Jacksonville City Council Looking At Essentials, Mayor Looks At Possible Closures

By Benjamin Cox on April 14, 2020 at 5:31am

The Jacksonville City Council had to deal with some tough decisions on finances and local recreation last night for their first meeting since the COVID-19 emergency declaration. Ward 5 Alderman Don Cook asked the council to heavily consider suspending discretionary spending during the current stay at home order for the state during his Finance Committee report. “I just want to remind all the alderman that we don’t know where we are going to be financially 3 or 4 or 5 months down the road. We have a lot of things to consider tonight that’s on the agenda. From my viewpoint, I would just like to say that I think it’s very necessary to pay bills for work that has already been completed for the city, but I don’t think we need to create any non-essential bills moving forward at this time.”

The city decided to use a recently withdrawn CD worth $1 million that had been previously deposited over 12 years ago to use for emergency funding of the Health Insurance fund. The fund had become depleted from the city self-funded insurance program over that time and City Clerk Skip Bradshaw, Treasurer Ron Smiljanich among others on the council said the money from the CD could be used to fill the gap to help the city continue its insurance plan.

The Parks & Lakes Committee tabled all of its current business for a future meeting. City Planner and Parks & Lakes Director Kelly Hall said none of the projects were essential at this time and the city could take further action later.

Planning & Public Works moved forward with all items as none of them were requesting money on capital improvement projects. The city voted to award the bid to expand roads for the new extension of Diamond Grove Cemetery to Rolland Truck for $48,507. The city also approved paying for the completion of the projects on buildings owned by Ed Scott in the 200 block of East Morgan Street. Scott applied for TIF funds to replace a roof and the city completed payment for the construction of a block wall on the property.

The Utility Department was granted permission to ask for engineering costs to paint the interior and exterior of the Massey View Standpipe at this time. Reggie Benton of Benton & Associates said the project would not even begin until late summer in the earliest because bidding for painting utilities can sometimes take up to a year to schedule. Payment and approval of bids would then come back before the council before any money on the actual project would be spent.

Kevin Heitz was reappointed to a 2 year term on the Policemen’s Pension Board and the council approved the second reading of the liquor license ordinance extending the number of licenses of 1 to allow for the approval of the license of The Filling Station restaurant on East College Avenue.

The most heated debate came during new business when Brett Gilbreth advised the mayor about fishing in the city’s parks and lakes and concerns of the governor’s stay at home order being violated by out of town visitors. “It’s the fact of migration of people coming in from all over. You have all these other lakes that are closed down, so now these guys are coming in to our state and our lake. That’s where the concern comes from. What are they bringing with them? It really comes down to how safe can we possibly be. When I’m pulling stickers out of the daily pass box, it’s to the point where I don’t even want to open it because I’m the one that puts my hands on that money and has to go through and read that stuff. I’m sure as heck not going to put any of my teammates in that predicament. When I’m pulling out envelopes from Missouri, up by Chicago, Champaign, and Peoria – that’s what causes my concern. If it was just Jacksonville residents and there was a good way to police that, we wouldn’t even be discussing this at this time. The fact of the matter is that we’re supposed to be practicing social distancing. Why is everybody not a home? That’s another problem. Those people are supposed to be at home and not at work because of this virus, and here they find themselves fishing on Lake Jacksonville.”

Some on the council argued that fishing is essential because it does provide food for some families in the area as well as necessary exercise. Others deemed the activity too dangerous and as a means of temptation for social gathering that could help to further spread COVID-19 in the community.

Mayor Andy Ezard said that he’s not quite made a decision on what to shut down at the lake or elsewhere in town yet. He said he may make a decision on it later today. The next Jacksonville City Council Meeting is schedule for Monday, April 27th at 6PM.