Area update: July 25, 2014
Bement mulls changes to downtown park rules
BEMENT — The village of Bement wants to bring a family-friendly atmosphere back to its downtown-area park and is considering a list of prohibitions aimed at getting illegal activities out of a space that includes a veterans memorial, large playground and band pavilion.
Village trustees and law enforcement have been working to clean up the park, but a recent incident in which a youth was cut by a knife-wielding juvenile intensified the efforts. The park committee considered amendments to its policy at Veterans Memorial Park last week, and the full village board discussed them at a special meeting this week.
"People love to take their kids to the park and play, and that's what it's intended for, and we want everybody to be able to enjoy the park as long as they behave themselves," said Village President Pat Tieman. "We are going to tackle this thing as aggressively as we can."
One change would delineate official park hours as 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. April through October, and 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. November through March. Currently, the park is open sunrise to sunset year-round.
If approved in August, the amended ordinance would also ban smoking, alcohol and open flames except during village festivals. Bicycles and motorized vehicles — such as golf carts — would probably be allowed only as far as the sidewalk that surrounds the park.
The possibility of surveillance cameras was also discussed.
"Hopefully, we can have people using it for the right reason," board member Chad Corum said of the park, which hosts the village's popular Old Glory Days each June.
Village attorney Susan Nicholas will draft a revised park ordinance and have it ready for the Aug. 12 meeting. One of the penalties could include being banned from the park for up to a year. For those cases, she said an appeals process will be outlined in the ordinance.
Tieman said he'd already had a joint meeting with the county sheriff, state's attorney and probation officer on the issue, and felt they "were on the same page with us on this."
Alleged drug use and bullying at the park was also discussed at a public meeting in April that was called after there were two drug overdoses — one fatal — over one weekend in Bement.
"We are going to keep kids safe in that park," Tieman said, "and we'll do what it takes."
Piatt County Journal-Republican
FISHER SCHOOL BOARD
District to study options on new buses
FISHER — The Fisher school board's transportation committee will meet soon to decide how it wants to provide for new buses.
Superintendent Barb Thompson said the district in the past has tried to purchase a new bus in alternate years. But an outright purchase can cost upward of $70,000, she said, and now the district has a fleet of "really old buses."
Thompson said the district would have three choices — buy outright, lease for 3 to 5 years or work out a payment schedule. Thompson said recent bus purchases have come from reserves, but that has been tapped into the past four years to balance the budget.
Next month, the board will look at Thompson's proposed budget for the current fiscal year. Thompson said she expects general state aid at the same level as this past year, meaning money again will have to come from reserves. But she expects an increase of $90,000 over last year in the three main funds from local property taxes.
MAHOMET VILLAGE BOARD
Subdivision requests 20 mph speed limit
MAHOMET — Residents of the Thornewood North subdivision sent a petition to the Mahomet village board this week, asking trustees to consider lowering the speed limit to 20 miles per hour in their neighborhood.
Resident Kandy Taylor addressed the board and presented them with three pages of signatures. "Without a speed limit sign, people don't think there is a speed limit," she said, noting that speeders are a threat to the many small children living in the area.
Mayor Patrick Brown said that trustees have heard many requests for lower speed limits in subdivisions over the years, but noted that the changes would require revisions to the ordinance and costly new signs, since 30 mph is the state standard in residential areas.
"We would have to change this for our entire community," he said.
Public Works Director Gary LaForge said that homeowners' associations can foot the bill for new speed limit signs or speed bumps in their neighborhood. But those HOAs must be willing to ensure that the speed bumps are maintained and removed when snow plows require access.
Taylor said that her neighbors would be interested in installing signs or speed bumps, although Thornewood North doesn't yet have an HOA. She also asked officials to look into installing a "deaf child" sign near one home in the neighborhood. LaForge said he would get in contact with that family.
In addition, Taylor said, residents are concerned about the high speed of traffic on Illinois 47, which makes turning into and out of the subdivision entrances difficult. LaForge said that the roadway is the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation, which sets speed limits using data from traffic studies.
But he noted that Thornewood is set to get a right turn lane when Illinois 47 is widened next year.