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City fights to keep tax money from state

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

As they work to finalize a balanced budget for the new fiscal year, Vandalia officials are unhappy that state legislators are talking about taking away some of the city’s revenues.
Mayor Rick Gottman asked city aldermen, including four who were attending their first meeting, to join him in signing letters to members of the Illinois General Assembly.
In those letters, the city opposes a proposal that calls for the state to retain all or some of the state income tax money that now goes to municipalities.
Gottman said that one of the proposals asks that the state be allowed to keep all of the money, which for Vandalia would mean a loss of close to $600,000.
Another proposal, which calls for the state to keep 5 percent of the total, would result in the city losing close to $30,000.
And yet another state proposal being considered would result in municipalities giving up 2 percent of the total. For Vandalia, Gottman said, that would mean losing just under $12,000.
The council approved a resolution opposing the reduction of state revenues owed to municipalities.
Also at the meeting, the council agreed to ask the city’s lake committee to consider revising its policy on campground lots on the south side of the lake.
Alderman Andy Lester, a member of the lake committee, suggested that the city revise the policy to allow individuals to reserve campground lots.
He made that recommendation after the organizers of a large car show to be held in the campground this summer said that a number of people who plan to participate in the show have asked about making reservations.
Tony Lawler, who is organizing the Midwest All-Ford Nationals with Bill Haselhorst, said he’s received calls from people in other towns and states about reserving camping spots.
“I had to tell them that (the city) doesn’t do that,” Lawler said in asking the city to make an exception for the July 16-17 show.
Lawler said that those traveling to Vandalia from other states want to ensure that they have somewhere to park their motor homes and stay overnight, with some wanting to come in as early as Thursday for the weekend show.
Lester said that because of the number of people this show could bring to town, “I think we should work with these guys.
“We need to revamp that policy,” Lester said.
In other action at Monday’s meeting:
• The four new aldermen who were elected in April were sworn into office.
Taking their seats were: Neil Clark, Ward I; Russ Stunkel, Ward II; Terry Beesley, Ward III; and B. John Clark, Ward IV. All were elected to a four-year term.
Lester, who was appointed to the council following the resignation of Chad Feldpouch, was elected to a two-year term in Ward IV in April.
• After the new aldermen were sworn into office, Gottman announced his committee appointments. Those appointments are as follows, with the first person listed serving as the committee chairman:
-Streets – B. John Clark, Lester and Stunkel.
-Water and sewer – Beesley, B. John Clark and Mike Hobler.
-Public safety – Jerry Swarm, Stunkel, Beesley and Hobler.
-Building and grounds – Lester, Beesley and Clark.
-Personnel, finance and insurance – Stunkel, B. John Clark and Swarm.
-Cemetery and landfill – Neil Clark, Swarm and Black.
-Lake – Hobler, Lester and Black.
-Railroad, industrial development and tourism – Black, Swarm, B. John Clark and Neil Clark.
• The council approved Gottman’s reappointment of Black to the city’s police pension board for a two-year term.
• The council approved an amendment to the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) grant to the National Road Interpretive Center.
The council approved in Februrary a TIF grant of up to $8,265.40 in April for the tuckpointing of the National Road center.
The amendment allowed for an additional $925, with those funds to pay for the rehabilitation and sealing of the clay coping tile on the building, which the city is leasing to the National Road Association of Illinois.
• The council approved the purchase of a used generator from FMC Water Co. for use at the pump station at the lake.
In requesting the purchase, water plant Superintendent Marty Huskey said that the city has experienced “an abnormal amount” of power outages at the pump station in the past, and that because of ongoing problems with the river intake, the city’s only reliable water source is the lake.
The council agreed to pay $5,000 for the generator, which has 300 hours on it. Huskey said a new pump of this quality costs about $30,000.
The action called for the generator to be set up for operation with the use of propane. It will cost the city $1,128.55 to establish a gas line, and the city will pay $65 a year for tank rental along with the propane usage fees.
• The council approved an agreement with Arthur Young Inc. for a three-year lease on a new Chevrolet Malibu.
Under the lease that is expiring, the city has paid $309 monthly for use of the car, with the fee including oil changes and tire rotations.
Under the new lease, the city will pay $359.39 monthly.
Gottman told aldermen that leasing a car is more fiscally responsible than paying city officials and employees mileage reimbursement.
For example, he said, the mileage reimbursement for one trip to Chicago is $244.70, and reimbursement for one trip to St. Louis is $68.80.
Neil Clark asked if any other dealers were asked to submit a bid, and Gottman said that when the city started leasing a car, the other local dealer, Hosick Motors, was not interested.
• Gottman reported that the city is about ready to proceed with streetscape improvements in the 700 block of Gallatin Street.
He said that plans for the improvements will go to the Illinois Department of Transportation after Fayette County officials sign off on changes to be made for the exit from the county parking lot on Gallatin Street.
Gottman reiterated that the project will be wholly funded with $400,000 in grant funds procured by state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) and state Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Highland). The city has not budgeted any funds for the project, and will not spend any money on it, the mayor said.
• After a brief closed session, the council voted to give Gottman authorization to settle a lawsuit that the city filed against HMG Engineers in Carlyle.
In that suit, filed in March 2009, the city alleges that the engineering firm was negligent in its work related to drilling for water and sewer extensions in the city’s western Interstate 70 interchange in 2007.
During that drilling, the equipment used for the work struck a wing wall of a box culvert.
According to Fayette County Circuit Court records, City Attorney Jack Johnston announced at a court hearing on April 25 that a settlement had been reached in the suit. Terms of the settlement have not been announced.
• City Clerk Peggy Bowen reported that the state still owes the city $135,459.47 for water service to Vandalia Correctional Center and $10,186 for sewer service to the prison.
• Lester reported that he has heard complaints from some residents about the former rail crossing on Randolph Street between Elm and Locust streets.
He said that Public Works Director John Moyer and Andy Craig, owner of the Vandalia Warehouse property and adjacent land, are working on resolving that issue.
Lester said he had also heard from some residents about the Vandalia Railroad crossing at Fillmore Street, and Gottman said that resolution of that problem is also in the works.