Court gives city downtown land

About 10 months after it paid more than $250,000 for the demolition of three buildings at a major downtown intersection, the city of Vandalia is the legal owner of the land at that location.
Mayor Rick Gottman announced at Monday’s city council meeting that a court order issued last month awarded the city the property at the northwest corner of Fifth and Gallatin streets.
In his ruling giving the city a clear deed, Judge J. Marc Kelly ruled that “the city of Vandalia has a valid and subsisting lien against the premises … in the amount of $266,802.24.
The court had allowed to proceed with the demolition of the buildings at 501, 503 and 507 W. Gallatin St. after a partial collapse of the roofs over 503 and 507 W. Gallatin.
In his order granting the city the property, Kelly noted that “the city was confronted with a circumstance of immediate endangerment for the public health and safety.”
In August of last year, the city hired Razmus Demolition Services of Chrisman to tear down the buildings, with the maximum cost set at $345,000.
In addition to tearing down the buildings, the city worked to get atop the list of numerous lien holders for the property, including a number of financial institutions, as well as the state and federal governments.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the Vandalia City Council approved the Vandalia Volunteer Fire Department’s purchase of the former home of Liberty Utilities at the northeast corner of Sixth and Johnson streets.
The fire department is purchasing the building from Randy Edwards for $80,000, using funds it has received from the Hazel Simma-Kelly Fund.
Through that trust, the VVFD receives annual allotments that it can use for such things as equipment and facilities.
The VVFD plans to use that building for multiple purposes, including storage and training. The building also will provide an area for the maintenance and repairs of the department’s trucks.
The building will be named after Hazel Simma-Kelly, who also included in her will annual allotments to the Vandalia Park District and Mother of Dolors Catholic Cemetery.
In other action on Monday:
• The council approved the bid from Sheldon Schulte Construction of Vandalia for the replacement of some sidewalks.
Schulte’s bid of $5.25 per square foot was the lowest of two bids received by the city. Precise Construction Services of Vandalia submitted a bid of $7.21 per square foot.
Public Works Director Marlin Filer said the start of the sidewalk replacement project includes two in the 200 block of North Second Street, one in the 200 block of North Second, two in the 300 block of South Second, one in the 400 block of South Seventh and one in the 700 block of West Edwards.
He said that the sidewalk replacement project is starting on the east side of the city, with “a few in each neighborhood replaced.”
• The council approved a request from Beth Cox to send to the city’s planning commission a request for a special zoning allowance that would allow her to operate a dog kennel/boarding business.
Her request was approved in a 6-2 vote, with Alderman Jerry Swarm and Dorothy Crawford casting dissenting votes.
Swarm asked how this request was different from one submitted a few months ago by a local veteran who wanted to have a kennel at his home. Gottman told him that while Cox is requesting that the issue go to the planning commission, the person making the previous request had not.
Crawford said that the council had “rather vehemently stated that we didn’t want kennels in the city limits, no exceptions.”
• The council approved the transfer of Vandalia Lake lot No. 22 from Mary Forbes of Vandalia to Chad Wilson of Vandalia.
• The council approved a request from Sixth Street Pub for the closure of the 100 block of South Sixth Street this Saturday for a fundraising event.
• The council approved dropping the number of Class E liquor licenses from eight to seven. That action follows the closing of The Copper Penny.
• Gottman announced that the fire department had been awarded a $20,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office. The funds will be applied toward the purchase of new self-contained breathing apparatuses.
• The council agreed to seek bids for the demolition of a house at the southwest corner of Fourth and Jefferson streets.
• Swarm and Crawford told Gottman that they have been getting calls from residents about the upcoming changes in trash pickup.
They said that residents believe they will have problems with trash getting picked up street-side instead of their alleys.
Gottman said that Doty Sanitation "will work with anyone who has problems."
Alderman Russ Stunkel wants residents to remember that when Doty begins picking up trash in the containers that it provides, it will only pick up that trash that is inside the container.
• The council approved a request from Alderman Mike Hobler, chairman of the Vandalia Lake committee, to add camping lots on Eel Street at the lake.
One lot will be created for the time being, but there is room to create more lots, Hobler said.
• Gottman reported that Gloria's Christian Supply had donated to the city old display cases that had been used many years ago by downtown businesses.
The mayor said he would like to display Vandalia memorabilia in the cases, and solicited such items from local residents.
• Filer told the council that he had looked into the possibility of creating angle parking in the 100 block of South Sixth Street, something that was suggested after complaints were lodged about individuals from Gallatin Street businesses parking in front of businesses in that block.
Filer said that that block is the same width as the 100 block of South Fourth Street, where angle parking is used on both sides of the street.
"We can do it on at least one side," Filer said. "We would have to take out the left-turn lane."
Alderman Ken Hubler said he would be in favor of that. "I don't like that turn lane, anyway."
Filer said that he has asked John Crawford and Associates, the city's engineering firm, to look into whether the presence of the rail crossing would be an issue.
He also said that it would be wise to have the parking spaces engineered.

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