Area Update

Village officials to spread word on sewer referendum

SIDNEY – Sidney residents can expect to see their local leaders knocking on their doors soon.

With just four weeks to go until a referendum on the issuance of $10.2 million in revenue bonds for construction of a sewage treatment system, village trustees are planning to pair up and go door-to-door in the evenings to talk with voters about the sewer plans. The week before they start, they will mail residents a packet of information including financial data, site maps, an income survey needed to apply for grant money and a copy of a resolution pledging not to go forward without funding.

One reason the village is considering switching to a public sewer system from private septic tanks is that trustees have been told that the federal government soon will force Illinois to comply with the 1972 Clean Water Act, which regulates pollutants discharged into bodies of water. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has proposed regulations that would require surface discharging septic system users to be issued a permit and to be tested twice annually. If the septic system doesn't pass inspection, additional testing would be required. In addition, homeowners with conventional septic tanks would eventually have to replace them with more expensive surface-discharging septic systems.

Village President John Finn told village trustees that Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Environmental Health Coordinator Jeff Blackford is scheduled to meet with the Illinois EPA on Jan. 14. Finn hopes that Blackford will have information about EPA regulations to share with the public at a meeting set for 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Sidney Town Hall.

A couple of residents in attendance at this week's village board meeting asked why the village had already decided to take out a loan of $800,000 for planning without first seeking voter approval.

"If we didn't do that, we couldn't even get in line for any grant money that is out there," Finn said. "Doing nothing doesn't get you anywhere either."

Deputy Clerk Carol Moore reported that a problem with residents refusing to pay the sewer portion of their water bills seems to have subsided. However, she said, many residents appear to be struggling to pay their water bills.

In December, 134 out of 536 households were delinquent. About half of those eventually paid, Moore said.

See details in next week's County Star

Variety of fee raises mulled at study session

MONTICELLO – Alderman discussed a list of proposed city fee increases.

A fee for a home occupation license was taken out of the proposal after aldermen had agreed at a previous meeting they did not want to see home occupations charged to register with the city.

Fees that are proposed to increase include garbage hauler licenses, liquor licenses, amusement licenses, demolition permits, building permits, variance requests, conditional use requests, rezoning requests, mobile home park operator licenses, nonsufficient funds fees, preliminary and final plat fees and minor subdivision fees.

"None of these are out of line. None will cause a single business to go under," said alderman Vince Kuetemeyer.

The proposed increases are mainly to try to recoup the expense the city incurs when dealing with those issues. The fees have not increased in at least six years. City staff did a comparison between Monticello's fees and other local community's fees before proposing the increases.

The aldermen will vote on the fee increases at their next city council meeting on Monday, Jan. 11.

For the third time, the council also tried to come to an agreement on a usage policy for the new city center at 224 E. Livingston St. The center features a multipurpose room that is available for rental to governmental, civic and community groups as well as three other spaces that are currently being rented by the Peace Meals organization, Monticello Main Street and Monticello Area Arts Council.

The main point of contention about the policy was the fact that the three current tenants were specified in the policy, almost implying that they were permanent tenants.

"I am still not happy with the listing of tenants. Those could change next month if someone decides to leave," said Alderman Kevin Hiller.

After much discussion, the council decided to change the policy to reflect the spaces that are available in the city center, not the tenants.

See details in this week's Journal-Republican

Community center to host Bible study group

LUDLOW – The village board has agreed to allow a Bible study group to meet at the community center once a week.

The Rev. Joye Perry of the Ludlow United Methodist Church had asked that the group be allowed to meet at the community center on Thursday evenings from January through March. The church is heated only on Sundays, Mayor Pete Walker said.

"It's a community building, and it's better for it to be used," Walker told the board.

The Bible study will conflict with the monthly township meeting, but water department clerk Ralph Cox, who is also a township trustee, said township meetings have worked around similar conflicts in the past.

In other business, Police Chief Joe Navarro reported one residential burglary in December. It remains under investigation.

The board approved spending $189 for a laser printer from Lasers Edge, Champaign; and $1,247.50 to village attorney Jack Waaler for his work on policies and other matters. The board also scheduled a police committee meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19.

From the water department came a report by Water Superintendent Rick Chenoweth of a minor water leak. Also, Cox reported he was unable to confirm that privacy laws would require the village to change its practice of sending water bills on postcards.

Winners of the village Christmas lighting contest were announced. First place went to Jim and Carla Bina. Other winners were Judy Atkins, second place; Brian and Jody Bina, third place; and Brian Heiser, fourth place.

The Rantoul Press,

Officials put brakes on new golf-cart rules

MANSFIELD – Village trustees decided not to pass an ordinance for golf-cart use on village streets Monday evening. Trustee Bambie Roy said a new state law that requires owners to register low-speed vehicles with the Secretary of State's office should cover golf carts.

Trustees Don Deffenbaugh and Jeff Lindenbaum were not sure if the state's low-speed-vehicle law pertained to golf carts because of the law's speed provisions. The new law requires vehicles to have a speed of at least 20 mph but not exceeding 25 mph.

Lindenbaum said he would check with the Illinois Department of Transportation to see if this law included golf carts. Roy said IDOT explained to her in October that it did include golf carts.

Owners of low-speed vehicles will need to register through the Secretary of State's office and receive a registration sticker before driving them on village streets.

According to Roy, registered golf carts will be allowed on any street where the speed limit is 30 mph or less, and drivers will be allowed to cross any street that is 45 mph or less. She said that this includes U.S. 150, which runs through the village.

In other news, Treasurer Don Wack said the Illinois Department of Transportation reimbursed the village $6,200 for the water-main relocation project completed in 2009. He said this money went into the operations and maintenance fund.

MARGO L. DILL, N-G Correspondent

City sells land parcel to company

FARMER CITY – Council members approved the sale of one parcel of city-owned land and took the first step in the potential sale of another.

A single bid from Next Generation, Inc. of $9,413 was approved for 3.621 acres on Depot road. The local farm bulk chemical company is again purchasing land adjacent to its present location.

The purchase per-acre price of $2,600 is the same as the company successfully offered late last year for nearly the same size parcel. Officials said the company has no immediate plans to expand, but desired the adjacent parcels for future possibilities.

Council members also approved a resolution that is the first step to sell a 14.13 acre parcel, also on Depot Road. But at least one council member was wary.

"What's the big hurry to sell it?" asked Councilman Tom McNutt, who pointed out that it is the city's only remaining piece of saleable commercial property.

According to City Manager Trent Smith the resolution is the first of three steps and would be followed by a property assessment and advertisement for bids.

The council voted to take the first step by unanimously approving the resolution. Councilman Joe Newberry was absent.

The council also supported a mayoral proclamation in favor of the Farmer City Fire Protection District's referendum proposal, which asks voters to approve an ambulance district tax on the Feb 2 primary ballot.

Mayor Delwin "Buster" Kirby and Smith both emphasized that the community will be without local ambulance service if the referendum proposal fails.

At its Jan. 18 meeting, the council will likely vote in support of the second phase of improvements to city-owned Weedman Park. Pastor Mike Jenkins, representing the Kiwanis Club, said the community's choice for the next round of improvements was a new swing set.

The city was asked to contribute $7,000, but Kirby indicated that a decision on that will likely wait for the city's new fiscal year, which begins May 1. The total project is expected to cost $12,000, including resurfacing beneath the swings. Jenkins said Baum Chevrolet will contribute $2,000 and First Baptist Church will donate $1,000.

JEAN NOELLSCH, N-G Correspondent

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