New budget includes new pumps at Vandalia Lake

The city of Vandalias budget for the coming fiscal year is pretty much like the current budget, as far as the total and some of the projects being funded.

But it does include some new items, including monies for an important infrastructure project.

The new budget has a bottom-line total of $13.4 million, which City Administrator Jimmy Morani said is unchanged from the current budget.

Included in that total are funds for downtown streetscape work and improvements to the water, sewer and storm sewer lines in the downtown business district. Those totals are being carried over from the current budget, due to problems in getting those improvement projects under way.

The city was twice unsuccessful in getting bids for the downtown improvements when all of the work was packaged together. When it finally did receive bids, those were significantly higher than engineers estimates.

So the city will be working in the new fiscal year to get the streetscape and infrastructure projects bid out separately.

One of the new line items in the new budget is the replacement of the pumping system at Vandalia Lake. The $360,000 line item includes two new pumps, as well as new water lines and a new structure to house the pumps, according to Mayor Rick Gottman.

The new pumps will replace ones that were put into use when the lake was built more than 40 years ago.

While the new lake pumps and numerous other projects within the new budget carry high price tags, it was a request for an additional $5,000 in one of the funds that drew the most discussion during the budget hearing that preceded Mondays city council meeting.

That request came from the Vandalia Main Street Program, which was asking the city to increase its annual contribution to the organization from $15,000 to $20,000.

Doug Knebel, treasurer of Main Streets executive board, told city officials that the organization is facing increasing costs and the loss of $5,000 in income for advertising.

Knebel explained that Main Street has in past years received $5,000 through the citys hotel/motel tax, but has recently learned that it no longer can receive those funds to help advertise its special events.

That advertising, he said, is very important to the success of events such as Corn Day and Olde-Tyme Christmas, because it brings many area people into downtown Vandalia businesses.

Our main purpose is to bring people downtown, and thats how we do that, Knebel said, referring to advertisements placed with area newspapers and radio stations.

Without some type of assistance, we may not be able to do that in the future, he said.

We have stayed within our budget as much as we can, Knebel said, adding that the organizations success in the past has been largely due to the hours contributed by countless volunteers.

Alderwoman Barbie Elliott voiced support for Vandalia Main Street.

It would be a travesty to lose our Main Street entity, Elliott said.

The organizations contributions, she said, have included the development of Lincoln Park and the creation of an Abraham Lincoln statue in that park.

I think tourism definitely links with Main Street, she said, noting that Main Street is an important player in the citys tourism efforts.

Of those tourists who visit the Statehouse, she said, probably 99.9 percent go across the street (to Lincoln Park and the statue).

Alderman Chad Feldpouch asked whether its feasible to consider joining Main Street, the Vandalia Chamber of Commerce and the citys tourism commission together, because that could result in a better way to use available funds.

Alderman Bret Brosman conceded that there is a lot of overlap (with the three groups), but each has a different focus.

Gottman said that, contrary to rumors circulating in the community, he is and has been since its inception a supporter of the Main Street program.

I dont think anyone wants to see the downtown go away or this program go away, he said. At the same time, he said, the city has to look at how to best use its funds.

No consensus about Main Streets request was reached at the end of the budget hearing, and it was not discussed as the council voted on the appropriations ordinance for the coming year.

Elliott did, however, bring it up again later in the meeting, asking what the city will be contributing to Main Street next year.

Gottman explained that the approval of the appropriations ordinance without changes left the contribution at $15,000, but pointed out that Program Manager Dana Whiteman and others involved with Main Street could work with Director of Economic Development and Tourism JoAnn Givens on possibly using other city funds to meet some of the programs needs.

One possible source of such funding is a $10,000 line item included in the tourism budget for miscellaneous or new events.

When Alderman Mike Hobler asked what that amount covered, Givens explained that the city will be working with Bruce Bowen to bring a street rod festival to town, and that the money could also be used to help promote any other new events in the community.

Also at Mondays meeting:

The council voted to send onto the citys planning commission a proposed ordinance change governing manufactured and modular homes. The commission will review the proposed ordinance and send it back to the council with a recommendation.

The city was asked to look at revising the ordinance after the Jeremy Beck family learned that it was told it could not place a manufactured home at the corner of Sixth and Garfield streets. The Beck familys home was destroyed by fire in January.

The council gave its personnel committee the authority to proceed with the hiring of an employee for the position at the water treatment plant previously held by Marty Huskey. The council last month approved the promotion of Huskey to the plants superintendent position; he succeeds Bob Dowell, who retired in March after 12 years as the plant superintendent.

It was reported that the city lost out on its bid to host the annual convention of the Association of Abraham Lincoln Presenters in 2010, despite the effort put forth by a local member of that organization.

Gottman was among those commending Abe Clymer, a Lincoln presenter, for his work in trying to get the group to return to Vandalia next year. Vandalia hosted the groups annual convention several years ago.

Gottman reported that he had received calls from 17 residents in which they complained about the manner in which trees were tripped by Ameren personnel. The mayor said he will continue discussing the matter with Ameren and the company contracted to do the trimming.

The council approved a resolution related to the citys revolving loan fund to HCC Properties (Vandalia Tractor & Equipment). A revision to the agreement is needed because partners Donald F. Clark and Michael L. Cripe are buying out a third partner, Dale L. Harris.

At the start of the meeting, the council observed a moment of silence for Dean McNutt, the owner of Slice of Nature on Gallatin Street, who died last week.

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