City receives report on river intake

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Vandalia officials are hoping to hear just after the first of the year an answer to its problem with the city’s raw water intake on the Kaskaskia River.

Alderman Larry Cable, chairman of the city council’s water and disposal plants committee, reported at Monday’s council meeting that an engineering firm hired by the city to inspect the intake will present its findings on Jan. 4.

Representatives of Gonzalez Companies will discuss the intake with city officials during a work session set for 5:30 p.m., 90 minutes before the council’s regular meeting on that evening.

The firm, which has four offices in the Midwest, recently submitted to the city a 50-page report on its study. That report includes recommendations for the intake, which has, for the most part, been unusable since its installation in the spring of 2005 because of sediment being deposited into the intake.

In that report, Gonzalez is recommending that the city: remove all stones from around and on top of the intake; rebuilding, extending and reinforcing a finger dike built near the structure; and later increasing the height of the dike.

Gonzalez also tells the city in that report that it should be aware that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that the river in the area of the intake will shift over the next 50 years, and that the city should include in its long-range plans another intake structure.

The city hired Gonzalez Companies in July of this year to come up with a solution to the problems with the intake. The city is paying Gonzalez $22,500 for its study of the intake.

The city has spent close to $950,000 on the intake.

Because the city has been unable to use the intake for much of the time since its installation, it has had to rely on water from Vandalia Lake to serve local homes, businesses and industries. Because it costs more to treat lake water than it does to treat that from the river, the city has seen its chemical costs increase in recent years.

Local residents have complained to the city about the quality of the water that is coming out of the lake.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council met in closed session for about 30 minutes to discuss what Mayor Rick Gottman described as possible litigation related to the Motown project. The council did not take any action after returning to open session.

Because of the potential for litigation, city officials are not disclosing any more information on the closed session.

The council voted at its Dec. 7 meeting to give Motown Technology & Sports Facility Inc. about seven more months to provide proof of financing for a proposed $300-million sports and entertainment facility on Vandalia’s west side.

Motown officials were originally required, under an agreement signed with the city in May, to provide the proof of financing by Oct. 1. They were delayed in making the request for an extension due to deaths and illness in Bardwell’s family.

In other action on Monday:

• Gottman reported that Governmental Consulting Solutions is continuing to lobby in the state capitol for increasing the number of inmates being housed at Vandalia Correctional Center.

The local prison was housing about 1,500 inmates, but that population number was dropped in the past year.

Russ Stunkel, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 993, said last week that VCC currently houses about 960 inmates, and that state officials have recently stated that the prison can expect to receive up to 300 more inmates in the near future.

Some of those inmates, Stunkel said, may come from Thomson Correctional Center in Northwest Illinois, which may be purchased by the federal government to house suspected terrorists how being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Gottman said the city is hoping to get the VCC population total at or close to its original number by next spring, when the 2010 Census is performed.

That’s important because the number of inmates will be figured into the city’s population total, and that total will determine the amount of federal funds given to Vandalia.

Gottman said Governmental Consulting Solutions is also lobbying to make sure that the city receives funds acquired by local legislators for improvements to Gallatin Street between Seventh and Eighth streets.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) and state Sen. Ron Stephens (R-Highland) each successfully lobbied for $200,000 for the Gallatin Street improvements. The city is planning to resurface that one-block section of Gallatin next spring.

Gottman said Governmental Consulting Solutions is working to ensure that the city receives the monies next year, not two or three years down the road.

The city council, in a 5-3 vote, decided in August to pay the Springfield-based firm $24,000 for lobbying and consulting services.

• Gottman reported that the council will hold a work session after its Jan. 4 meeting to discuss the evaluation of City Administrator Jimmy Morani.

Morani said on Tuesday that he requested the work session.

A new contract for Morani approved in June calls for an employee evaluation in March 2010. His previous contract called for an annual evaluation in the fourth quarter of each fiscal year.

Morani presented aldermen with an updated report on general sales tax monies received by the city. This latest report shows that the city received $124,867 in general sales tax this September; that’s 6.9 percent below the total from September 2008, $133,453.36.

• Alderman Bret Brosman, chairman of the council’s streets committee, submitted a written report on a committee meeting held on Dec. 14. At that meeting, the committee discussed four issues.

The first item discussed was a request from Tyler and Stephanie Montgomery to vacate a portion of Water Street just south of Randolph Street, which would allow them to purchase the property.

Brosman said the committee voted 2-1 to recommend their request, but added that the Montgomerys notified the city on Monday that they would like to withdraw their request.

The streets committee also discussed parking on Lincoln Street near Sixth Street.

Brosman said a person living on Lincoln Street reported difficulty in using her driveway because of vehicles parked there by customers of a new beauty salon at Sixth and Lincoln.

Mike Halford, whose daughter, Chelsea Halford Smith, owns Do or Die Salon, said customers are parking along Lincoln because parking is not available on Sixth Street.

Brosman said he encouraged Halford to develop off-street parking for the business. No committee action was taken on the matter.

The committee also heard from Randy Edwards and Bill LaDage about the runoff of storm water from Sunflower Street through city culverts and through their properties, causing erosion.

Public Works Director John Moyer told the two men that this was an issue that should have been addressed by the developer of their subdivision.

Brosman said he would ask City Attorney Jack Johnson to look into the city’s liability on this matter, and Edwards said that he would be speaking with private legal counsel.

The committee also heard Moyer ask for direction on road and infrastructure improvements in light of less Motor Fuel Tax monies being received by the city in the coming year.

The committee supported Moyer’s suggestion for work only on roads that are “in very bad shape” and for repairs to water lines that were scheduled for replacement.