Council backs no levy increase

The Vandalia City Council will likely approve a tax levy for the coming year that does not include any increases.
Mayor Rick Gottman told aldermen that they have two options for the new levy – leave it as is; or OK an increase of 5 percent.
Gottman and Executive Secretary LaTisha Paslay said that the option with no increase includes a reduction of the police pension figure – due to retirements and other departures – and an equal increase in the fire protection figure.
With the second option, the city would be increasing the fire protection, and the overall levy, by 5 percent.
Gottman recommended that the council approve a tax levy total that is unchanged from the current year.
“People cannot afford any additional taxes right now,” the mayor said.
Aldermen agreed with that recommendation, deciding to have City Attorney Jack Johnston draw up such a levy.
The increase in the fire protection figure, Gottman said, is because the city’s volunteer fire department is going to have some major expenses in the future, including the replacement of its ladder truck.
Also at the meeting, Johnston reported to the council that the conviction of a local business on three smoking violations had been upheld in the appellate court.
Johnston said that his law firm, Burnside, Johnston and Sheafor, just recently learned that the appellate court had filed on Oct. 31 its decision to uphold the convictions of G&T Holdings (Redwood Inn).
The local bar was issued three tickets in 2010, on Aug. 19, Aug. 21 and Sept. 17, and was convicted on all three tickets in a jury in December of last year.
The Redwood’s attorney’s argued that the city ordinance prohibiting smoking in public places is less restrictive than the Smoke Free Illinois Act, and is, therefore, invalid. The appellate court disagreed with that argument.
The case was prosecuted by Ryan Connor of Burnside, Johnston and Sheafor, with assistance from Trent West of the firm.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• The council observed a moment of silence for Johnny Bob Mabry, a retired volunteer fireman for the city and a former business owner; Patsy Coughlin, a former police and fire dispatcher; and Robert Taylor Sr., a former city cemetery employee.
• The council approved four individuals resignations from city commissions or committees.
John Dotrary resigned from the city’s tourism commission, citing his involvement in other community organizations and activities. The city is looking for someone to take his place on the commission.
Leon Bowen and Eugene Conaway resigned from the city’s planning commission, citing the state’s requirement that they complete online training for the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
Gottman told the council that the two men do not believe they should have to put the time and effort into the training for a job for which they are volunteering.
Nathan Miller was appointed to replace Bowen, and Steve Stombaugh was appointed to Conaway’s seat.
The council also approved Jerry Seaton’s resignation from the city’s zoning board of appeals.
It also approved the appointment of Brock Brannon to the city’s police pension board, filling the vacancy created by Jim Staff’s resignation.
• The council approved a change to its ordinance governing gaming devices, adding truck stops to the list of allowed businesses and setting an annual gaming license fee of $25.
• The council approved a change to its lake ordinance, stipulating, “Only pull campers, motor homes and tents are allowed on non-lakefront lots.”
• The council agreed to have Johnston draw up an ordinance amendment that will require eating establishments to have their grease traps inspected – and if necessary, pumped out – by licensed plumbers every six months.
Currently, establishments are asked to regularly pump out their grease traps, according to Public Works Director John Moyer.

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