A sizable crowd attended Thursday night’s session of the Harrisburg City Council, though there was little action taken.
The topic that appeared to be of greatest interest to the crowd was the agenda item “liquor sales hours.” Mayor Eric Gregg as liquor control officer has said at past meetings he has concerns about businesses being open late on some Sunday nights. A new ordinance intended “to alleviate the problems we’ve been having” is still in the process of being drafted by Gregg and City Attorney Todd Bittle, Gregg said. Gregg said he would present it to council at the next meeting 6 p.m. Jan. 17.
“We’re going through it sentence by sentence,” Gregg said.
There was little comment by commissioners in open session other than praise from Street Commissioner Ron Fearheiley for city crews who cleaned up the streets from the Dec. 26 snow storm that dumped about 14 inches of snow on the city. He praised the crews and apologized for the inconvenience to those whose driveways were blocked out of necessity.
“I know it made some of the people mad, blocking their driveways. Sorry Commissioner Crank. They blocked yours. They blocked mine, too,” Fearheiley said.
The council approved $22,610 be paid to Bryan’s Concrete for Feb. 29 tornado repair work. The money is paid through the more than $2 million federal CDAP grant administered by Roy Adams Services.
Commissioner John McPeek said a $400,000 CDAP grant for housing renovation and a $100,000 CDAP grant for home renovation for the disabled acquired by Adams would be utilized in a targeted area on the north side of town, roughly behind the Bar-B-Q Barn. Houses on Rose Street, Midkiff Street and part of North Webster Street will be eligible until the money runs out. McPeek invited those interested to contact him or Adams at 713-8409.
Citizen Bill Wright who was on the agenda asked for the city’s help in saving the historic Harrisburg High School from demolition, should the school board decide to take that route in building a new school.
He also asked the city to initiate the creation of a library of records or some central place where people could get seek grants for historic preservation.
“It would help with trying to maintain the buildings of Harrisburg,” Wright said.
Wright said he contacted the Landmarks Illinois organization of Chicago that declared HHS one of the state’s endangered landmarks and offers $300,000 grants to help with restoration of historic buildings.
“I feel the high school should be saved,” Wright said.
Gregg suggested Wright look to the Southeastern Regional Planning and Development Commission for information on grants for historic places.
Gregg said the city has an interest in preserving its historic downtown and is interested in funding for that. He cited the city of Springfield’s project of placing its downtown in a tax increment finance district and using the increment generated to restoring building facades.
“If we tear down the old buildings around our square we lose a lot of history,” Gregg said.
Gregg said the council was preparing to enter executive session, but taking note of the large audience opened the floor up to any citizens with comments.
Michael T. Shaw addressed council with a grievance. He said Nov. 14 he was assaulted at Poor Boys Lounge and City Attorney Todd Bittle dismissed the ordinance violation citation against his attacker. Shaw said he paid $2,000 in hospital bills due to the incident, wanted to know why the charge was dismissed and why he has never gotten a phone call back from Gregg though he has left messages five times.
Gregg told Shaw he would look into the matter with Bittle and gave Shaw his personal cell phone number to call.
Council went into executive session for the stated purposes of discussions on personnel and litigation, but took no action once back in open session.