PAXTON — Kamalen Johnson Anderson gets anxious whenever she sees people walking along the right-hand side of a street, with their backs turned to the traffic heading toward them from behind.
Her worry is only heightened when the sun is rising or setting, potentially blinding drivers.
“I’ve held my breath a lot of times, saying ‘I hope that person isn’t going to get hit,’” the Ward 3 Paxton alderman said.
A lack of sidewalks in certain areas of Paxton make walking on the sides of roads a common practice. Yet, Johnson Anderson said, it seems some people are not educated on the recommended practices for doing so safely.
In making a presentation to her colleagues on the city council last week, Johnson Anderson said she hoped to help educate the public about those recommended practices, including the need to face oncoming traffic and stay all the way to the left when walking along any street.
Johnson Anderson said she is especially concerned about the safety of the hundreds of school children who will be attending a new school building starting this September next to Clara Peterson Elementary School on Paxton’s east side. Once the new school building opens, there will be more vehicle traffic in the area around the school — and more students walking in that same area — yet no more sidewalks than there are there today, Johnson Anderson said.
“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. “Have we had any (accidents) where anybody’s been hurt? No, we haven’t; but there’s going to be more congestion and students in that vicinity.”
Johnson Anderson said she wants the city to be “proactive instead of reactive.” In addition to educating the walking public about best practices, Johnson Anderson said she wants to have signs installed in areas with no sidewalks that say something like, “Walk on the left facing traffic.”
While the council took no action and had little discussion about Johnson Anderson’s proposal to have such signs installed, she requested that her fellow aldermen think about the proposal and that the issue continue to be discussed in the future.
Meanwhile, city engineer Mike Streff suggested the city look into the possibility of partnering with the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district to pursue a grant through the state’s Safe Routes to Schools program to help fund the installation of sidewalks in areas near the new school building that currently lack them.
Johnson Anderson said that among streets in that area that lack sidewalks are Summer Street, Meridian Terrace, Park Lawn Street, Roselawn Drive, Park Terrace and Eastview Drive.
Also at last week’s meeting:
➜ Mayor Bill Ingold said he hoped to have a response from the Teamsters labor union, which represents the city’s unionized public works department employees, prior to the council’s August meeting regarding changes the city has suggested be made to a new three-year collective-bargaining agreement. The city’s current contract with the union expires at the end of July, and it is expected the council will vote on the new contract in August.
➜ The council voted 7-0, with Alderman Mike Wilson absent, to approve the city’s annual appropriation ordinance for the fiscal year that began May 1, 2019, and runs through April 30, 2020. The ordinance, which sets maximum expenditures in the city’s various funds, shows a total of $6.45 million to be spent in the fiscal year, including $2 million in corporate funds, $2.26 million in revenue funds, $1.7 million in special tax funds and $418,104 in municipal bonds and interest funds. Broken down further, expenses total $587,067 in the administration fund, $262,739 in the police department fund, $681,890 in the street department fund, $10,095 in the municipal airport fund, $267,895 in the bridge replacement and improvement fund, $188,498 in the capital project fund, $66,000 in the microloan fund, $165,000 in the motor fuel tax fund, $1.011 million in the water department fund, $478,500 in the sewer department fund, $139,051 in the replacement and improvement fund, $442,200 in the senior bond reserve fund for sewer repairs, $13,200 in the audit fund, $13,255 in the emergency response services fund, $5,445 in the emergency services and disaster fund, $58,878 in the forestry fund, $72,050 in the landfill and garbage disposal fund, $118,810 in the Paxton Carnegie Library fund, $180,950 in the library’s special tax allocation fund, $302,456 in the library’s special gifts fund, $94,682 in the municipal park fund, $130,240 in the insurance fund, $429,000 in the police protection fund, $45,000 in the street and bridge fund, $77,000 in the Illinois Municipal Retirement fund, $60,500 in the Social Security fund, $29,700 in the street lighting fund and $418,104 in the municipal bonds and interest funds.
➜ Comptroller/Treasurer Tammy Jensen said the city’s auditors visited City Hall in recent days in preparation for completing the annual audit.
➜ The council voted unanimously to raise water and sewer rates by an additional 1 percent each year to help cover rising operating costs of the city’s public works department. The council’s public works committee voted to recommend the rate increase in January after its chairman, Rob Steiger, suggested it. Steiger said that under the proposal, water and sewer rates would be increased each September by 3 percent, rather than 2 percent as they have for about the past decade. Steiger said it would equate to about a 25-cent increase on the “lowest bill” for a two-month period, while the “highest bills” — those for people using more than 15,000 gallons of water — would go up by about $3.60 for a two-month period. The median household would pay about 88 cents more every two months, Steiger said.
➜ The council voted unanimously to spend up to $46,000 on sludge removal at the wastewater treatment plant. The amount is for the pumping of up to 1 million gallons of sludge; however, Public Works Director Mark LeClair said that typically only 600,000 is pumped in a given year, meaning the city is not expected to end up paying the full amount. “It’s usually only around $30,000 for the actual bill,” LeClair said.
➜ The council voted unanimously to authorize LeClair to spend up to $40,000 to buy two new stainless-steel truck beds for use by the public works department. The beds will replace the existing beds on two of the department’s 2-ton trucks, whose beds have deteriorated as a result of road salt.
➜ The council voted unanimously to spend up to $13,500 on a new snow plow and two sets of snow wheels for use by the public works department. The new snow plow will replace one that was bought used several years ago, LeClair said.
➜ Mike Streff was recognized as he was attending his final meeting as city engineer. Streff, who is retiring, was treated to a round of applause.
➜ The council voted unanimously to approve the closure of streets from Friday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 22, to accommodate the annual Swine ‘N’ Dine BBQ Contest & Festival in downtown Paxton on Saturday, Sept. 21.
➜ The council voted unanimously to approve the installation of “no parking” signs on both the north and south sides of the 200 block of East Pells Street, between Railroad Avenue and Vermilion Street.
➜ The council voted unanimously to designate the police department’s 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe as surplus property and to authorize the chief of police to sell the vehicle via private sale for the best offer he can secure. Capt. Chad Johnson said he preferred the vehicle be sold via private sale instead of through a sealed-bid process because it would likely bring in more money that way.
➜ The council voted 6-1, with Steiger in dissent, to approve the installation of a two-way stop sign on West Pine Street where it connects with North Taft Street.
➜ The mayor thanked Paxton Emergency Management Agency Director Ed Hanson and his crew of volunteers for conducting traffic control around Pells and Bixby parks during the city’s Independence Day festivities. Hanson said his agency will be looking into acquiring more signs for next year’s festivities to help with navigation.
➜ The council voted unanimously to purchase a property at 234 W. State St., across from the Ford County Courthouse. An abandoned home on the property was recently demolished after the city obtained a court order for its razing.
➜ Upon the request of Alderman Eric Evans, the council authorized the mayor to submit a bid on the city’s behalf for the purchase of a property on West Franklin Street that is being sold via auction. Evans said he feels the property, if bought by the city, could be used as a parking lot for people attending youth baseball games at the nearby city-owned Nelson Field. “I think it could help clean up some of the congestion,” Evans said. “It’s a deep lot. You can pack several cars in there.” If purchased, the city plans to tear down the home on the property and decide what to do with it. “It’s got a lot of possibilities,” Alderman Rob Pacey said.
➜ The council voted unanimously to allow the nonprofit Paxton Community Nursery School to solicit donations from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, and from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, at the intersections of Patton and Market streets, Pells and Market streets and Orleans and Cherry streets. The fundraiser will be held on the weekend of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School’s annual Pork Chop Kickoff, which is why the nursery school requested being able to solicit donations at Cherry and Orleans streets near the school’s parking lot.
➜ The council made plans to consider the rescinding of an existing policy that requires the council’s approval for nonprofits to solicit funds at city intersections. Some council members said they feel that, moving forward, approval of such fundraisers should be left to the discretion of the chief of police, not the city council. “I’d just like to see them make an application to City Hall, and then it’s given to the chief of police (for approval),” Steiger said.
➜ Evans, chairman of the council’s city property committee, said bids were still being obtained for a proposed maintenance project at the Emergency Management Agency’s building.
➜ The council voted unanimously to approve seeking bids for the repainting of the clocktower above City Hall.
➜ Evans said the pavilion at Pells Park, which recently had its stage area repainted and improved, “looks very, very nice.” Further improvements are slated for next summer, the mayor said.
➜ The mayor thanked LeClair and his public works department employees for getting Pells and Bixby parks ready for Independence Day festivities. “I’ve had a lot of compliments on the way that Pells Park looked,” Ingold said.
➜ The mayor said engineers would be in downtown Paxton the following week to take a look at the 100 block of South Market Street and the 100 block of North Market Street in preparation for proceeding with a $1 million streetscape improvement project planned for 2020.
➜ Ingold said the city continues to work with the Illinois Department of Transportation to get larger “no through trucks” signs installed on each side of the downtown.