By ROSS BROWN
GIBSON CITY — Gibson City Council members approved an ordinance change Monday night that limits the city’s facade grant program to helping fund projects that have not yet been started.
Also, facade grants must be applied for by businesses at least 30 days prior to an estimated start date. An invoice outlining the project’s costs will be required to be provided to the city within 120 days of the project’s completion, or the business must state a valid reason for a delay, such as weather conditions. Businesses will also not be allowed to include their own labor costs in grant money.
Mayor Dan Dickey said he and other council members spoke with City Attorney Marc Miller earlier in the day to obtain his opinion on the matter.
Dickey said Miller believed that the original wording in the ordinance did not specify when an application must be completed, and he recommended changes that the council approve.
In previous businesses’ requests for grant money, some business owners had submitted requests after the work was complete, sparking discussion at past council meetings on the subject. Dickey also said an approved facade grant from fall 2017 has not been utilized, with the business not showing signs of any improvements.
The council approved a facade grant request for Kafer Ag Services Monday night. Aaron Kafer requested a facade grant for work already completed. Council members approved his application, with the city paying $5,000 along with matching funds of up to $10,000, the maximum amount allowed by city code.
In other business:
➜ Water-treatment plant operator Mark Webster presented council members with a proposal that would eliminate many residents’ complaints about their drinking water. Webster said he plans to permanently inject phosphate into the city’s water, which he said would eliminate rust in the water — an ongoing complaint among residents, according to Alderman Scott Davis. If injected, Webster said, the phosphate would put a "film" over the city’s cast-iron water mains, cutting down on rust. Webster said several area communities already inject phosphate into their drinking water. City Superintendent Randy Stauffer said hiring an engineer and equipment for the project would not be costly but that injections of phosphate would cost $9,800 annually. If started, Stauffer said the project could not be stopped because rust would likely return. Stauffer asked council members to talk about the proposal during the fiscal year budget negotiations this summer.
➜ The council approved Stauffer’s $6,000 request for filter media at the water-treatment plant. Stauffer said the plant’s filters have become ineffective and must be replaced, and an engineer is required to replace the filters piece-by-piece. The engineer could be approved whenever the city believes it will receive the filter materials, and Stauffer said he has four contractors in mind to look at bids.
➜ Administrative Assistant Peggy Stalter clarified a bill that was questioned by Alderman Nelda Jordan during the council’s Dec. 26 meeting. Stalter said the bill was correct and she named the various funds the bill came from, something Jordan had requested. Stalter also told the council that the city actually has $204 left in its zoning fund and $233 for planning unlike what can be seen on budget items. Stalter attributed this to money coming back into those funds. Dickey asked that separate line items be used on the next fiscal year’s budget to show the money coming back in. Stalter said she is working with AT&T to correct an inaccurate telephone bill.
➜ Stauffer said he received complaints from residents about their streets not being plowed during Saturday’s snowfall. Stauffer reminded residents that if they do not move their vehicles, that part of the street will not be plowed and that city workers will not plow a street even after residents have removed those vehicles.
➜ Council members approved bills, including an $11 million payment. Dickey said that check was to Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley schools to settle the One Earth Energy property tax case. Dickey said the $11 million check was perhaps the largest the city had ever written.