Paxton selects firm to help develop streetscape project's scope, costs

PAXTON — In preparation for revamping Paxton’s historic downtown business district with the construction of a new street, curbs, sidewalks and street lights, the city council Tuesday night voted unanimously to select an engineering firm to help develop the project’s scope and costs.

The council’s 7-0 vote to select the Farnsworth Group to assist in the process was predicated on the fact that the Champaign-based firm had already completed conceptual sketches of the proposed improved streetscape and had worked with the city on the project for the past two years.

“They’ve got a two-year head-start on this,” said Alderman Eric Evans, chairman of the council’s city property committee.

Evans said he and Mayor Bill Ingold earlier reviewed the qualifications of three engineering firms in the area that had responded to the city’s request for qualifications. They consulted the city’s financial advisor, Fredi Beth Schmutte, who agreed that the Farnsworth Group “would be the one we should go with,” Evans said.

Evans said that of the three firms, the Fansworth Group appeared to have the “best knowledge” of streetscape projects and had completed such projects more recently than the others. Evans also noted that towns that had enlisted the firm’s help in redesigning their streetscapes gave them good reviews.

Ingold noted that the selection of the Farnsworth Group to negotiate the scope and costs of the project does not require the city to use that same firm to complete it. If unsatisfied, the city could hire a different firm to do the engineering for the actual work, Ingold said.

The project is expected to be completed using the $1.14 million in funds the city was required to return to the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO) following the termination of the city’s revolving-loan fund. For the city to get the money back, the DCEO is requiring the city to file an application outlining its project so that the DCEO can determine if it qualifies as eligible.

In December, Ingold said the project is “really something that needs to be done,” noting that downtown’s Market Street is in poor shape in many areas, the downtown’s curbs vary in height and present a safety hazard, and the downtown’s sidewalks have seen better days.

All aldermen except Mike Wilson were present for the meeting.

Other business
Also during Tuesday night’s meeting:

➜ The council voted unanimously to approve a $250 donation to Pheasants Forever. A representative of the organization, Mike Frichtl, said the group depends on donations “to keep their projects going for habitat and for Young Guns,” and “we greatly appreciate the fact that the city donates to us every year.” Alderman Bill Wylie, chairman of the council’s finance/budget committee, said donating each year to Pheasants Forever is a “good deal for the city,” noting that the organization, in return, maintains the ground cover at the city-owned landfill property next to the Paxton Municipal Airport.

➜ The council postponed making a decision on whether to donate to Show Bus, a public transportation service serving residents of nine counties in rural Central Illinois, including Ford. The reason no action was taken was that there was no representative of Show Bus in attendance, and aldermen wanted to first hear more about how many Paxton residents use the service. A representative will be invited to attend the April meeting, when the proposed donation will again be up for a vote. Ingold said Show Bus is designed to help disabled or elderly residents, in particular — or those who do not have “adequate transportation” — get to their doctor’s appointments, the grocery store or Medicaid appointments, for example. The city has made $1,000 annual donations to the organization in previous years.

➜ The council voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with Credit Collection Partners, a debt-collection company, to help collect some of the $3,358 still owed to the city by people found guilty of ordinance violations. Wylie said there would be no cost to the city for the service. Ingold said the company would try to collect debts on behalf of the city and, if successful, would add a 30 percent charge to the debt. The same company is already used by the Ford County Circuit Clerk’s Office, Ingold said.

➜ Wylie said it appears the city will finish the current fiscal year on April 30 within budget.

➜ Comptroller/Treasurer Tammy Jensen said the city should start generating about $1,500 more interest each month from the $2.3 million the city has in certificates of deposit at The Frederick Community Bank in Paxton. The reason, Jensen said, is that $1 million was recently transferred out of a CD that had been generating just 0.3 percent interest per month, and those funds were put in a new CD that will generate 1.75 percent interest monthly.

➜ The council voted 7-0 to spend up to $46,200 on repairs to the entire 500 block of West Holmes Street and to half of the 100 block of West Holmes Street. The project is the last phase of a multi-year project to repair West Holmes Street. The mayor said the work was already in the budget.

➜ Alderman Rob Steiger, chairman of the council’s public works committee, set a meeting of his committee for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at City Hall to discuss proposed road work to be funded by motor-fuel tax (MFT) revenue. In preparation for the meeting, Steiger asked other aldermen to each provide a list of streets in their respective wards that they would like to see fixed. Steiger said those lists, along with a “preliminary list” already created, would be considered when prioritizing projects to be completed this summer and in subsequent summers.

➜ Ingold said the city could save perhaps as much as $20,000 a year on electricity costs at its sewage-treatment facilities if it follows through with various recommendations made by the University of Illinois’ Smart Energy Design Assistance Center. A group from the center visited the sewage-treatment plant on Pit Road south of town last month and tried to determine ways the city could make it more energy-efficient, Ingold said.

➜ The council voted 7-0 to authorize the American Legion Riders to collect donations for the Gold Star Missions from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 27, at the intersections of Patton and Market streets and Pells and Market streets. An American Legion Riders representative in attendance said the Gold Star Missions benefits the families of fallen military personnel. Last year, the American Legion Riders collected about $5,000 in donations for the organization in Paxton and Gibson City. “It’s a very, very worthwhile effort to let them go ahead and do this,” Ingold said.

➜ Ingold said he and Police Chief Coy Cornett planned to meet Wednesday, March 13, with Ford County Sheriff Mark Doran and other county officials to discuss “some issues we’ve had” with dispatching.

➜ The council voted 7-0 to approve an ordinance vacating the northerly 6 feet of an easement located adjacent to and upon residential property at 118 S. Maple St. With the ordinance, the 16-foot-wide easement on the south side of the property was reduced to a 10-foot-wide easement. The measure was requested by homeowner Todd Moore, who said the existing easement gets “awfully close to encroaching into my house.”

➜ The council voted 7-0 to donate $2,000 to the nonprofit organization PRIDE in Paxton. The donation will be used by PRIDE to maintain the flower pots downtown, supplementing the estimated $1,200 to $1,500 the group spends annually for that purpose. As a condition of making the donation, the council asked that the flowers be kept in their pots until the city notifies PRIDE to remove them. Meanwhile, PRIDE representative Teri Hancock said her organization is hoping to raise enough funds to buy new banners to hang on the light poles downtown and said she was open to suggestions on how they might look.

➜ Ingold advised aldermen that they should be prepared to vote “pretty soon” on the granting of a variance to allow for a 150-foot flagpole to be installed west of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School. The flagpole would fly a gigantic American flag. Funds are currently being raised to buy the flagpole and flag.

➜ The owner of a helicopter frame that was abandoned at the city-owned airport a couple of years ago — Gibson City resident Jeremy Baier — said the partially dismantled vehicle had finally been removed from the airport. The city a few months ago had made plans to donate the abandoned helicopter frame to an American Legion post in Catlin, but Baier later came forward and indicated he was the owner and would remove it. “(My wife) Lynn and I were coming back (to Paxton) from Champaign one day, and as we were coming north we saw (the helicopter frame) going south on a flatbed trailer,” Ingold said.

➜ Ingold said he continues to be in contact with representatives of Eagle Point Solar, based in Dubuque, Iowa, regarding the company’s proposal to build a solar array behind Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative’s headquarters at 330 W. Ottawa Road. The 235-kilowatt solar array’s 660 360-watt modules and three inverters would be  surrounded on its other three sides by cropland. After making a presentation to the council in February, the company recently asked Ingold about any fees that would need to be paid for a permit. Ingold said he told the company that the city still has no fees or guidelines for solar arrays set as the council continues to work on a proposed ordinance applying to solar-energy facilities.

➜ Rob Pacey, chairman of the council’s community committee, said the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting was set for April 17. Pacey also said the chamber’s board of directors will meet this month to discuss a proposed incentive program for new homeowners in Paxton. Pacey also said he had been in discussions with the chamber’s Alan Meyer about offering a farmers’ market this summer downtown.

➜ Ingold said the city’s new website will be launched after city employees are trained to use it later this month.

➜ Susan Satterlee, chairman of the council’s economic development committee, asked that the city’s tax-increment financing (TIF) consultant, Springfield attorney Dan Schuering, provide the council with an update on the city’s TIF district at least once every five or six months.

➜ Ingold said the U.S. Census Bureau is in need of part-time workers for the 2020 census, including “basic door-to-door people” and managers.

➜ Ingold reminded the council of the approaching April 2 consolidated election, in which several seats on the council will be up for election. Among those listed on the ballot are write-in candidate and newcomer Deane L. Geiken for one available four-year term representing Ward 1; incumbent Eric Evans for one available two-year term representing Ward 1; incumbent Justin Withers for one available four-year term representing Ward 2; incumbent Rob Pacey for one available four-year term representing Ward 3; and incumbent Mike Wilson for one available four-year term representing Ward 4. No one filed as a candidate for a second available four-year term in Ward 3. Following the election, Linda Glad and Bill Wylie will be vacating their alderman seats.

➜ The council met in closed session for the limited purpose of discussing pending litigation involving the city. The city attorney said no action was anticipated to be taken by the council following the closed session.

Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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