City drops fee for disconnection

Hoping that the action could help spur owners of rundown buildings to demolish those structures, the Vandalia City Council has eliminated a fee associated with demolition.
The council on Monday approved an ordinance amendment stipulating that only employees of the city’s public works department can disconnect private water systems from the city’s water system.
The disconnection of that service will be performed at no cost to the property owner.
Public Works Director Marlin Filer explained to aldermen that he and Mayor Rick Gottman had discussed eliminating the disconnection fee, believing that it could help owners of rundown, vacant buildings to tear down those structures.
Filer said that in the past, the city has charged $500 for the disconnection of lines under grass and $2,000 for those under concrete.
The ordinance amendment was approved in a 7-1 vote, with aldermen Jerry Swarm, Dorothy Crawford, Andy Lester, Ken Hubler, Russ Stunkel, Joel Rebbe and B. John Clark voting for it, and Mike Hobler voting against it.
Also at the meeting, the council approved an agreement with South Central Illinois Regional Planning and Development Commission for grant-writing services.
The SCIRPDC will assist the city with the preparation of applications for U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grants for the police and fire departments.
The police department will seek a grant that will help pay for a new squad car.
Police Chief Jeff Ray said that the funds would not be available until next spring and that the grant may require the city to provide matching funds.
Ray said that the fire department will also likely seek a grant, one that would help the department purchase new air tanks.
In other action:
• The council approved the transfer of Vandalia Lake lot No. 154 from Rob and Vicky Blackerby of Vandalia to David and Marci Barth of Vandalia.
• The council approved a waiver that will allow city employees to go onto the property at 127 W. Madison St. to remove a fallen tree.
The city is taking that action to help the family owning the property clean it up. The property has been the target of numerous complaints from residents of that area for much of this year.
• Gottman reported that Razmus Demolition Services of Chrisman has dug out most of the debris in the basements of the buildings at Fifth and Gallatin streets that were demolished.
Next, Razmus will fill the area with dirt and put down grass seed.
“The next thing to look at is what we are going to do to help the building owners with the walls of their buildings” that were adjacent to the demolished buildings, Gottman said.

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