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URBANA — Aldermen gave preliminary approval Monday to accept a grant for a machine that would make city-owned lawns as pesticide-free as possible, using natural lawn-care techniques.

As part of the Midwest Grows Green program through the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America, Urbana was awarded $2,500 to help pay for a compost spreader that could be a boon to local recycling businesses and provide more natural landscaping management to the city.

Environmental Sustainability Manager Scott Tess said Monday that the city will now take a three-pronged approach for chemical-free lawn management: Mow high, core aerate twice a year, and finish with natural compost from the Landscape Recycling Center.

“This is an alternative to buying synthetic pesticides in fertilizer,” Tess said.

In other business, with winter not far away, city staff are asking small businesses and independent contractors to help with snow removal.

During Monday’s council meeting, City Administrator Carol Mitten said aldermen will be forwarded an ordinance Oct. 28 to amend the city’s code on sidewalk snow removal.

“To the extent that people don’t comply with that ordinance, we are no longer going to be clearing snow in-house,” Mitten said. “We will be contracting that out.”

Also, Mayor Diane Marlin said the city will host hearings Oct. 29-30 for feedback on the new draft liquor code, which has been re-written by staff at the direction of aldermen and has already been reviewed internally.

Marlin said the city has scheduled two meetings for anyone seeking information to come and give comments on the new liquor code or to ask questions.

Marlin also said aldermen can expect an amendment to the zoning code next week for new recreational-cannabis businesses.

And Monday was also Assistant City Engineer Craig Shonkwiler’s last appearance before aldermen, as he will be leaving the city after 14 years on staff to accept the position of city engineer in Bloomington, Ind.

“I’ll always have a great affinity for Urbana,” Shonkwiler said. “I drive around, walk and bike, and I think about the parts of Urbana I’ve been involved in, so I’ll always care about this place. There will always be a part of me that remains here.”


Aldo Toledo is a reporter covering local government at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@aldot29).