Tables and chairs outside Coffee & Friends

Two tables and four chairs are set up for outdoor dining on the sidewalk in front of Coffee & Friends in the 200 block of North Market Street in downtown Paxton. The city council Tuesday approved an ordinance allowing restaurants and bars to obtain a permit from the city to set up tables and chairs on sidewalks adjacent to their buildings.

PAXTON — The Paxton City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday night to approve an ordinance allowing restaurants and bars to set up tables and chairs for use by their customers on sidewalks adjacent to their buildings.

Under the ordinance, sidewalk cafe permits can be obtained from the city at no cost. The permits allow for customers seated at tables to enjoy outdoor dining — and even outdoor alcohol consumption if the business already has a liquor license — between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. from April 1 through Nov. 1.

Chairs and tables must be portable, constructed for outdoor dining use and heavy enough to resist movement by strong winds. Cloth umbrellas are allowed to be installed on tables as long as they are no greater than 8 feet wide and are at least 7 feet above ground.

City officials stressed that a 5-foot-wide walking path on the sidewalk must remain accessible at all times, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also, the furniture must be removed each year by Nov. 1 and remain removed until April 1, allowing city workers to clear the sidewalk of snow or ice.

When applying for a sidewalk cafe permit, a business must provide a drawing of the proposed location of the furniture and its encroachment on the sidewalk. The applicant must also provide proof that it has property damage insurance and public liability insurance of at least $500,000 in coverage, with the city named as additionally insured.

In voting against the ordinance, Alderman Eric Evans said he disagreed with passing an ordinance that only some — and not all — of the bars and restaurants downtown will be able to utilize. The width of some sidewalks make it likely that some will not be able to provide outdoor dining, Evans noted.

“To me, I don’t think that’s fair,” Evans told his colleagues on the council. “If you’re going to make an ordinance, I think it should be for all.”

Other business

Also at Tuesday’s council meeting:

➜ Following an executive session, the council unanimously approved a new three-year 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 expired at the end of July. The new contract calls for 3 percent annual pay raises. It also allows the employees to live within six miles of city limits. It also includes changes to their health insurance.

➜ Engineer Greg Cook of the Champaign-based Farnsworth Group introduced Mike Friend to the council. Friend, an engineering manager for the Farnsworth Group, recently replaced Mike Streff, who retired Aug. 2 after serving many years as city engineer for Paxton. “He has a very diverse background, similar to Mike Streff, and we’re going to tag-team and do our best to try to do what Mike did for the city,” Cook said.

➜ The council voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Bill Ingold to sign an engineer’s final payment estimate of $127,713 for motor-fuel-tax-funded road work completed this summer by Watseka-based Iroquois Paving Corp. The amount is less than the $131,613 that the work had originally been estimated to cost.

➜ The mayor told aldermen that he had received a letter from the Ford County Public Health Department’s administrator, Lana Sample, informing him that the health department will begin revising and updating the county’s nuisance ordinance in upcoming months. In her letter, Sample said one of “multiple concerns” that will be addressed in updating the nuisance ordinance is the issue of burning, which could have an effect on the city’s practice of burning tree limbs at its burn pile south of town. “It is undetermined what the burning restriction will be at this time” under the revised ordinance, Sample said. “However, the recommendation would be for the City of Paxton to begin thinking about alternatives to burning at the burn pile.” In response, Ingold said he and Public Works Director Mark LeClair would be looking at an incinerator in a nearby community “in the next few days” to see how one works and to see if one could be used by Paxton as an alternative to open burning.

➜ LeClair said 40 more trees were removed in the city a couple of weeks earlier, with more than a hundred more still needing to be taken down.

➜ Alderman Rob Pacey, chairman of the council’s public safety committee, said he and the mayor would be reviewing performance evaluations that had been completed on the city’s police officers.

➜ The council authorized Police Chief Coy Cornett to sell the police department’s 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe to a resident who has offered to buy it for $10,500. Cornett said it was the best offer he had received for the purchase of the vehicle since mid-July, when the council declared it as surplus property and authorized him to sell it via private sale for the best offer he could secure.

➜ The council voted unanimously to approve the city’s purchase of a property at 332 W. Franklin St. for $813 from Ford County, which had acquired it after its taxes went unpaid. While the city has no definite plan for using the property, Evans, chairman of the council’s city property committee, said last month that he feels it could be used as a parking lot for people attending youth baseball games at the nearby city-owned Nelson Field. Ingold said a cost estimate has been acquired for demolition of the home on the property, which has been deemed a “dangerous and unsafe structure.”

➜ The council reviewed two cost estimates obtained for the repair and sealing of damaged brick on the exterior of the Paxton Emergency Management Agency’s building at 134 W. State St. Estimates were obtained from local contractors Brust Tuckpointing and Rick Adkins Masonry. While Brust’s estimate was lower than Adkins’, the estimates were for different scopes of work, noted EMA Director Ed Hanson. In order to have comparable estimates to review, Evans asked for Hanson to ask Brust for a new estimate for the same work Adkins would be doing. Both initial estimates were above the $3,000 the city budgeted for the work, meaning some of the project may need to be delayed until after the start of next fiscal year on May 1, 2020.

➜ The council delegated authority to the police chief to close a portion of the 100 block of South Vermilion Street — from Center Street to the alley — to accommodate the demolition of PBL Eastlawn School, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district’s oldest building. The project will begin in earnest on Aug. 26 with asbestos abatement. After asbestos abatement is completed around the end of October, demolition will begin on the structure, with a final completion date of Dec. 20.

➜ The council delegated authority to the police chief to approve allowing the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus to solicit funds at the downtown intersections of Market and Pells streets, Market and Patton streets, Taft and Pells streets and Market and Holmes streets.

➜ The council asked City Attorney Marc Miller to create a form that would be available at City Hall for nonprofit organizations to fill out in order to obtain the city’s permission to solicit funds on street corners. The completion of the so-called “charitable solicitation request” form would allow nonprofits to avoid having to attend a city council meeting to obtain such authorization, as was previously required.

➜ The council finalized a proposed ordinance that would regulate the installation of solar-energy systems on rooftops and in yards. The council directed the city attorney to change the proposed permit/fee structure for solar-energy systems to reflect no fee or building permit being required for systems ranging from zero to 2 kilowatts. Larger systems will require both a fee and permit, including a $50 fee for a system of 2-10 kilowatts, a $100 fee for a system of 10-100 kilowatts and a $200 fee for a system of more than 100 kilowatts. Previously, the proposed building permit fees had ranged from $150 for a system of 0-10 kilowatts to as much as $6,000 for a 2,000-kilowatt system. The proposed ordinance will be considered by the city’s planning commission prior to the council voting on it, possibly as early as September.

➜ The council voted 7-1, with Alderman Kamalen Johnson Anderson in dissent, to approve an ordinance allowing the city to impose a 3 percent municipal sales tax on recreational marijuana purchases made in city limits. Whether to allow retail cannabis sales in Paxton, however, remains an undecided issue.

➜ The mayor said he received an email informing him that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has approved allowing licensed video-gambling establishments in the state to add a sixth video-gambling machine on their premises, up from the previous maximum of five. The measure is now being considered by the Illinois Gaming Board, Ingold said.

➜ Johnson Anderson, chairman of the council’s long-term planning committee, said she has been in discussions with the PBL school district and Paxton Police Department about the possibility of herself and a police officer visiting local schools to teach kids the rules of walking safely on the sides of streets where no sidewalks are present. A lack of sidewalks in certain areas of Paxton make walking on the sides of roads a common practice. Yet, Johnson Anderson said last month, it seems some people are not educated on the recommended practices for doing so safely. “I’m just concerned that sometimes in the early morning when the sun is rising and these kids are walking to school and they’re on the wrong side of the road, the drivers cannot see them,” Johnson Anderson said in July.

➜ The council voted unanimously to concur with the mayor’s appointment of Steve Sample to the city’s zoning board of appeals. Sample, who replaces Corrine Bretz on the zoning board, is a former member of the Paxton Park District’s board of commissioners.