City OKs bidding for downtown infrastructure work

The Vandalia City Council decided on Monday to take another step toward making downtown improvements by seeking bids for water and sewer line work.

After receiving bids for those improvements, the city will see where it stands financially as it makes decisions regarding downtown streetscape projects.

The council’s action on Monday comes several weeks after two council committees and the Downtown Advisory Committee recommended separating the infrastructure and streetscape improvements.

That recommendation followed two unsuccessful attempts to attract bidders for the combined projects and then receiving a bid that was about 50 percent above the engineers estimate of about $4 million.

In addition to asking the council to separate the two facets of the project, the three committees also recommended scaling back the streetscape work by one block, and possibly two.

But the idea of taking the 600 block and/or the 700 block of Gallatin Street out of the streetscape project was rejected by the Illinois Department of Transportation, the state agency that is administering the federal TEA-21 grant funds received by the city, according to Alderman Bret Brosman, chairman of the councils streets and sewers committee.

Once the city receives the bids for water and sewer line improvements, Mayor Rick Gottman said, This will determine which direction we go for the streetscape.

HMG Engineers of Carlyle, the citys consulting engineers, have estimated the infrastructure improvements at slightly less than $900,000.

The vote to let bids for the water and sewer work was 7-1, with Chad Feldpouch casting the lone dissenting vote.

Feldpouch had asked Lorne Jackson of HMG the plan for repairing sidewalks after the infrastructure improvements are completed. Jackson said the project plans include a thin asphalt patch, which would be replaced when the streetscape work is done.

Also discussed was the possibility of discovering during the infrastructure work contamination from leaking underground storage tanks. Jackson said there were two major areas of concern at Third and Gallatin streets, and Sixth and Gallatin streets and that tests of soil samples from those areas show no indication of contamination.

When Mayor Rick Gottman twice claimed that another HMG engineer denied the presence of an underground tank near Sixth Street, Jackson said the issue is that borings have indicated that there is no contamination at that location.

Also at the meeting, the council learned that the city has not received any more information on rebuilding plans for The Depot.

Director of Economic Development and Tourism JoAnn Givens reported that she and City Administrator Jimmy Morani had contacted owner Deb Hamel to let her know that the council wanted more of a commitment from the family on rebuilding the restaurant before acting on the familys request for TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds to aid in the cleanup from the Labor Day fire.

We have not heard back from her, Givens said.

Also at Mondays meeting:

The council voted 5-3 to reject a proposal to have Hurst-Roche Engineers Inc. of Hillsboro complete and submit Illinois Environmental Protection Agency permit renewal forms.

The firm offered to perform the work for $3,500.

Larry Cable, Bret Brosman, Barbie Elliott, Mike Hobler and Jerry Swarm voted against the proposal. Feldpouch, Lisa McNutt and Larry Bennett voted for it.

The council then agreed to have HMG submit a proposal for the permit work.

The action was taken without discussion, but at the end of Mondays meeting, Feldpouch asked other aldermen why they rejected the proposal.

Cable said HMG had done the work in the past, and Elliott concurred, saying that HMG would have available the necessary information to complete the permit work.

But Gottman pointed out that the necessary information is the property of the city, not HMG. He also said that he didnt think it was quite fair that HMG would be submitting a proposal after seeing the estimate submitted by Hurst-Roche.

The council approved an ordinance agreement that allows city police officers to go onto Kaskaskia Colleges new Vandalia Campus property on West Fillmore Street to deal with such issues as loitering and littering.

The contract between the two parties, much like ones that numerous other businesses have with the city, states that the campus parking lot is not to be used as a turn-around or meeting place.

After approving that ordinance amendment, the council rescinded a similar ordinance amendment that the council approved in 2003 for the KC campus when it was housed in the building at 722 School Street.

Kaskaskia College will begin offering classes at its new campus next Monday.

The council approved a resolution naming two streets in the northeast quadrant of the citys western Interstate 70 interchange.

A section of County Road 1650 North from County Road 1600 East to County Road 675 East was named Little Street. A section of County Road 675 East from the east end of Little Street to Janett Avenue was named Baumann Street.

The council approved an agreement with the National Road Association of Illinois that allows the organization to install an interpretive kiosk on Gallatin Street, next to the alley of the new city parking lot between Fourth and Fifth streets.

The kiosk will be used to educate local residents and tourists about the National Road.

Gottman announced that the city is now providing e-mail addresses for all city officials.

Morani explained that this is being done so officials, including all alderman, can send and receive all e-mails regarding city business through a city provider. He said that any city-related e-mails on personal accounts are subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information guidelines.

Morani reported that he had spoken with New Wave officials recently, and the cable TV provider confirmed its plans to provide high-speed Internet and digital telephone service in Vandalia in the coming months.

Vandalia Main Street Program Manager Dana Whiteman reported that VMS will host a state workshop on May 15 for communities interested in applying for membership with Illinois Main Street.

She also reported that Main Street will hold its annual Night at the Races fundraiser on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Vandalia Country & Golf Club.

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