City to bid two downtown projects separately

Going against a recommendation from its consulting engineers, Vandalia officials decided on Monday to keep two aspects of a downtown improvement project separate in the bidding process.

Lorne Jackson of HMG Engineers of Carlyle told the city council that while the firm initially recommended taking separate bids for streetscape and infrastructure improvements, it had recently changed its mind.

HMG was endorsing that change of course due to the fact that the city had decided to downsize the improvements to water and sewer lines from about $2 million to about $100,000.

Bidding the infrastructure improvements with the streetscape improvements, Jackson said, “would make things a little bit cleaner” during the construction. Separating the two aspects of the project, HMG believes, could cause some scheduling issues and result in additional costs to the city.

But Mayor Rick Gottman was vehemently opposed to that course of action.

“We have bid this out (as a package) three times,” Gottman said.

Twice, the city failed to receive any bids, and the last time, the bids it received were significantly higher than the engineers’ estimate.

“I don’t want to see us bid it out (together) and us be right back where we are tonight,” Gottman said. “We’ve got to move forward with this.”

Alderman Chad Feldpouch also spoke out for keeping the two separate.

“I agree with Rick,” Feldpouch said. “We haven’t had any luck in the past.”

Jackson said that overall, coordination of the downtown work would be better accomplished by keeping the two aspects of the projects together.

But Gottman said he believes that the firm should be able to keep everything coordinated, regardless of how it’s bid out.

‘That’s what we’re paying them the big bucks for,’ Gottman said.

In addition to making improvements to water, storm sewer and sanitary sewer lines in the downtown, the city is using federal TEA-21 grant funds procured during the Sandra Leidner administration to make streetscape improvements along Gallatin Street.

The streetscape work will include new sidewalks with brick edging and insets, new benches and trash cans, period lighting to replace the existing street lights, the relocation of all utility lines underground and flowering dogwood trees.

On other downtown-related matter, Gottman announced that the city’s Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibits have been delivered. They will be erected sometime this fall.

The 10 storyboards tell the story of Abraham Lincoln’s time in Vandalia. Eight of the storyboards will be erected on and near the Vandalia Statehouse grounds, one will be placed in the Old State Burial Ground on Edwards Street, and one will erected in Rogier Park.

The storyboards contain Lincoln stories written by local historian Dale Timmermann, as well as photographs and artwork procured by Timmermann.

“They are really nice,” Public Works Director John Moyer said. “They are something the city can really be proud of,” Gottman added.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council approved an ordinance amendment governing parking on Fifth Street between Orchard and Randolph streets.

The amendment, as recommended by the council’s streets and sewers committee, mandates that parking areas in the city right of way must have surfaces of asphalt or concrete.

The amendment stipulates that in order to use the right of way for parking, landowners must obtain either an excavation license or parking encroachment permit. Any existing parking areas are not grandfathered, Gottman pointed out.

Aldermen Bret Brosman and Mike Hobler voted against the amendment, with Brosman, the chairman of the streets and sewers committee chairman, said he doesn’t believe “it’s good policy” to put such restrictions for just one street.

The committee’s recommendation was scaled back from a city-wide restriction for right-of-way parking after discussion during a recent committee meeting in which several present talked about a section of North Fifth Street being the main problem area.

The full text of the ordinance amendment may be viewed online at The Leader-Union Web site,

The council also approved an ordinance amendment that stipulates that areas where parking is prohibited may be marked with a sign and/or yellow paint on the curb.

Also approved was an ordinance that bumps the written speed limit on city streets (except in areas where otherwise noted by signage) up from 25 to 30, to coincide with state statues.

The council also approved an ordinance amendment allowing for the placement of stop signs on Brian and Karen streets at Rock Island Avenue.

Later in the meeting, Alderman Jerry Swarm brought up the city’s enforcement of an ordinance prohibiting parking on city sidewalks. Swarm talked about vehicles sticking out over the sidewalks at times at locations such as the Eagles Club, Holy Cross Lutheran Church and First United Methodist Church.

City Administrator Jimmy Morani, Gottman and Police Chief Larry Eason said the main issue is whether pedestrians can freely pass by vehicles sticking out over the sidewalk. Eason said his department will use discretion in enforcing that ordinance.

In other action:

• The council observed a moment of silence for Todd Thompson, a local contractor and member of the Vandalia Volunteer Fire Department who died on Thursday, Oct. 8.

• After considerable discussion, the council voted 4-3 to approve a $45,000 loan from the city’s Revolving Loan Fund to Mannino Enterprises (Mamma Antonio’s II).

City Attorney Jack Johnston said the request for the loan from business owner Ashley York and her fianc, Gieuseppe “Joe” Mannino, lacked a sufficient personal guarantee.

Mannino explained that he had formed a limited liability company in order to present a strong credit rating, and that in the event of a business failure, the city would be the first party to recover assets.

Feldpouch was one of three aldermen voting against the loan application. “You have some issue to work out,” he said to Mannino.

Others voting against the loan request were Brosman and Larry Bennett. Voting in favor of the application were Larry Cable, Hobler, Swarm and Lisa McNutt. The eighth seat on the council is currently vacant.

• City Clerk Peggy Bowen announced that nominating petitions for the April 7 municipal election are now available in her office. Up for election in the spring are the position of mayor, city clerk, city treasurer and five aldermanic seats.

Residents will elect an alderman in each of the city’s four wards, as well an alderman for the Ward II seat that became vacant with the resignation of Barbie Elliott this summer.

Feldpouch, as chairman of the council’s business office, computers and building committee, said the city is looking into the use of Revolving Loan Fund monies for the replacement of the roof on the new city hall, the building formerly occupied by First Bank.

• The council approved the low bid of $6,388 from Culbertson’s Heating & Cooling in Vandalia for a new furnace at the city garage on West Randolph Street. The city received three bids.

• The council approved the low bid of $2,210.88 from Hurricane Masonry and Bobcat Services of Vandalia for replacing the stone cap on the wall at the south end of the city parking lot at Fifth and Johnson streets. The city received two bids.

• The council approved the sale of the Vandalia Volunteer Fire Department’s old rescue truck to the Mulberry Grove Fire Protection District for $2,000.

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