PIPER CITY — Village Board President Jeff Orr said property-code enforcement will be his top priority in the coming months so that residential properties and the town’s overall appearance are at their best for the town’s sesquicentennial being celebrated in early August.
“It’s got to get done,” Orr told the village board this week.
Orr said ridding properties of used tires and inoperable vehicles will be his first priority.
Orr is hopeful he can work out improvements by first talking with property owners.
“I’m going to give it everything I’ve got,” Orr said.
Orr acknowledged that for some violators, “talking is not enough,” though. Orr said he will present them a detailed letter of items not in compliance with village codes and if no action is taken, a second letter will be sent within 14 days advising them of legal action.
Trustees will be kept advised of progress and specifics via email.
The village is also expecting a report by mid-April from the code service retained to review all village ordinances. Orr advised board trustees that they will have a lot of reading to do, and they should keep notes of items for further review.
June 1 is the date planned for volunteers to work with representatives from playground manufacturer REIL to install a large piece of new playground equipment in the town’s main park in the downtown square.
If the weather cooperates and the installation goes smoothly, Trustee Julie Bertrand said, the facility will be operational the following day.
Board members agreed that having bathrooms open during the day will also improve the experience for parents and children. The bathrooms will be closed each evening.
New park surveillance
Board members approved spending $11,556 for MCS Office Technologies of Gibson City to provide a surveillance system for the park.
The surveillance will be operational around the clock each day.
Trustee Doug Berry said he met recently with MCS owner Todd McNutt. Berry said the system has “amazing resolution” with easily identifiable facial recognition.
The system will be in place before the park opens, but the funds will be paid from the upcoming fiscal year’s appropriations.
Ambulance service update
Because the involved parties are still in negotiations for providing an ambulance service in the village, specific details are not being made public.
However, Trustee Paul Mogged said that, at this time, the negotiations do not involve any type of tax referendum. Mogged said a no-tax option is possible because of Riverside Medical Center’s expansion plans and its recent purchase of Iroquois Memorial Hospital’s ambulance service, which will put an ambulance within 10 to 15 minutes of Piper City.
Local volunteer firefighters will receive first-responder training from Riverside personnel at no cost except for books, which the village may reimburse as it has in the past. The local first-responder program will include two automatic external defibrillator units, Mogged said.
Orr publicly recognized the valuable five-year relationship with the paramedic-level ambulance service from Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services (GAHHS) that has come to an end. Orr said he recently contacted GAHHS’s chief executive officer, Rob Schmitt, and said their conversation “went very well.”
Mogged said paying and housing a full-time paramedic-level ambulance just for Piper City would exceed $300,000 per year, possibly as much as $350,000.
Parking lot progressing
Orr said the plan is moving forward for an abandoned house at 116 W. Oak St. to be demolished and for the site to become a parking lot for St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
A legal agreement is being drafted for the church to take title to the property from the city in return for the church paying for demolishing the house. The house does not have a basement, just a small crawlspace beneath it.
Trustee Gordon Fuoss, a member of the church, said the church’s plan is to create a parking lot with a 6-inch gravel base overlaid with a 3-inch topcoat.
Survey pins at the property will be checked for accurate property lines, and a buffer strip with possible landscaping will be placed on the side of the lot that adjoins another house.
Fuoss said the project’s cost to the church will be about $20,000.
Brush pickup now a problem
Orr said brush accumulation “has become a huge problem” in the village.
Orr drew up an official policy on brush pickup, which board members reviewed and agreed with. The policy is being posted at the local post office.
“We need residents to help us out as much as possible,” Orr said.
Orr said brush removal began to help residents clean up limbs downed by storms. However, it has become a more frequent and time-consuming job for village employees because residents are cutting down entire trees and placing them at the curb and expecting village workers to pick them up.
The new policy asks that professionals remove downed or trimmed trees themselves, and residents who have the ability and transportation to haul their own brush to the city’s site should do so.
If a resident is unable to haul the brush or has more than a few wheelbarrow loads, they should call City Hall at 815-686-2462 and leave a message to make arrangements for the brush’s removal. Those arrangements consist of three options, depending on brush quantity and homeowner need.
In addition, Orr said, neatly stacking brush in one direction will make it easier and faster for village employees to pick up. Brush cannot be picked up during winter months because the village’s truck is being used for snow removal and contains a bed full of gravel for added weight.
Orr said cooperation on the issue will allow the village to help those who need it most.
Alley use reviewed
Orr presented a policy for use of alleys in order to keep them in good condition.
Alleys are not for general traffic, but for limited use by utility companies, village personnel, law enforcement, firefighters and residents who live on the block.
Alleys are also not for pedestrian traffic in order to preserve privacy of residents on the block and to prevent suspicious activity. Alleys should also be kept clear of brush and encroaching branches.
Even limited use is to be only when alleys are dry and firm. Person who damage alleys, such as causing ruts, can be billed for the village’s cost to make repairs.
Special meeting April 24
A special meeting will be held Wednesday, April 24, for the end of the village’s fiscal year.
The meeting is open to the public.