Over the concerns of several aldermen, the Vandalia City Council approved an ordinance that’s required to make the city eligible to receive grant funds for water line improvements.
The city plans to apply for $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the state to help pay for 5,506 linear feet of 6-inch and 10-inch water main replacements.
Also included in the project are eight fire hydrants, 10 gate valves and other associated appurtances.
Of the $500,000 total for the project, the city is chipping in $120,000 for engineering services and grant administration.
Mike Shaw of the South Central Illinois Regional Planning & Development Commission, which is preparing the grant application for the city, explained that the project is planned to address “troubled water lines in two targeted areas.”
Those areas are on North Seventh Street and South Eighth Street.
Marlin Filer, the city’s director of public works, said after Monday’s council meeting that the city has several water leaks a year in both areas, with the line on South Eighth Street being the hookup to the water tower at the south end of town.
“Whenever that happens, we have to have boil orders,” Filer said. “In these situations, the public is at risk, and we want to avoid that.”
Shaw said during the public hearing that in order to qualify for the CDBG funds, at least 51 percent of the residents in the project areas have to be of low or moderate income.
This project, he said, would serve 106 houses, with 83.07 percent of those verified as low- or moderate-income residences.
“That’s a very high number,” Shaw said. “You should score very high” in that area of the application, he said.
One of the factors, one that Shaw is “a little concerned about” is the requirement that the project alleviates health and safety issues for residents.
His concern is based on the fact that the city will likely be competing against rural water companies, which can score higher in that area.
A third category is the project readiness, and Shaw said that the city’s consulting engineers for the project, Milano and Grunloh “will make sure that it’s ready.”
A concern voiced during the public hearing is that in order to be eligible for the grant funds through the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the council is required to approve a fair housing ordinance as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Alderman Joel Rebbe said that believes that passage of that ordinance could take away local property owners’ rights as to whom they rent or sell their property.
The ordinance states that “it shall be unlawful to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make available or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”
Shaw told aldermen that if they did not pass the ordinance on Monday night, the city would “lose two points” on the application scoring in “a very competitive process.
And, he said, “two points can make or break” the city’s application.
Shaw told aldermen that on all of the CDBG applications that have been prepared by the SCIRPDC, “I’ve never seen anybody not pass it.”
Aldermen Russ Stunkel and Steve Barker echoed Rebbe’s concerns, and the city’s legal counsel, Ryan Connor, confirmed that the ordinance does not mirror city ordinance.
Connor said that passage of the ordinance “won’t harm your present operations. It doesn’t hurt or change anything on the ground tonight.
“It is something that we can revisit later,” he said.
During the regular council meeting, Rebbe and Stunkel cast dissenting votes on the HUD ordinance, which was passed in a 5-2 vote. Voting for it were Barker, Andy Lester, Ken Hubler, Dorothy Crawford and B. John Clark.
The council also passed, both unanimously, two resolutions related to the project, one that commits city funds to the project and another that supports submission of the block grant application.
Also at the meeting:
• The council approved an ordinance increasing the number of Class E liquor licenses from eight to nine. With that approval, Mayor Rick Gottman, as the city’s liquor commissioner, will act on a request for a Class E license for a Mexican and American food restaurant at the northeast corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Gallatin Street.
• The council observed a moment of silence for business owners Maurice Cripe, Kenneth Harrison, Randy Woolsey and Rita Mae Allen, and for Grace Brugoto, the mother of a school crossing guard.
• The council approved an updated list of members of the 2019 Bicentennial Board of Directors, with Les Smith added as a board member and city Director of Economic Development Amber Daulbaugh as an advisory member.
• The council approved an intergovernmental agreement through which the city is giving to Vandalia Correctional Center a wood chipper that the VCC staff will rehabilitate and use for projects throughout the area.
• The council gave Gottman the authority to select an energy supplier, based on the rates offered by bidders at the time of selection.
As of Monday, the current supplier, Direct Energy had a bid of .04834 per kWh, and Liberty Power had the lowest bid, .04688 per kWh.
• The council approved the transfer of Vandalia Lake lot No. 25 from Jeffrey Lynn Brown of Vandalia to Ed and Deborah Gray of Dorsey.
• Gottman reported that the Vandalia Lake campgrounds will close after “Movies Under the Stars” on the evening of Oct. 13.
• Barker reported that the tourism committee is working on plans for this year’s Olde Tyme Christmas, to be held on Friday, Nov. 9-10.
This year’s event will again include the Vandalia Rotary Club’s Christmas Parade and the Soroptimists’ Cookie Walk.
Barker said that the tourism committee will be putting up strings of lights atop downtown businesses, and that merchants will be asked to put electric or battery-operated candles in the upper levels of their buildings, as was done in previous years with the “City of Candles” project.