Paxton City Council (May 14, 2019)

Members of the Paxton City Council — from left, Rob Pacey, Justin Withers (partially hidden), Susan Satterlee, Deane Geiken and Eric Evans — discuss business during their May 14 meeting at City Hall.

PAXTON — The Paxton City Council plans to approve an ordinance in June that would call for stop signs to be installed at three of the city’s most accident-prone unmarked intersections.

The council discussed the plan Tuesday, tentatively agreeing to add two-way stop signs to Maple Street where it crosses Pells Street, Ottawa Road where it crosses Union Street, and Maple Street where it crosses Orleans Street.

Alderman Mike Wilson said the three intersections — currently featuring no stop or yield signs on any of their four sides — are among those in Paxton that have been particularly prone to accidents.

A traffic study completed by Police Chief Coy Cornett showed that the intersection of Pells and Maple streets has seen more accidents in the past five years — nine — than any other unmarked intersection in town.

Meanwhile, three accidents have occurred in that time frame at Union Street and Ottawa Road, while two have occurred at Maple and Orleans streets.

“For some reason, I’ve always been upset with unmarked intersections, period,” said Wilson, who proposed adding signs to the three intersections. “Unfortunately, people don’t always follow the rules of the road and yield to (traffic to) the right. So let’s do something (about it). We have the data to show the accidents. If we can put up some signs that will maybe stop even one accident, I think it’s probably worth it.”

City Attorney Marc Miller was directed to draft an ordinance for the council’s approval in June.

Also at that time, the council may consider the replacement of the existing yield signs on Pine Street where it crosses Maple Street with stop signs — as recommended by Public Works Director Mark LeClair.

Other business

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

➜ Sworn in to office as aldermen by City Clerk Gwen Smith were one newcomer and four incumbents who ran unopposed in the April 2 consolidated election: newcomer Deane Geiken to a four-year term representing Ward 1; incumbent Eric Evans to a two-year term representing Ward 1; incumbent Justin Withers to a four-year term representing Ward 2; incumbent Rob Pacey to a four-year term representing Ward 3; and incumbent Wilson to a four-year term representing Ward 4.

➜ The council concurred with Mayor Bill Ingold’s appointment of Kamalen Johnson Anderson to an alderman seat representing Ward 3. No one ran as a candidate for one of the two available four-year terms in Ward 3 in April’s election. Johnson took her oath of office and was seated as an alderman at the start of the meeting.

➜ The council voted unanimously to amend its annual appropriation ordinance for the fiscal year that ended April 30. Comptroller/Treasurer Tammy Jensen said the ordinance, which is approved toward the start of each fiscal year and sets spending limits in the city’s various funds, is amended at the end of each fiscal year to reflect actual expenditures.

➜ The council voted unanimously to donate $1,000 to Showbus, a rural public transportation service serving Ford County and eight other counties in East Central Illinois. It was the same amount the city donated to Showbus two years ago; last year, the city made no donation, Ingold said. In existence since 1979, Showbus is funded mainly by state and federal grants, with matching funds provided by municipalities, townships and counties, a Showbus representative told the council. Showbus provided 2,223 rides to Paxton residents last year. Most residents using the service were not leaving Ford County for their trips to doctor’s appointments and other services. Rides are free of charge for persons over age 60, although donations are accepted. For persons under age 60, rides cost $5 each, although Showbus will waive the fare if a financial hardship can be established through a letter provided by a nonprofit organization or church. Showbus has about 65 buses in its nine-county service territory, including some situated in Gibson City and Paxton. “I think there’s a need in the community; a lot of senior citizens don’t drive, have no family around,” Johnson said before making the motion to donate $1,000.

➜ The council voted unanimously to enter into a contract for $148,500 with the Champaign-based Farnsworth Group engineering firm for the completion of a preliminary survey and design, a final design and the bidding process related to the city’s proposed million-dollar downtown streetscape improvement project. The preliminary survey and design phase is targeted to be completed by August, with the final design targeted for October 2019 through January 2020 and the bidding phase targeted for February through March 2020. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2020. The project is expected to involve the replacement of Market Street, from Orleans to Holmes streets, along with new curbs, gutters and sidewalks downtown. The city is planning to fund the project using the $1.14 million in funds that the city was required to return to the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity following the termination of the city’s revolving-loan fund.

➜ The council voted unanimously to approve the installation of stop signs at a three-way intersection immediately north of the two-story addition being built on Clara Peterson Elementary School’s east side. The three signs will stop traffic on Franklin and High streets and Meridian Terrace, with the hope that they will help traffic flow smoother in the area and keep children safer once the school addition opens this fall.

➜ The council discussed in closed session a proposed contract with the Teamsters labor union, which represents the city’s public works department’s unionized employees. The contract is expected to be finalized and approved at a later date.

➜ Following the closed session, 3 percent pay raises were approved for all full-time nonunionized city employees, effective May 1.

➜ The council voted unanimously to allow Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School junior Dylan Raub, a member of Boy Scouts Troop 32 in Paxton, to relandscape and clean up the veterans memorial at Pells Park as a project for obtaining his Eagle Scout badge.

➜ The council voted unanimously, with Pacey abstaining, to authorize the public works department to hire two Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School students to work up to 40 hours per week for 12 weeks this summer. The cost to the city will be $4,320 per student worker, LeClair said. The mayor said the student workers are especially needed this summer because of the amount of work the public works department is needing to complete, including the removal of more than 200 ash trees, repairs to streets and alleys, and other maintenance projects. “And, of course, in the summer you have guys taking vacations and stuff, so it’s only going to be great that we can get a couple of these (students) in (to help),” Ingold said.

➜ The council voted unanimously to authorize LeClair to hire a part-time employee who would work up to 32 hours a week through Nov. 1 for $12 an hour, with the employee’s main duties being to mow grass and maintain the city’s parks and other city-owned properties. The budgeted cost for the 20 weeks of employment is $7,680.  “There’s a lot of mowing to do,” LeClair said. “It takes at least three days to four and a half days to mow, if it doesn’t rain.”

➜ The council agreed to postpone taking a vote on whether to participate in the cleaning-out of a 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 he obtained a $12,500 bid from a contractor who would use a grinder to take down trees to their stumps without compromising the ditch’s integrity. Johnson, however, 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. Pacey agreed, saying he would prefer to find out the answer to Johnson’s question before proceeding. Ingold said he would try to get an answer before next month’s meeting.

➜ LeClair said a bid opening for road repairs to be completed this summer using motor-fuel tax revenue was set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 21, in the council chambers at City Hall, 145 S. Market St. “Right now we’ve got two people who are interested,” LeClair said.

➜ The mayor said that all staff members of the public works department and City Hall would be undergoing CPR/AED training on Tuesday, May 21, starting at 7 a.m.

➜ The council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of a new squad vehicle for the police department at a cost of $47,756. The vehicle will replace the department’s oldest vehicle, which is eight years old and is approaching 100,000 miles on its odometer, Wilson said. The old vehicle will be sold. The new vehicle will be purchased using revenue generated from fines issued by the police department for the impoundment of vehicles.

➜ The police chief said that in the previous couple of weeks his department had been busy working on drug-related cases. Cornett said that in that time frame, his officers executed two search warrants as part of drug-related investigations, arrested four people on drug-related arrest warrants, arrested four people for possession of methamphetamine, arrested one person for delivery of methamphetamine, arrested one person for possession of a controlled substance, charged eight people with possession of cannabis, arrested one person for possession of cannabis with intent to deliver, ticketed four people for possession of drug paraphernalia, arrested two people for driving under the influence of drugs, seized three vehicles under the Drug Forfeiture Act, seized one vehicle under Article 36 of the Illinois Criminal Code, seized two vehicles under city ordinance, and seized $2,282 in cash.

➜ The council voted unanimously to allow the Paxton American Legion Auxiliary to distribute paper poppies to the public in return for donations from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 24-25 at the intersections of Patton and Market streets and Pells and Market streets.

➜ LeClair said the monitoring wells at the city’s long-closed landfill will be sealed “as soon as possible” this summer as a step toward getting the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to issue its official certification of the landfill  having completed its post-closure care period and release the city from its obligation to monitor the site. It is something that needs to happen before the landfill site, along with the neighboring city-owned airport, can be sold.

➜ The mayor said a sign will be installed at the city’s brush pile informing the public that anyone who leaves brush there needs to “take it as far east” on the property as they can. Ingold said people have been leaving their brush where it is “handiest,” leaving the city with the task of moving it to the appropriate spot. Also, Ingold said some people have been leaving items at the brush pile that are not allowed to be left there. If people do not cooperate with the rules, Ingold warned, the brush pile’s hours may be limited or the brush pile may be shut down entirely to the public.

➜ The council voted unanimously to approve a zoning variance to allow Jolen Anya Minetz to rebuild the porch at her home at 247 W. Orleans St. The variance was needed because the new wrap-around porch will extend 22 feet from the property line — three feet closer than city ordinance allows. Minetz said the porch will replicate the home’s original wrap-around porch from more than 100 years ago. The city’s zoning board of appeals voted to recommend the variance be granted a night earlier.

➜ The mayor said the repair of the stage area in the historic pavilion at Pells Park is under way and that all work on the pavilion’s interior is expected to be completed by June.

➜ Pacey said he was still working with the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce’s president, Alan Meyer, to find a location for the farmers’ market. “There are possible locations, but there are issues that need to be worked out with liability insurance on the chamber’s part,” Pacey said.

➜ The council voted unanimously to appoint Brandon Magers, who works in the construction field, to the city’s zoning board of appeals.

➜ The council voted unanimously to appoint Jason Raub to the city’s planning commission.