'No through trucks'

A 'no through trucks' sign on Illinois 9 on the east side of Paxton's downtown.

PAXTON — Downtown business owner Debi Chapman-Hermann often sees semi-trailers and other heavy trucks heading down Market Street, violating the city’s “no through trucks” policy.

“I’ve sat out and smoked in front of (my store) for years, and it’s the same trucks over and over and over again,” she said.

Alderman Rob Steiger sees violators quite often, too — and they are not all out-of-town truckers but local ones, as well.

“I’ve followed trucks all the way through (downtown) and asked (the drivers), ‘How did you come up with this route? How did you miss that big, giant sign that says ‘Route 9 — right?’’,” Steiger said during last week’s city council meeting.

The signs, of course, are not actually “big” or “giant,” which might explain why some truck drivers fail to see them and head through downtown in violation of the “no through trucks” rules, Steiger said.

“Bigger signs is what we need,” Steiger said. “If you’re in Gibson City on Route 47, there’s a huge sign right there on the stop light, saying ‘no through trucks — business district.’ Currently, the one we have right now — when you come in on Route 9 from the west and get to the stop sign in a truck — you can’t see the sign. ... So the guy gets there and now he’s sitting at a stop sign and he’s set, so it’s too late; he’s got to go forward (into the downtown).”

To address the problem of heavy trucks using Market Street and damaging the road, Steiger suggested having Mayor Bill Ingold contact the Illinois Department of Transportation to get larger “no through trucks” signs installed on all sides of the downtown. After that is done, Steiger said, police can start ticketing violators.

Ingold said he would also remind local companies of the need to keep their heavy trucks off of Market Street.

With a million-dollar makeover coming to Market Street next year, city officials want to make sure their investment — including a new street, curbs and sidewalks — lasts well into the future.

Other business

Also at last week’s meeting:

➜ The council met in closed session to discuss a proposed collective-bargaining agreement with the Teamsters labor union, which represents the city’s unionized public works department employees. The city’s current contract with the union expires at the end of July, and a new three-year agreement will be up for a vote at the council’s July meeting, Mayor Bill Ingold said.

➜ The council voted 8-0 to approve an amended property tax levy ordinance for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Finance Committee Chairman Mike Wilson said the ordinance, originally approved in December, was amended to reflect less than a 5 percent increase in the amount of property taxes to be collected this summer, based on assessed valuation figures provided to the city by the Ford County Supervisor of Assessments Office. Without amending the levy, the city would have had more than a 5 percent increase, which would have required an “onerous process” for the levy to be approved, Wilson said.

➜ Comptroller/Treasurer Tammy Jensen said she and city officials continue to work on the budget and appropriation ordinance for the fiscal year that began May 1, and it is expected to be ready for the council’s approval in July.

➜ The mayor said the city’s tax-increment financing (TIF) consultant, Springfield attorney Dan Schuering, was unable to attend the meeting due to some health complications but is expected to be available to attend July’s meeting to give the council an update on the TIF district.

➜ The council voted 8-0 to pay half of the cost to clean out a drainage ditch that carries water from the city’s south edge to the Big Four drainage ditch south of town. Ingold said the waterway that needs cleaned out runs through a farm owned by Bob Rasmus, whose attorney, Bob Martensen, recently contacted the city and asked the city if it would help with the project. Ingold said the ditch is “overgrown” with trees and vegetation. Ingold said a $12,500 bid was obtained from a contractor who will use a grinder to take down trees to their stumps without compromising the ditch’s integrity. The cost could end up being less than $12,500, however, meaning the city could end up paying less than $6,250 toward the project, Ingold noted. Last month, Alderman Kamalen Johnson Anderson questioned whether the property was within a drainage district, noting that if it is, she feels the drainage district should also be asked to participate in the project. Ingold said that, according to Martensen, the property is not within a drainage district.

➜ The council voted 7-1, with Wilson voting “no,” to accept the lowest of two bids received — for $131,613 from Iroquois Paving Corp. of Watseka — for road repairs to be completed this summer using motor-fuel tax revenue. The only other bid received was for $167,279 from Urbana-based Cross Construction. There will also be engineering fees totaling $14,477 associated with the work, Public Works Director Mark LeClair said.

➜ The council voted 7-1, with Wilson voting “no,” to spend up to $70,650 for United Paving Corp. to repair and patch various streets in town, as well as widen one intersection near the new addition to Clara Peterson Elementary School. LeClair said the work includes patching at the intersections of Cambridge and Summer streets, Pine and Taft streets and Chestnut and Taft streets ($24,353); the repaving of the intersection of Walnut and Maple streets ($31,000); and the widening of the intersection of Franklin and High streets ($15,300). The cost will come out of the city’s general fund, and no engineering costs will be incurred, LeClair said.

➜ The council voted 8-0 to spend $26,529 on a new pump for the Vermilion Street lift station, plus additional costs for replacing three of the lift station’s impellers. The council opted to buy a new pump to replace the lift station’s failed pump as an alternative to rebuilding it for a cost of more than $12,000. “My experience with motors being rebuilt is we’re going to be doing it again next year,” Alderman Justin Withers said.

➜ LeClair said the Chestnut Street lift station’s pumps will require some maintenance in the near future. LeClair said the anticipated cost is $21,627. Alderman Rob Steiger, chairman of the public works committee, said the matter will be up for the council’s vote in July.

➜ City engineer Mike Streff said he was in the process of assembling documentation to show the city has completed all that is required in order for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to release the city from its obligation to continue monitoring its former landfill property. If approved by the agency, the city will receive a certificate of completion of “post-closure care,” Streff said. Once that is received, the city plans to sell the landfill property and the adjoining city-owned airport.

➜ The mayor said that all staff members of the public works department and City Hall completed CPR/AED training on May 21.

➜ The council voted 8-0 to approve the installation of stop signs at three of the city’s most accident-prone unmarked intersections, as well as the replacement of the existing yield signs on Pine Street where it crosses Maple Street with stop signs. There will be two-way stop signs installed on Maple Street where it crosses Pells Street, two-way stop signs installed on Maple Street where it crosses Orleans Street, and a four-way stop sign installed at the intersection of Ottawa Road and Union Street.

➜ Paxton resident Renea Walters requested that a sign warning drivers to drive slowly due to the presence of children be installed on Union Street, between Ottawa Road and Fulton Street. “There’s a ton of kids in that neighborhood under 10 right now, and they’re going back and forth between the east side of Union and Fulton Park right by the alley,” Walters said. Council members took her suggestion into consideration and noted that there is already a sign warning drivers of a 20-mph speed limit around Fulton Park.

➜ The council voted 8-0 to allow the nonprofit group PRIDE in Paxton to collect donations for its annual Christmas Parade at the downtown intersections of Patton and Market streets and Pells and Market streets from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 27.

➜ The council asked that the city double-check the signage at its brush pile south of town to make sure the rules for brush disposal are clearly stated. The council also asked that the rules be posted on the city’s website.

➜ The council learned that repairs and updates to the historic pavilion at Pells Park were nearing completion. “It looks nice,” Alderman Eric Evans said.

➜ The council voted 8-0 to authorize the mayor to submit the city’s interest in participating in the Illinois Solar for All program. The action followed a presentation about the program by Allie Loschen of Novel Energy Solutions. The program allows municipalities to aggregate their energy needs from an offsite community solar garden, Loschen said. The program calls for energy rates to be cut by at least 50 percent, Loschen said, which would result in a projected savings for Paxton of $51,000 annually. There is no guarantee that Paxton will be participating in the program, though, as a lottery system will determine which cities get selected for participation. If selected, the city would be asked to sign a contract with Novel Energy Solutions.