The Village of South Jacksonville Board of Trustees didn’t speak about the outcomes of an executive session during a special session last night.
The village met in special session for an executive session to discuss possible appointments to the Village President position and the Village Clerk position, and to determine two raises for two village employees.
One village board member, John Stewart, was not in attendance last night. Stewart says he wasn’t going to attend a meeting because he doesn’t feel like village residents had enough notice about the contents of the meeting: “Honestly, I didn’t see a point to it. Look at this way, we are without an executive head. In my opinion, we don’t need to be discussing any executive issues or matters until we can appoint a full-time president. I would have been fine showing up to the meeting had that been on the [agenda], but with the agenda, it was not mentioned, period. I don’t think we should spring this on the Village of South Jacksonville residents at the last minute to pick a new person, if that’s what they chose to do in executive session or even the open session.”
The trustees made no formal announcements at the end of the meeting on who would fill either open position. Instead, the village voted to table a possible salary increase for Village Works Superintendent John Green and approved an initial 3.5% salary increase for village office employee Amy Oxley.
In old business, Trustee Paula Belobradjic-Stewart presented the board with new renderings of another change to the village’s official seal. A consensus chose a new design for a silver emblem with the Prairieland Heritage Museum, the new American Flag, and minor other changes drafted by Rick Ralston. The new seal is an expected to be an official action item at their next regular meeting in January.
Village Trustee Megan Davidson said during new business that she wanted to move the village towards direct deposit for monthly payroll. Village Treasurer and Office Manager Tiffanee Peters had pushed back against the idea according to Davidson, and instead wanted to maintain the idea of giving paper checks to village employees. Peters, who was not in attendance last night, allegedly shot down the idea of direct deposit with Trustee Tom Jordan. Jordan suggested that Davidson and Peters get together on the details on how to make direct deposit happen.
The trustees came to a consensus that at the next meeting in January that an action item to create a direct deposit system and a digital way to keep time sheets would be implemented and voted on for approval.
Davidson asked during committee of the whole why the village never offered it as a convenience to employees, especially with most modern-day employers offering it. Davidson said the idea was silly that the village didn’t offer it to employees. She said she heard about a problem with an unnamed employee with their check each month: “I had one person say that their bank is in Springfield, so they have to take a picture of [the check] and send it to the bank. Then, it takes two days to get into their account, or they have to drive to Springfield and deposit it.”
Village Police Chief Eric Hansell says that the time sheets in his department are still handwritten and calculated.
The final item of business, which was a lengthy discussion, was for a special committee of the whole meeting directly after the business meeting. The board discussed how much money they were will willing to grant to Jose Lopez for a renovation of the former Reichert’s Banquet Hall.
The question came down to the business model that Lopez had presented to the board. Megan Davidson, the finance committee chair, said that she would not be up for the village giving a loan to meet his $350,000 ask for his business: “He is looking for a final answer, and I would just assume make a final decision, and then we will vote on it at the next meeting. He’s asking for $350,000 with part of it being the TIF money and part of it being a loan [from the village]. I feel like we need to discuss it. I’ll be honest I don’t like the idea of a loan. We are not in business to do a loan. There was no collateral. It was just a personal guarantee, and I don’t think it’s the best for the village.”
The board conceded the point about the loan being a bad idea, but was still unsettled on the amount of money and the length of time to grant Lopez money from the TIF. A major sticking point was that the business model had been presented as a banquet hall, bar, and possible video gaming establishment with a limited bar food menu. Davidson noted that because Lopez was working on an existing structure, the county assessor’s office says that the assessed value of the property would not go up. There were also concerns about long-term revenue generation from the business, since it was not going to be a full-fledged restaurant.
Lopez, who has been in attendance at several prior meetings, was not in attendance last night to offer any further explanation or rebuttal to the board.
A final decision on the TIF application is expected at the next village business meeting in January. A committee of the whole meeting is scheduled for December 15th, but some members have said that meeting may be postponed until the end of the month.