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Mascoutah Council Discusses COVID Fund Use and Business District

By Zachary Daum

Citizen Gilbert Reen, specializing in digital billboards, spoke at the start of the council meeting, and stated that although such billboards are not allowed within city limits, he wanted to give information to the council about his billboards. He said that the billboards will report on emergency situations such as weather or missing children. He also explained that when there is time where the billboard is not in use, the city would be allowed to freely use the billboards for information.

Approved was the consent calendar for July 2023, covering the fund balance report and the claims and salaries report. The city reported a beginning balance for the month of July at $18,931,373.08, with a decrease of $743,934.79, resulting in an ending balance of $18,187,438.29.

The monthly expense report was also discussed briefly and approved, with the total payments made in the amount of $2,926,394.27. These payments were utilized to pay for several projects, loan obligations and purchases made by the city. The total salary report for the council in the month of July was $288,650.60. The average monthly cost for payroll is between $230,000 and $255,000, however seasonal expenses caused by pool and park ground maintenance resulted in a higher than average payroll amount.

A first reading on the topic of Main Street’s Business District was held, with a suggestion to approve the plan stated in the agenda. The city has been working with Moran Economics to create a plan that will establish a business district between Mine Rd. to County Rd. and extends north to border TIF 3’s district. Previously discussed by Moran at other council meetings was the issue of blighted areas in the city, which would require the city to create a plan to increase property values by improving deteriorated roads, sidewalks, buildings and properties. This would increase the property tax base of the area by increasing the quality of the properties. The business district would cause an increase of 1% to all sales outside of grocery and medical

Councilman Battas queried as to where someone would apply for assistance in improving their property. City Manager Becky Ahlvin spoke up, saying that people would have to individually request applications based on specific issues.

Councilman Baker why they have not adopted a full redevelopment plan. Baker stated that he believes that the plan is not a popular one from those who had spoken with him and believes that there are things lacking in this plan. “How will we treat people fairly on the residential side?”

He continued, asking what people within this district should do when they come forward to ask this. Baker also said that this specific part is too generalized. City Attorney Al Paulson stated that the project is primarily for businesses. He said, “Whether you like it or not, most towns have a business district plan.”

Those who know about the district, he states, should contact the council if they would like to do something related to the plan.

Baker stated that this plan is expected to raise $600,000, which while a lot, isn’t much in a city’s sense. Baker added that he doesn’t remember the last time he saw a plan on cost cutting has come up in relation to city improvement.

Mayor Pat McMahan stated that at this time it is only the first reading and moved to the next topic.

On a controversial topic in the past few months is the plat for subdividing property on North Jefferson St. north of Laugh and Learn Preschool. This division was passed unanimously. The applicant is Renaissance Infrastructure Consulting, who owns said parcel. The plan is to divide the property, whereas Family Dollar Tree wishes to build on one piece of the divided lot.

The council overall stated that while they see no issue with dividing the property, they do see potential issues with water drainage.

The council discussed and unanimously approved a site plan and architectural review requested by Silver Creek Townhomes at lots located at 100 Copper Oaks Drive and South 10th St.

City Manager Ahlvin said that a committee meeting was held and suggested the approval of the site plan and architectural review on the conditions that any off-street parking lot be lighted, access to the area be opened for ease of traffic flow and parking allows for 2 spaces per dwelling unit.

The council as a whole agreed that the project is a good idea.

The council approved a site plan and architectural review for MidAmerica Airport Terminal Modifications Phase 4, located at 9656 Air Terminal Dr. in Mascoutah. This terminal will be built not adjacent to the airport, but near it.

Councilman Weyant asked why the new terminal is not connected to the current airport. A representative from the airport stated that there is a plan to eventually connect the new terminal to the airport.

The council discussed and approved a bid from DMS Contracting for the ADA Sidewalk Improvements at various locations in the city limits to improve sidewalks throughout Mascoutah. Councilman Weyant asked why, within the three bids given, that the lowest bid was drastically lower than the others and wanted to make certain that the bid was correct. City Manager Ahlvin stated that the city looked over the plan and that everything seemed correct.

Councilman Battas explained that he would like to see some other areas in town not currently covered by the plan and would like to see a map of the areas in town from previous years’ sidewalk repairs. He stated that he wants to see older parts of town also addressed.

The council tabled a motion to obligate the funds left over from ARPA (American Rescue Plan), where the city of Mascoutah received $1,087,299.35. The money must be obligated to a use by December 31, 2024 and must be spent by December 31, 2026. The city created two scenarios for utilization of these funds.

Scenario #1 would replace lost public sector revenue at $300,000, with $150,000 going to the splash pad, $100,000 going to ballfield maintenance and $50,000 to a farmer’s market program. It would also allocate $789,299.35 to sewer infrastructure. Scenario #2 is the same as scenario #1, but it takes $100,000 from the sewer infrastructure and puts it into researching broadband infrastructure to be run by the city.

Mayor McMahan stated that he prefers scenario #2 as he is interested in creating a new broadband infrastructure for city residents.

Councilman Weyant stated that he preferred scenario #1 as he does not see why the money should be used to operate a business run by the city when the city already has options for internet choices.

Councilman Battas agreed with Wyant on choosing scenario #1. He asked for details on the farmers market program, requesting more information before allocating funds to it. “I’d like to see some of this allocated to the non profits that took a hit.” He also said that the sewer money allocation is too low to help very much as it would only cover roughly 2 blocks of the city.

Councilman Nick Seibert stated that he believes that the splash pad and ballfield maintenance are wants, rather than needs and does not like the current choices.

Councilman Baker said that farmer’s markets in the past have been present in the past and was concerned about the logistics of it. He explained that the funds are for the citizens and that the money should go towards things people could use.

Another need I see is the civic center. That building is not ADA compliant. All buildings must be ADA compliant according to the law. It is not grandfathered.

City Manager Ahlvin stated that there is an ongoing process to assess city buildings in relation to that.

Baker also said that he does not believe the city should be running any more businesses and that they should not go into another business when he believes the city currently does not run it’s businesses well as is.

The council chose to table this motion to more clearly define what the money should go towards.

The council unanimously approved and authorized a bid from Morrow Brothers Ford for a new 2023 Ford F150 for the Mascoutah Police Department at Illinois Government Price of $47,535.00. This vehicle would be replacing a 2018 Dodge Durango which will be sold or traded. The vehicle will require an additional $9,500 for add-on equipment such as a vinyl wrap, lights, prisoner transport cage, radio, siren, gun rack, computer mount, antennas and toolbox.

The council approved the authorization of sale of surplus equipment, which is the 2018 Dodge Durango with a mileage of 78,700. This was approved with no further discussion.

The council will meet again on Sept. 4, 2024 at 7:00 PM.

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