Beth Meyer

Beth Meyer

SIBLEY — Property on the village’s west side that is owned by Ronald J. Mueller Jr. is reportedly being quickly developed as a hog trailer-washing facility.

The project is of concern to Sibley Village Board members because the Mackinaw River flows near the property, and they fear facility runoff could affect Sibley’s water supply.

Trustee Greg Brucker said he invited Mueller to attend Monday night’s board meeting, but Mueller declined. Mueller asked Brucker to convey his thoughts, but Brucker said there was only one comment that he felt comfortable in accurately conveying to the board.

As reported by Brucker, Mueller said he is “a friend of the community and a good neighbor.”

Trustee Corey Volker shared an Illinois Department of Transportation map that appears to show it is likely the property is within the village limits through a prior annexation.

In any case, Sibley’s retiring water operator, Beth Meyer, said potential health concerns should be voiced to the Ford County Public Health Department.

Meyer said the installation has moved quickly, with a well dug on March 28 and concrete pads poured soon thereafter.

It was unknown by board members whether Mueller had sought any variance or permit at the county level either.

Water operator changing

Also Monday night, the board’s president, Jim Kearney, thanked Meyer for her dedication and years of service to the village as its water operator.

Meyer said she has served in this capacity since about 1996. She was previously a village trustee.

As of April 1, James Howes of Saybrook replaced Meyer to regularly monitor and report water quality and submit water samples for lab analysis. Howes recommended that when the current testing lab’s contract is up, the village should shift work to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s lab in Springfield, although Meyer said that will likely increase costs.

Howes holds a state Class C water system operator’s license and performs similar work for Saybrook, where he is a resident. Howes said he plans to be in Sibley one evening per week and one time each weekend. Howes said the schedule may occasionally vary because he is a full-time employee with Bash Pepper Roofing Co. of Champaign.

Howes also sees his time in Sibley as an opportunity to train Merlin Tjarks, who is currently the village’s maintenance employee but who also wants to become a licensed water operator. Tjarks has already attended some training toward the license but will need on-the-job experience, as well.

Properties and ordinances reviewed

Also during Monday’s meeting, a discussion was held regarding properties in violation of village ordinances.

Board members decided to target three properties at a time for compliance.

A property with an unlicensed and nonmoving camper was determined to be in violation, and the owner will be contacted by Kearney.

Meanwhile, the burn ordinance will be amended by action of Village Clerk Laura Peeler to include that no burning can occur in a roadside ditch in addition to the current wording that bans burning in an alleyway.

The amended ordinance and others will be reviewed at the May 6 meeting.

Zoning commission formed

The board also made plans to form a zoning commission for the purposes of creating classifications for property within the village and establishing a 1.5-mile zone to give the village the limited ability to regulate land use beyond village limits.

Trustees authorized a five-member commission to be created. Appointments of property owners to serve will be made by Kearney, who received five suggestions from board members.

The commission is to be disbanded when its work is completed.

Vacancy even after election

Due to an error at the village level, the village board will have a vacant seat even after Tuesday’s election. The local election ballot asked voters to choose three village trustees, when there are actually four vacancies.

Trustee Jim Gallagher, who was appointed to serve two years of a four-year term, is not seeking re-election. Gallagher said he made his intentions known well in advance of the election.

The clerical error means that Kearney will need to appoint a trustee to serve until the next local election. That appointee will be presented and ratified at the board’s May 6 meeting.

Maintenance and water system purchases

Board members authorized Tjarks to replace the brake lines on the village’s maintenance truck. The brakes went out during the first big snowfall this year, so Tjarks was forced to patch the broken line as an emergency repair.

Board members also unanimously approved spending up to $3,500 for a new high-pressure water pump and related piping. An existing pump will be rebuilt if possible to serve as a backup.

Ball field improvements

Brucker said 500 feet of fencing is being made available at a reasonable cost to the village. Brucker said it can be used to define the out-of-bounds line on two sides of the village’s baseball field. Board members unanimously approved spending $1,500 to acquire the black, rubber-coated fencing.

Brucker said that with work done last year, the field can be used as for practices by the area’s youth baseball teams.

In other lakes and parks matters, Brucker suggested the lake be posted as a “no wake” area rather than limiting water craft by horsepower. Brucker said the change would allow a craft such as a pontoon boat to cross the lake very slowly but would still meet the intention of a calm lake.

A sycamore tree near the lake park is slated for removal, he added. New trash containers for the downtown area will be considered at a future meeting.

Appropriations discussed

Village Treasurer Joni Brucker led a preliminary discussion with board members of dollar amounts to be placed in the upcoming year’s appropriations ordinance to be filed by July 1.

Meanwhile, board members will consider at a future meeting whether to increase Joni Brucker’s pay for water billing work, which will increase from four to six times per year. She said the village’s total annual water billings were $1,258,414 for 178 properties.

A possible raise will also be considered for Tjarks.

Also, board members expect to increase legal expenses from $4,000 to $8,000 per year. An amount of $25,000 to $30,000 also will be considered for the purchase of an excavator for village use.