New Jacksonville Council Hears Resolutions on Public Protection, Utilities

By Benjamin Cox on May 11, 2021 at 10:39am

New Ward 1 Alderwoman Darcella Speed takes her oath of office during the May 10th Jacksonville City Council Meeting.

Public protection and utilities were the largest items requiring action last night for the new Jacksonville City Council. Prior to the workshop session, Ward 1 Alderwoman Darcella Speed was officially sworn in.

During the workshop session, Jamie Hedden of Benton & Associates gave a second presentation concerning Town Brook Rehabilitation. Hedden said that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources had completed a study on the best solution to eliminating flooding along the Town Brook. He said that IDNR had selected a plan of replacing two culverts at the railroad spur just north of Routt Street to allow for better flow of water. The plan says that 73 structures will be removed from the 100 year flood plain and present capitalized benefits of $5.7 million dollars. The project is estimated to cost a little under $2.8 million to complete, which would be fully covered by IDNR. The city would only be responsible for an estimated cost of $3,700 for land rights and possible utility relocation. Hedden told the council they would have to officially adopt an intergovernmental agreement with IDNR at their next meeting. Hedden says that a 1 year design process and then a 1 year construction period would complete the project.

City Clerk Skip Bradshaw notified the council that he’s going to be bring a proposal for signage and completing security upgrades at the Municipal Building to fulfill a $70,000 grant the city received from the state two years ago. Bradshaw said the funds have to be used by June.

City Development Director Brian Nyberg told the council that his department is currently working on creating a comprehensive public works plan for the city, namely involving housing needs. He says the city hasn’t had a plan since 2002. He says the first part of the plan is having the city’s residents complete the Community Needs Assessment Survey. The next step will see volunteers going about town taking pictures of every parcel of property in the city’s limits. He says after those two steps are complete, his department will work with Illinois Housing Development Authority. In the meantime, he is also exploring a possible resolution for the city to enter into a land bank opportunity with Adams County and the City of Quincy. The final item he’s going to bring to the next meeting is exploring an update to short-term rentals ordinances encompassing signs and regulations of rentals like AirBnBs and local bed & breakfast businesses.

During Public Protection discussion, Fire Chief Doug Sills asked the council to waive bids and accept a proposal for a new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) Fill Station for the fire department at a cost of $10,650. He said that the department tried to retrofit their current fill station, but it wasn’t up to specification: “The current fill station we are operating was purchased in 2002. It will operate up to a pressure of approximately 4,500 psi. In 2020, we received a FEMA grant in the amount of right around $187,000 to replace our SCBAs. The current SCBAs run at a pressure of 5,500 psi, which this current containment unit or fill station cannot accompany or accomplish. We did look at retrofitting the current unit and see if we could change out the regulator on it in order to make it work, but just due to that unit not being blast rated or rated to contain the particles at that pressure, they can’t retrofit that unit. The unit that we are requesting is compatible with all the other equipment that we currently operate. It would be a plug-and-play unit.” The motion passed unanimously.

Jacksonville Police Chief Adam Mefford discussed an upcoming juvenile justice grant in conjunction with Midwest Youth Services. The grant would be used to purchase a live scan machine for fingerprinting juvenile offenders at the police department. Mefford says it would curtail juvenile offenders being taken to the Morgan County Detention Facility for processing, and provide a more comfortable intervention situation in the hopes of curbing recidivism. The police department will need to kick in between $8,000-$10,000 on top of the $10,000 grant to purchase the unit. Mefford says that the council will have to agree to allow the department to use DUI trauma funds in the department’s accounts.

Mefford also thanked the council for past action allowing him to have parity in the hiring process for the police department. Mefford said it’s helped him solve staffing issues at the department: “A couple of council meetings ago, you granted me permission to basically secure the hiring process for the police department through the end of the year working directly with the board of police and fire commissioners because of the opportunities we may or may not be afforded with the opening of the police academies and us being short 8 positions at the police department. I wanted to report back tonight that because of the council’s generosity in letting me have the reins, so to speak, and do that. We’ve been able to hire 8 people in the last 2 months, four of which are on the streets right now. Three of the four are in field training, but they are on the streets of Jacksonville.”

Mefford says he’s now up to a full staff of 41 in the department: “One of the new officers has been released on his own already and is functioning as a full-time police officer, and I have 4 that are in the training academy in Macon, Illinois right now who will graduate in the first week of June. Because of the council allowing me to do these things in looking ahead a little bit, we were able to get all of those 8 [open] positions, even in a hiring crisis, filled in hoping to have our full staff on the street and on their own by the end of September.”

Morgan County ESDA Coordinator Phil McCarty followed Mefford seeking permission to sell 2 surplus trailers in his department through Spradlin Auctions, which the council approved.

Utility Superintendent brought more information from last month’s city council meeting on why he chose a higher bid from Complete Asphalt Services Company (CASCO) in Pittsfield to coat and seal the Water Treatment plant parking lot for $21,157. The lowest bidder, VICC Asphalt of Jacksonville, came in at a price of $13,489 – a difference of about $7,500. Hearin says the difference between the two was labor costs: “Basically all of the materials are the same. It’s the way that it’s applied and how it is done is what the difference is in the price. The difference in the bids is extra labor to get the job done the way it should be. With crack sealing, one guy just blows them out with an air hose and then sprays over the top of them. This other guy actually routers the cracks out 3/4-inch deep and 3/4-inch wide, and that gives the material a place to lay and seal better. CASCO’s material also uses more of an emulsion instead of just a cold tar mix. It’s more pliable and it should last longer.” Hearin says that CASCO did many of the municipal parking lots in Jacksonville 3-4 years ago and the work has held up well during that time, which he says also factored into his choice to recommend the higher bid. The council approved the higher bid unanimously.

Jamie Hedden returned to the podium to notify the board of a recommendation to accept a bid by Scott Brothers Electric for $247,500 for the Johnson Street Lift Station Electrical Improvement project. Hedden said that the company received 2 bids after sending out 5 invitations to local and area contractors. They said the work would begin at the Foreman Grove location as soon as possible, barring any unforeseen circumstance in acquiring materials. The project is under time constraint during low flow in the current time frame. Hedden also says that the bid falls within the utility department budget. The council also approved the bid unanimously.

In other council action last night, they approved a resolution of sponsorship for $5,000 to Jacksonville Main Street for the upcoming Downtown Summer Concert Series and they also passed the second reading approving the addition of a liquor license for El Patron Authentic Mexican Cuisine located in the old El Rancherito location in Lincoln Square.

After the meeting, new Ward 1 alderwoman Darcella Speed said she is ready to get to work on citywide clean up and finding more opportunities for her ward: “I was a little nervous at first, but the jitters are out now. There was a lot of information and lots of stuff to learn. [I want to focus on] city clean up, particularly for my ward area, and try to see if we can get some new businesses or something to come to our area. We are an under-served community, and I want to see what we can do to boost it up.”

Fellow Ward 1 Alderwoman Eren White-Williams says that the City Wide Garage Sale and Yard Sale already has 115 addresses on board. Williams says that anyone wishing to be added to the list needs to send their contact information to her by Sunday, May 9th.