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Taking attorney's advice, council declines request to discuss smoking law

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

The owner of a bar who has been ticketed three times for violating the city ordinance on public health and safety asked the Vandalia City Council on Monday to hold off on those tickets until the court hears her arguments on the validity of that local law.
But the mayor said city officials would not discuss such a request on the advice of its legal counsel.
Lisa Doyle, who owns the Redwood Inn with her husband, Albert, presented to all city officials at Monday’s council meeting copies of the six-page motion that her attorneys filed in an attempt to have her tickets dismissed.
The city’s police chief, Larry Eason, issued tickets to Doyle which allege that she violated a city law on Aug. 12, 19 and 21 by allowing smoking inside the Redwood.
The city passed that law in January in an attempt to allow for local enforcement of a state law prohibiting smoking in public places.
Eason said at the time that law was passed that be believed that it’s more appropriate to have police officers enforce the smoking ban than having health officials go into bars.
Doyle said she would like to see enforcement of that law put on hold for the time being, until she can fight the legality of the ordinance.
“My business is struggling because of this,” Doyle said. “Let us continue our business as we were.”
Gottman said that neither he nor aldermen would comment on her request, at the recommendation of City Attorney Jack Johnston, because of the pending court action.
The matter will be decided in court, not in a council meeting, he said.
The Doyles' motion to dismiss the tickets is to be argued at a court hearing set for Oct. 5.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• Gottman announced that the city’s public works crew would install a couple of the benches that are being added downtown as part of the downtown enhancement project, to determine how and where they should be installed.
He said that the city would not be able to install several benches at locations earlier picked out, because the sidewalks were sloped in those areas to make businesses handicapped accessible.
• The council voted to prohibit parking on the south side of Fillmore Street from Rock Island east to the boundary line of property used by the Family YMCA of Fayette County.
The Family YMCA had requested the parking prohibition to help prevent accidents from children running between cars into traffic during activities held by the organization.
The parking restriction was recommended by the council’s streets committee.
Parking is also prohibited on the east side of Rock Island alongside the YMCA’s Miller Field, but aldermen heard that people have been parking in that area. Eason said his department would be enforcing that parking restriction.
• Alderman Bret Brosman, chairman of the council’s streets committee, said that the committee had discussed several issues during a meeting held prior to Monday’s council meeting.
Those issues included the city law that limits parking on Gallatin Street between Third and Sixth Streets to two hours, with the restriction being in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The committee heard complaints from several individuals about that law, including owners of downtown buildings who have apartments along Gallatin Street.
“The committee had no recommendation for changing the ordinance,” Brosman said.
When the issue had been discussed in the past, Moyer told city officials that he would like to keep vehicles off of Gallatin to avoid problems while clearing snow or operating the street sweeper.
Brosman said the city will be purchasing four signs that will be installed on Gallatin Street to inform motorists of the parking restriction. The city did have that type of signage in the past, but they were not replaced after the completion of the downtown enhancement project.
• Brosman said the committee also briefly discussed the decorating of the downtown business district for Christmas.
He said that the city will again be unable to set up a Christmas tree near the intersection of Seventh and Gallatin streets, due to the condition of the roadway.
“It looks like it’s going to be another undecorated Christmas (downtown),” Brosman said, explaining that the city will not be spending funds on decorations for Gallatin Street.
Moyer said that the city does have some decorations that it has installed on light poles in the past, but “they’re junk.”
Also, he said, there is currently no way to install decorations on the new light poles that were part of the downtown enhancement project.
• The streets committee also voted to recommend that the city council rescind its decision to allow parking on the east side of Second Street between Gallatin and Johnson streets.
Brosman said that committee members have determined that if vehicles are parked on both sides of Second Street in that block, it could be difficult, if not impossible, for emergency response vehicles to traverse through that area.
The council will vote on that issue at its Oct. 4 meeting.
• The streets committee also recommended an ordinance amendment that sets the speed limit on Randolph Street between Eighth Street and Mattes Avenue at 35 mph.
Brosman said the committee had learned that signs along Randolph show a variation of the speed limit in that stretch, with the limit being 35 mph in one direction and 40 mph in another.
He said the committee is recommending the change to create consistency on Randolph Street.
But Alderman Mike Hobler said that the speed limit on that street would not be consistent even with the change, because the limit east of Eighth Street is 30 mph.
“If you’re going to be consistent, be consistent or leave it alone,” Hobler said.
Brosman and Larry Cable said they prefer keeping the speed limit east of Eighth Street at 30 mph because that area is more residential.
• The streets committee is also recommending that the speed limit for all of Veterans Avenue be set at 35 mph.
Gottman explained that city officials have heard concerns about an increased probability of accidents due to the opening of the new Rural King store in the former Orgill building, with motorists traveling west from the railroad overpass allowed to drive 45 mph.
If the council approves the speed limit change, it would then have to get approval from the state, because Veterans Avenue is also a state highway, Ill. Route 40.
• The council approved the purchase of a $15,037.90 pump from Missouri Machinery to replace a pump it recently purchased for the water treatment plant.
Cable, chairman of the water and sewer committee, said the pump that was recently purchased has not been able to meet the pumping requirements set by the city. The company that sold the pump has agreed to take it back; the city had not paid the invoice for that pump.
• The council agreed to vote at its Oct. 4 meeting on a request from the Eagles Club for an outdoor beer garden during the club’s $5,000 drawing on Nov. 14.
• Hobler, as chairman of the Vandalia Lake Committee, announced that camping will be available at the lake as long as the weather holds out.
• Alderman Jerry Swarm, as chairman of the council’s public safety committee, reported that the committee had not formed “a solid recommendation” on possible changes to the city ordinance governing fencing for beer gardens at local bars.
He said the committee will discuss the issue further at a meeting at 5 p.m. next Monday.
The Doyles are looking at building an outdoor garden at the Redwood Inn and are asking the city to make some changes to the current restrictions.
The committee asked Executive Secretary LaTisha Paslay to check with other communities to see what beer garden regulations they have.
• The council approved an agreement through which it will pay the South Central Illinois Regional Planning and Development Commission up to $6,850 for grant-management services related to downtown enhancement project work on streets north and south of Gallatin Street.
• The council approved an agreement with HMG Engineers of Carlyle for enhancement work to be done on Gallatin Street between Seventh and Eighth streets.
• Eason reported that the police department has received a $27,336 grant from the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System that will allow the VPD to purchase four ruggedized laptop computers for squad cars.
While the grant covers the purchase of the computers, the department will use funds received from the court system to install the laptops in the squad cars and pay fees related to their use.
• The council approved the inspection of the Vandalia Lake dam that was performed by Hurst-Roche Engineers of Hillsboro.
• City Clerk Peggy Bowen reminded aldermen that candidates for the municipal election next spring could begin picking up nominating petitions on Tuesday of this week.
Up for election next spring are the council seats currently held by Brosman, Larry Bennett, Lisa McNutt and Cable.
Also on the ballot is a two-year unexpired term in Ward IV; Andy Lester was appointed earlier this year to serve until the 2011 election after Chad Feldpouch resigned.