeasure with Swanson’s decision to prep the site for paving without receiving aldermanic approval. Inskeep also noted that two barricades that had been erected on the site did not have flashing lights, which are required. “I don’t know why you put it on the agenda because you don’t really care of we have to say about it,” said Inskeep. “You have to do it now, you don’t have much of a choice since you have already cored it out. That’s bull**it.” Alderman Greg Schmidt asked Swanson why Maes was not asked to pay at least half of the cost as Schmidt was when black top was added near his residence to help with a runoff issue. Swanson responded by saying this type of work is generally done for businesses free of charge. Swanson said he would approach Maes about paying half of the cost. No action was taken.
Discussion was held on erecting a billboard at the former city landscape waste site. When the two-sided billboard was erected by Roger Williams Jr., he agreed to allow the city to have free use of one side. The space is currently vacant and is somewhat unattractive. Swanson said he would talk with the Main Street organization about ideas for the billboard.
Covid-19 Sick Pay
Swanson asked for input concerning the use of sick pay for the public works employees who were recently quarantined due to Covid-19. Zollinger said the city is required to pay the employees for up to 80 hours of sick time due to Covid related illness. Sick pay beyond 80 hours can be determined by the city. Swanson asked the Council to consider options as the scenario could happen again requiring the city to pay even more sick time before the end of the year when the sick hours recycle. Swanson does not want to deny payment, but is concerned about the cost to the city. An application for a grant could be made to help reimburse the city for additional Covid costs.
Agreed to a contract with Stahr Media from Rock Falls to install security cameras at City Hall along with a new computer and backup capabilities for city files. Aldermen Ryan Inskeep said the most important part of the project is to update the backup capabilities. The agreement also calls for ongoing maintenance of the system.
Consideration was given to switching the city hall phone system from Frontier to Mediacom. Due to the high cost of the switch, it was decided to stay with Frontier.
Approved increasing the city credit card limit from $1,000 to $3,000. The card is used by three different departments and has hit its limit on several occasions.
Approved $8,200 cost to pave the alley between Lafayette and Locust Streets west of Farmers National Bank. The upgrade was in conjunction with the resurfacing of the bank parking lot which is part of the bank’s expansion project.
Approval of the annual 2019-2020 audit was tabled due to a delay in getting the report to the aldermen.
Approved Building Permits
Tim Anderson- 306 Walnut Street, Roof
Gary Newlon- 333 Tree Ln., Roof
Pierce Moore- 305 Dale Ave., Storage shed
Dustin Rascoe- 303 Tree Ln., Roof
Dave Remington- 214 W 2nd, Landscaping
Tom Green- 402 Johnson, Home addition
Roger Williams- 104 W. Railroad St., Storage Facility
River Church- 218 E. Third St. Storage Shed.
Main Street-Director Tarah Pyse
Gave a reminder of the organization’s plan to hold an event in the Prophetstown State Park in lieu of the annual Christmas parade. Organizations and individuals are encouraged to contact Main Street if they are interested in participating.
The organization is undergoing a rebranding. People are asked to visit the organizations Facebook Page for details.
Police-Chief Bruce Franks
Reported that the department has monitored speed on Park Avenue multiple times during the last month after a complaint was made and has not clocked anyone going over the speed limit. Aldermen Josh Hovey suggested that the city consider lowering speed limits on some side streets.
Public Works-Director Brian Strike
Hydrant flushing will be concluded on Friday, October 16
The last E-waste drop-off for the year will be on Saturday, October 17 from 9 AM-noon at the garage on E. Railroad St.
The installation of a new lift station on Highway 78 on the south edge of town is scheduled to begin the week of October 19.
Aldermen Drennen questioned why Clint Morse, a public works employee, has not yet been licensed to test the city’s water instead of having an outside company do the work. Drennan said he thought that Morse agreed to upgrade his license to be able to do the testing when he was hired by the city several years ago. Strike said due to Covid-19 restrictions, no licensing is being done.
The next city meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 10 at 7 PM.