City OKs change order policy for downtown project

The Vandalia City Council voted on Monday to give the mayor, city administrator and director of public works the authority to approve minor change orders for the downtown improvement project.

But not without considerable discussion.

Mayor Rick Gottman submitted the request to allow him, City Administrator Jimmy Morani and Director of Public Works John Moyer to handle minor change orders in the two-week periods between council meetings. In presenting the request, Gottman told aldermen that it was up to them to set the monetary limit on change order approvals.

In his written memo to the aldermen, Gottman said, “It is imperative that work on this project continue in a timely and efficient manner.

“In order for this to occur, the city will need to act quickly on change orders that may arise during the construction process, some of which may involve (the) relocation of utilities or repair of existing curbs and gutters, etc.”

Several aldermen, including Chad Feldpouch, didn’t seem completely comfortable with giving the authority to Gottman, Morani and Moyer.

“I think we ought to have at least some input from the (downtown) committee,” Feldpouch said.

Gottman said the city must give at least 48 hours notice for any special meetings, and that doing so would hold up the work for two days.

“It’s up to this governing body if you want to hold this project up,” he said.

On setting the amount for such change orders, Lorne Jackson of HMG Engineers of Carlyle told aldermen they could set the limit “at whatever you really feel comfortable with.”

Alderman Jerry Swarm was the only aldermen to propose a limit. “I would be comfortable with $25,000 or $30,000,” Swarm said.

Alderman Bret Brosman added, “I would be comfortable with an even higher amount,” saying he understands how expensive even minor changes can be.

To which, Swarm said, “I just don’t think I’d want to go over $30,000.”

That was the amount included in the motion made by Brosman.

The measure passed in a 5-2 vote, with Brosman, Lisa McNutt, Dean Black, Swarm and Larry Bennett voting in favor of the motion, and Feldpouch and Larry Cable casting dissenting votes.

Also at the meeting, the council unanimously agreed to spend its federal spending stimulus monies on some new sidewalks on the city’s west side.

The city is receiving $210,978 in stimulus monies, and City Administrator Jimmy Morani presented the council with two options for those funds – replacing the oil and chip roadway on Coles Street from St. Louis Avenue to the railroad bridge with a new concrete surface or new sidewalks along Fillmore Street from the Kaskaskia College Vandalia Campus to Vandalia Community High School.

Aldermen chose the latter after Feldpouch, Swarm and Cable endorsed the sidewalk option.

In his memo to the council, Morani said preliminary estimates show that the stimulus funds may not be adequate to fund the entire scope of the project. That will not be determined, he said, until preliminary engineering is completed.

In the worst-case scenario, he said, the city believes it could run new sidewalks from the KC campus to the railroad crossing by the parks.

In other action on Monday:

• The council, going along with a recommendation from the city’s planning commission, rejected a zoning change request submitted by Bryan Cain.

Cain asked to have property at 215 S. Eighth St. rezoned from two-family residential to general commercial.

Cain told the city he planned to purchase the property from Kimberly Wuehler Osborn and move his land surveying business to that location.

Cain said the property is an ideal location for his business, because his work involves a doing a lot of research at the courthouse, and stated his belief that property near the courthouse should be used as a business district.

The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend that Cain’s request be denied, and the council did the same on Monday.

• The council approved the annexation of six lots on and west of Rock Island Avenue between Randolph and Jackson streets into the city. The property annexed in is owned by Kerry Stein, Jody Blackwell and George Petta.

• The council approved a Tax Increment Financing agreement with Sloan Implement Co. Inc. for a new John Deere dealership building the company plans to build west of Wal-Mart and Vandalia Tractor Sales.

Through the agreement, 70 percent of new property taxes created by the increase in the equalized assessed value of Sloan’s property as a result of the development will be used for qualified project costs.

• The council gave Police Chief Larry Eason permission to apply for a U.S. Department of Justice COPS grant.

Eason told the council that he will apply for a grant that would pay the starting salary and benefits of a police officer. The city would be required to make up the difference between the starting salary and any pay increases over the three-year period, and estimates that amount will be $4,198.

After the three-year period of grant funding, the city would be required to keep the officer on the payroll, at city expense, for one year.

Eason said he didn’t know the city’s chances of being awarded a grant.

If the city is able to add the officer, he said, the department’s detective would be able to concentrate solely on investigations. Currently, the detective has patrol duties in addition to investigating cases.

• The council voted to set the week of May 4-8 as Cleanup Week in the city. During that week, residents may put out larger items out with their regular trash on their regular trash pickup days.

• The council approved an agreement with Hurst-Roche Engineers of Hillsboro for right of way property surveys along West Main Street for a planned expansion of water and sewer lines in the area of the city’s western Interstate 70 interchange.

• City Clerk Peggy Bowen announced that Dolores Thoman, a long-time employee in the clerk’s office, will be retiring at the end of this month.

• The council approved the installation of a new manhole at the corner of Fourth and Gallatin streets as part of the downtown improvement project.

The cost of the manhole installation has been estimated to cost up to $7,715.

The manhole work at other downtown intersections was completed for about $30,000 less than what was budgeted; money budgeted for that work will be used to pay for the new manhole.

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