Council approves zoning change for Gathe's new location

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

With action taken by the Vandalia City Council on Monday, a business dislocated by the downtown fire in February can make its temporary lodging a permanent home.

The council, acting on a recommendation from the Vandalia Planning Commission, unanimously approved the rezoning of property at 504 W. Edwards St. from two-family residential to downtown commercial.

That property has served as the home of Gathe’s Tax and Accounting Service since the fire in late February that destroyed its building in the 300 block of West Gallatin Street. That fire also destroyed Cages and Donaldson’s Carpet, and caused severe damage to the home of Dennis Gerkin’s State Farm agency.

The rezoning petition was filed by the owner of the property, Teena Yarbrough, who told the planning commission that the Gathe family wants to buy the property and relocate the business there permanently.

Also at the meeting, Mayor Rick Gottman noted that with Motown Technology and Sports Facility last week deciding to terminate its plan for a $300-million sports and entertainment facility, he felt fortunate that the city at least received reimbursement for a traffic study conducted for the project.

Copies of the group’s termination letter and three checks totaling $17,600 were included in the packet for Monday’s meeting. Also included was the copy of a letter sent to Motown by City Attorney Jack Johnston.

That letter, sent in mid-April, notified the group from the Detroit area that because it had failed to make the reimbursement, it had defaulted in the project agreement signed in December of last year.

In other action:

• The board approved the minutes from the May 19 meeting of the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustments. At that meeting, the board approved a request for a setback variance submitted by the Rev. James and Joan Fackler.

The Facklers plan to demolish a garage on their property at 621 N. Eighth St. and build a new garage.

• Alderman Larry Cable, chairman of the council’s water and sewer committee, reported that the city had planned to begin using the Kaskaskia River as its water source this week, but changed that plan after seeing weather forecasts that include considerable rain this week.

“We will go back (to the river) when the level is normal and it stays that way for a few days,” Cable said.

• At the recommendation of Alderman Andy Lester, chairman of the building and grounds committee, the council agreed to submit grant applications that would completely fund lighting upgrades at city buildings.

Lester said that 75 percent of the funding would come through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the South Central Illinois Regional Planning and Development Commission, and that the balance would come through Ameren.

In addition to reimbursing the city for the funding upgrades, Lester said, the grant program provides lighting that will cost the city up to 30 percent less than what it currently pays.

• The council approved the transfer of Vandalia Lake lot No. 113 from Reynold and Judy Weeden of Collinsville to Scott and Jamie Roder of Collinsville.

• The council approved the use of $3,986 in state Motor Fuel Tax funds for improvements to Johnson Street between Fourth and Fifth streets. Those improvements will include a new road surface and infrastructure upgrades, as needed.

• LaTisha Paslay, Gottman’s executive secretary, gave an update on the 2010 Census.

Paslay said that as of June 1, the city had a response rate of 70 percent, or about 10 percent lower than the final response rate in 2000.

Fayette County’s June 1 response rate, she said, was 74 percent, about 4 percent above the final 2000 figure.

She said that census workers will continue attempting to contact households that have not returned their census forms, and also will be visiting other households to verify information.

She asked aldermen to encourage residents of their wards to fill out their census forms, because census figures are used in determining funding amounts for municipalities and school districts.

• The council approved the closing of Gallatin Street from Third Street to Seventh Street for about 30 minutes on Friday, Sept. 24, for the Vandalia Community High School homecoming parade.

The council also approved the closure of Gallatin Street on Saturday, July 17, from 7 a.m.-4 p.m., for Vandalia Main Street’s Summerfest.

The council action called for Gallatin to be closed from Third Street to Seventh Street, but it was changed later in the meeting after Fire Chief Merle Adermann mentioned that firefighters would have a problem responding to the fire station and then to emergencies. Other agencies, including police and medical personnel, could also encounter problems, he said.

After some discussion, the council agreed to close Gallatin between Third Street and the east side of Sixth Street.

• The council approved a $2,143.11 change order for the Coles Street resurfacing project. Gottman said he would be checking with the project engineer to find out why the project is moving so slowly.

• The council agreed to enter into a lease agreement with the Fayette County Health Department for the stretch of abandoned railroad line that runs through the FCHD property south of the 400 block of West Johnson Street.

The new lease, like the city’s former lease with Leo Brown Lumber, will call for the health department to pay $1 a year. FCHD Administrator Rhonda Andrews said the department, once it relocates to that property, plans to use that land solely for parking.

• Vandalia Main Street Executive Director Dana Whiteman said that the organization will resume its Paint the Town program in the near future, with Bud’s Barber Shop in the 500 block of West Gallatin Street to be the next project.