Long time city employee Mark LeClair was feted at the regular meeting of the Paxton City Council. Retiring as the director of public works, LeClair was employed by the city for 42 years.
Mayor Bill Ingold spoke about LeClair being honored as wastewater manager of the year twice and water manager once. He praised his supervision of eight people and his knack for knowing exactly where water and sewer lines are. He called him a mathematician for scheduling hours and weatherman for predicting snowstorms so that a part of the staff would always be available for snowplowing.
Ingold said LeClair was a genius and magician for ordering just the right amount of road salt each year and performing his other tasks. “You have made quite a difference to the city of Paxton,” Ingold said.
LeClair was presented with a custom fire-ring that he and his wife, Lee, can use during their many camping trips. Ingold also gave him a card with various gift certificates enclosed. The meeting was recessed for a while so LeClair could be greeted by friends and family attending and refreshments were served.
LeClair however will still be doing some paper work for the city as an independent contractor. He holds several licenses necessary for that work that other employees don’t have.
Employee Bob Carleton who has taken over LeClair’s supervisory duties told the board he continues to work with the company replacing the heads of the water meters whose batteries failed before their 10 year warrantee expired. The batteries were supposed to last 15 years. The company is obligated to replace them but has been doing so very slowly.
Carleton said he’s been promised some 300 new meters each month, for a total of almost 1800. “We’ll replace them as fast as we can,” Carleton said but doesn’t expect to be finished until the end of 2021.
Utility Billing Clerk Heather Haile said she has been estimating residents’ current usage by averaging their previous bills. She said it is not a perfect system but is “trying to be as fair as possible.”
Also the council discussed using the $40,000 budgeted for sidewalk repair this fiscal year. No sidewalk work was done last year and that same budgeted amount was used for something else. Next month the council will be able to vote on a specific bid from a specific contractor for the work. The council also agreed to seek bids for the repainting of the clock tower.
The council approved amending several ordinances about dogs at large and impoundment and fines to also include cats. Resident Carl Richardson called the whole exercise “ridiculous” but aldermen said it was a way to address residents’ concerns about stray and straying cats. Residents were reminded that cats, as well as dogs, need to be registered with the city.
The council also approved changes to the zoning ordinance concerning accessory buildings recommended by the zoning board of appeals. Now the installation of even small storage sheds will require a building permit and the maximum height has been increased to 18 feet from 15. But only Alderman Kammy Johnson Anderson showed interest in regulating invisible electric fences and so no action was taken.
Johnson Anderson also said she is concerned about students walking home from school during busy traffic time at the noon hour, especially crossing a busy Taft Street at Patton. Police Chief Coy Cornett said he monitored the students one day and discovered about 10 junior high age students walking. Crosswalk lines will be painted on Taft at several cross streets to try and alert drivers to expect pedestrians.
Also Ingold introduced Manish Puri to the council. He has owned the Paxton Inn for nine months and lives in Champaign. Ingold said the city will pursue a tax increment financing district redevelopment agreement with Puri to make improvements to the motel. Puri acknowledged that the facility needs to be improved and that in its current condition "is not a place I would want my family to stay."