City restricts parking at senior center

The Vandalia City Council discussed at length on Monday whether to impose parking restrictions for the Vandalia Senior Citizens Center.

And while a couple of aldermen questioned whether to limit parking there, or even whether it is the citys place to do so, an ordinance amendment putting those controls on the books was approved unanimously.

The request for the ordinance amendment was submitted by Alderman Larry Bennett, on behalf of the senior citizens board, for which he serves as president. Bennett took the request to Police Chief Larry Eason, who worked with city attorneys in drafting the ordinance amendment.

That amendment stipulates that the parking lot of the center, which is located at 616 W. Jackson St., is to be used only by seniors using the center or people working there.

Bennett said the request was made because the parking lot has been used by people not using the center. At times, he said, these vehicles have caused hardships on seniors visiting the center for noon meals or other activities.

Alderwoman Barbie Elliott, who lives across the street, said that while she supports the use of the center by the seniors, its nice for nearby residents to use the lot in evenings when they are hosting get-togethers .

Alderman Chad Feldpouch questioned whether it was the citys obligation to implement parking restrictions. Mayor Rick Gottman explained that the senior citizens center property, including the parking lot, is owned by the city and leased to the seniors group.

Bennett said one of the problems in the past has been individuals parking vehicles in the lot for extended periods of time. Weve had them stay there for a month, he said.

After hearing the concerns expressed by Elliott and Feldpouch, Gottman said he would refer the request to the councils streets and sewers committee. But the council chose instead to go ahead and vote on the parking restrictions.

Also at Mondays meeting, the council agreed to ask that the owners of an abandoned house with a number of city code violations turn the property over to the city, so that it may be torn down and the property sold.

City Code Official Keith Meadows told the council that he had received complaints and concerns from a number of individuals on a house on West Edwards Street. There are doors gone and windows out, he said.

Meadows found out that the owner of the property was living out of state, then subsequently learned that he had died. After discovering that a descendant of the man lives in Vandalia, Meadows tried to contact her.

After attempts to reach the woman were unsuccessful, he sent her a certified letter. He then went to the womans home, where he received rude treatment from her son.

Meadows said he issued an ordinance violation ticket, and then heard from the family about 10 minutes after the owner was fined $150

Meadows eventually learned that the family that now owns the property wished to raze the building, but doesnt have the money to do so.

City officials, he said, should start considering ways to address such situations, because of the number of similar houses around town. We need to start thinking of some alternative plans, he said.

Elliott and Mike Hobler suggested that Meadows approach the family about signing over the property to the city, which would tear the house down and recoup its costs by selling the property. A motion for that action was approved.

Alderman Bret Brosman said he doesnt feel that this type of action is necessarily the way to handle all similar cases. We need to do this on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Also at the meeting:

Alderman Larry Cable announced that the citys Cleanup Week is May 12-16.

City Administrator Jimmy Morani reported that a representative of New Wave, the firm that provides cable television service in Vandalia, plans to be present at the councils April 21 meeting to discuss planned improvements and address city officials concerns.

Cable reported that city water plant employees have been blowing off the intake screen on the citys raw water intake on the Kaskaskia River once per shift the past two weeks, and that that has allowed regular use of the intake.

The council approved an amendment to the city ordinance governing raffles in town.

Mayor Rick Gottman said the amendment was made for the benefit of such organizations as the Vandals Sports Boosters.

The law as previously stated would require the sports boosters to get a license, which carries a fee of $20, each time it holds a 50/50 drawing at a football or basketball game. Now, it may purchase one license for the entire year.

The council, at the request of City Clerk Peggy Bowen, approved the purchase of software from Civic Systems. That software will be used for utility billing, payroll, accounts payable and the general ledger.

Civic Systems bid of $42,000 was one of three received by the city. A bid from Locis was for $40,9985, and United Systems Technologys bid was $36,666.

Bowen said the product provided by Civic Systems was recommended by 15 communities, and that the companys bid included on-site training, while other companies do not offer that service.

The council accepted a proposal from Timmermann & Co. Ltd. for audit services for the next three years. Under the proposal, the city will pay the local CPA firm $22,500 in the coming year, and $25,000 and $27,500 in the subsequent two years.

The board approved the minutes for the March 19 meeting of the citys Zoning Board of Adjustments. At that meeting, the board approved a variance requested by Blackstone Group for a proposed Walgreens.

The group wants to build a Walgreens store at the site that currently houses Jays Restaurant.

City ordinance requires 73 parking spaces for such a business, and Blackstone asked that it be required to provide only 47 spaces.

Blackstone is currently negotiating with the owners of that property, the Harry Mabry family, and with the owners of property to the south of that location, Mike and JoEllen Wehrle.

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