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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Federal grant could aid in sewer department recovery

  • The city council learned last night the city may soon get another federal grant and before quickly spending most of it for two projects.
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  • The city council learned last night the city may soon get another federal grant and before quickly spending most of it for two projects.
    Julie Patera of the Southeastern Illinois Regional Planning and Development Council told the council that both she's submitted an application for $375,000 from the federal Delta Regional Authority which covers the lower Mississippi Valley including the 16 southernmost counties of Illinois.
    She credited Mayor Eric Gregg for making the initial outreach for the grant. The grant application asks for funds to "to assist with the unmet needs" following the fire that destroyed the city's sewer department building.
    "Nothing is 100 percent guaranteed, but I've got a state agency and a federal agency saving you've got it," she said adding that the city should get official confirmation of the grant award as early as next week.
    The funds almost in hand, the council accepted a bid of $162,410 from Ratcliff Buildings in Harrisburg for a new metal garage insulated and finished out that will set on a four-acre tract of city land on Veterans Drive across from the fire department's training area. Superintendent Kelly Hefner proposed that site and building for the large pieces of equipment in the water and sewer departments as well as have space outside for materials.
    The council approved the bid with the condition of receiving the grant. Insurance for the old building that burned will cover about half of the costs. The new location will get the equipment out of the flood plain after the flood last year cut off access to the sewer plant.
    The council also approved purchasing a new sewer jet from the same company they are currently leasing one. The cost is $281,267 and the city will get $115,000 from their insurance carrier. The remainder will come from the DRA grant.
    At both the last meeting and last night's Hefner has encouraged the city to consolidate the offices of the water, sewer and public affairs departments all at the former Graystone Buiding on Veterans Drive that the city owns. He even suggested moving the water department payment office out of City Hall and in with the other parts of the department.
    He said that building could be made handicapped accessible, something that City Hall is not. The council gave verbal approval for his department to use the building as needed, and to a better handle of costs for renovating the entire building.
    Hefner and Patera both explained that the renovation of the building is an eligible expense that could be paid out of the city's tax increment financing fund from TIF 1. Another eligible expense would be the extension of water and sewer lines from the current end of Veterans Drive to the city's flood control building at the levee.
    Page 2 of 3 - Engineer Jim Brown provided the council costs estimates of $90,000 for the water line and $350,000 to extend sanitary sewer all the way to the flood control building as a lift station would be needed.
    City Commissioner Ron Fearheiley brought up the concern if the land on both sides would be ready for development due to soil contamination. The city had to cover much of the land on earlier stretches of Veterans Drive with up to three feet of top soil as required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
    The land which is former railroad property had been contaminated with heavy metals.
    Following a discussion the council voted to authorize Brown and Roberts to begin soil testing on the property to see what would need to be done.
    The council also heard from Morris Mott, a city's contractor that has been working on repainting parts of the sewer plant and the flood control gates. Much of the paint had been temporarily stored in the sewer department building that went up in flames. Mott's insurance has refused to pay for the paint saying that the city's insurance should cover it.
    Bill Ghent, the city's insurance supplier explained that while the city insurance would cover it, it is possible that the insurance company may come back on Mott for at least partial reimbursement.
    In other development efforts the city approved an amendment to the sewer easement across Knapp Oil's property on South Commercial.
    "We've come up with a solution that would save the company about $80,000," explained Todd Bittle, city attorney.
    Knapp Oil wants to build a new convenience store on their two tracts of property but the sewer line runs across the property. Earlier it was thought they would have to move the line. Now, Brown said, they've designed the project so that only a canopy would be over the line and not a building.
    Bittle said while the company saves money now, if the city ever had to work on the line any construction costs for the canopy would be borne by the company.
    The council approved the measure. When Fearheiley asked when they planned to start Brown answered, "They want to get right with it."
    On the financial side of earlier disasters Commissioner Ron Crank announced a change in procedures between the city and Operation STORM. Under the new plan the group would submit check requests to the city for council approval.
    The council approved a number of requests, but balked at one for $1,200 in back water bills for one resident. The water had already been shut off by the time of the tornado.
    Charlie Will, former city treasurer who was there to make a presentation from STORM explained that the house is eligible for rehabilitation, but the lien has to be removed first.
    Page 3 of 3 - Crank made the motion to not pay that bill seconded by Fearheiley.
    "It puts us in a bad spot," quipped Fearheiley.
    "I don't think people who gave this money probably don't want it used for (the city to pay itself)."
    Gregg urged STORM to try to find other money to help the homeowner.
    Crank also announced the city had received a donation of $10,000 from John Simmons' law firm. The city had received a similar check following the tornado. The memo with the check directed that $5,000 go to the Kiwanis and the other $5,000 to Dorrisville Baptist Church for their back to school drive. Simmons' wife owns the Southern Illinois Miners which has also collected back to school materials for Harrisburg youth.
    The city delayed action on a request to reimburse Will for travel and costs associated with professional development conferences. During the discussion Will and Crank disagreed on how much had been spent during the past year.
    "The last treasurer we had, he was here 11 years. In 11 years he spent $7,000 in schooling. Charlie's here one year and he spent $6,000," Crank said.
    "No, absolutely not. No way," Will responded.
    "Let us review this," urged the mayor. "I think we need to review this."
    There was also an issue of whether any training had to be approved by the council in advance.
    At the start of the meeting the council honored Amanda Patrick as citizen of the month and Southern FS as business of the month. Both were hit hard by the spring's tornado. Patrick had just moved in at the Brady Street Apartments which took the worst hit.
    Jerry Murphy, manager of Southern FS thanked the city for its support in their rebuilding effort and announced the grand opening of the new store for Nov. 2 and 3.
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