The Observer Reports were written by volunteer observers of the Greater Peoria League of Women Voters. The reports are presented here as a public service. They are in no way “official” but are intended solely as an informal means of enabling citizens to monitor the meetings of local government bodies. Every effort has been made to make these reports accurate; however, like all materials of this nature, they are subject to human error.
The Peoria County Election Commission held its monthly meeting on Tuesday, September 8, with all members present. Executive Director Tom Bride explained the State guidelines for PPE for the upcoming election, what they are, what has been purchased, and which will be reimbursed. Each polling place will need separate entries and exits and someone to monitor social distancing. Online videos will be used to train election judges. These will include information on use of PPE (hand sanitizer, face shields, and alcohol wipes) in addition to normal judges' training. Masks cannot be mandated for voters, but they will be encouraged.
As of September 8, the Election office had received approximately 23,000 requests for Vote By Mail. About 5500 of those were received on line. Any requests received by October second must be mailed by October 6. Voters will be able to track their ballots on line. If another person physically returns a ballot to the Election Commission, an affidavit must be signed. That is not necessary if the ballot is mailed or put in a drop box. The election office has received 200-225 applications for judges, with a goal of 400-500. Some judges have declined to work this year.
Director Bride presented the Commission's proposed budget to the County. The only concern seemed to be from where money for the new voting system would come. The final budget may get tweaked, but so far it was deemed acceptable.
Chris Schmidt, Connie Romanus, & Irene Pritzker
Chairman Steve Morris called the regular monthly meeting of Peoria City County Landfill Committee to order on August 19, 2020, at 3 p.m. via Zoom or phone access, which was posted on the city Solid Waste Landfill Committee website ahead of the meeting. Member Zach Oyler was absent. No meeting had been held in July. There were no public comments during the citizens opportunity to address the committee at the beginning of the meeting.
A new business item was a request for discussion regarding the current state Pollution Control Board review of coal ash regulations and what that might mean to the landfill and if the committee might consider a comment letter. WM said that coal ash should not be mixed with municipal solid waste as it interfe res with methane gas production and has other problems. Since the current WM landfill is filling its last area, any plans for coal ash would need to focus on the new Landfill #3. PDC agreed that coal ash needs to be in a monofill. Chairman Morris asked what would be a typical tonnage for coal ash from a power plant. Mr. Coulter commented that at other locations from ½ million to 2 million tons capacity were needed. Foth Engineering will look into this and have some figures for the next meeting. Committee member Williams asked for a refresher on coal ash and issues with it and that will also be planned. Foth did a screen share of a comment letter the Landfill Committee had done several years ago. Committee member Fox said he would consider the current situation similar to what the Committee did before and asked that this topic be on the agenda for the September Committee meeting.
Vice Chairman James Fennell presided at the Peoria County Board meeting's regularly scheduled second Thursday 6 p.m. board meeting with the absence of Chairman Andrew Rand. Member Windish was also absent. Board members and staff were sitting with social distancing and COVID masks in the County Building board room with members Salzer and Daley participating by phone. Members of the public could watch the meeting live via Facebook or YouTube and at different times on Cable Access 22. (Public comments were to be sent to the County Clerk by 3 p.m. on the day of the board meeting and would be read into the record.) County Clerk Rachel Parker read public comments from the following in support of the agenda item regarding the Hanna City Trail: 1) from Roberta English, Wildlife Prairie Park, trail will enhance the Park and be a benefit to the county; 2) Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, benefits of the proposed trail include recreation, added property value, tourism regional attraction; 3) Heart of Illinois Group Sierra Club, Rock Island Trail shows economic values and growth from trails including preservation of a green corridor; 4) Brett Baker, Bike Peoria, petition with 1,719 signatures in support of the trail and urge that funding be secured to acquire the trail.
The first Resolution was the Intergovernmental Agreement between Peoria County, the City of Farmington, Fulton County, and Village of Hanna City for the formation of the Hanna City Trail Negotiation Commission. County Administrator Scott Sorrel explained that the main purpose was establishing a body that could proceed with grant applications. Hanna City Mayor Winteroff was in the audience. The project would acquire 24.7 miles of right-of-way that has been rail-banked for years. Board member Sharon Williams was credited with her earnest work on this project since she became a Peoria County Board member and she would be the Board representative on the Negotiation Commission. The significance of this effort is the Federal Government has said this is the last chance for the trail section to be purchased as previous extensions of time have been approved. If the project cannot go forward the land will be released from rail-banking and sold. The goal is to apply for federal grant funding which will cover 80% of the purchase. Twenty per cent is to be a local match and state grants could pay up to half of that. The Board would allocate $170,225.80 as it’s pledge for the funding to come from the Keystone Fund, which is used exclusively for economic development purposes. Mr. Sorrel explained that trail projects like this are classic examples of economic development. Rural area Board member Paul Rosenbaum commented that he had a call from a subdivision resident near Wildlife Prairie Park who is on the subdivision council and strongly urged support for this on behalf of the subdivision. Sharon Williams spoke to receiving calls and communications in support. Board member Dillon thanked Mrs. Williams for her persistence on this project and gave his support. Brian Elsasser said this is a very worthy project as did Kate Pastucha. Vice Chairman Fennell said he had calls in support and others spoke to strong support. The Resolution passed unanimously.
The Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners held its annual meeting on August 11, 2020. The first order of business was to swear in new Board member Dr. Arun Pinto who has replaced retiring member LaColis Reed. Officers of the Board were elected, including the reelection of Matt Bartolo as Chairman.
During the previous week, the State's Attorney held a meeting to determine if several Libertarian candidates would be on the ballot. In spite of objections by a County citizen, the three candidates were found to have valid petitions with 344 of a needed 335 signatures.
Many of the expenses for the November election will be reimbursed by the State. These include Covid costs like face masks/shields, hand sanitizer, and single finger covers for the voting machines. The State will also reimburse for part of the expense of judges, even though there should be fewer needed.
As of August 11, almost 14,000 applications for Vote By Mail had been received. There will be another mailing from the Secretary of State later this month, so there will probably be more applications received after that.
When Director Tom Bride was asked about requiring face masks at polling places, he deferred to the State's Attorney. Some individual polling places may have their own requirements. The State's Attorney recommended a talk with the Health Department. This topic will be discussed again next month.
The Board also discussed the 2021 Budget Request that needs to be approved by the County Board. Expenses next year should be lower, since there will only be local elections. A big expense coming in 2022 will be a voting system. The one currently in use is sixteen years old. The Board asked Director Bride to put a half time position back into the budget.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
Wow. The Consent Agenda passed with no one removing an item. Of course there were only 4 items on that agenda. Short meeting – an hour and 17 minutes.
Recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission and Staff to ADOPT an ORDINANCE Amending Appendix A, the Unified Development Code, relating to short term rentals in all residential zoning was deferred until Aug 11.
Recommended 2020 - 2021 BUDGET RESTRUCTURING as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Council has provided direction to reduce capital programs by $26.7 million and restructure January 1, 2021 debt payments of approximately $10 million and the issuance of a $20 million line of credit and/or working cash bond. At the May 12th Council meeting, Council directed the Manager to come back with a recommended $10 million in operational cuts.
A total debt service package of $30 million would require additional resources to repay the debt. The additional $2 million needed to restructure debt could be absorbed by existing revenues, however the $20 million of working capital would need a repayment source. Assuming that source was property taxes, the increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 an additional $66.66 per year.
The recommended operating reductions which will result in service reductions include staff reductions of 94 employees, contractual and supply reductions of $3.3 million. The position reductions include 37 vacant positions across the organization and 57 positions that would be reduced by layoff.
Voluntary separation for firefighters with 20 years of service was deferred to Aug 11 ($25,000 incentive toward health insurance premiums for early separation if processed in August.)
The 50-year storm last week created havoc in Councilwoman Moore’s district. Homeowners have had issues of water backup into their homes.
Cheryl Budzinski, Observer
(Peoria Park District 7-8-2020 meeting was cancelled.)
Peoria Park District (PPD) Observer Report of 7-22-2020 meeting:
The meeting was held both in person and through streaming ZOOM on the Peoria Park District Face Book Page.
Executive Director Cahill noted that July is National Parks and Recreation Month. To celebrate, PPD highlighted members of the staff on Facebook.
Trustees discussed a public hearing to be held on August 5 about the possible removal of the Christopher Columbus Statue in Laura Bradley Park. A Facebook live meeting will be held. An in-person option will be explored. The Planning Committee will discuss results on September 1 and the Trustees will receive a recommendation at its September 23 meeting.
During Other Business, Trustee Harant shared that the Peoria City/County Board of Health declared racism a public health crisis. She asked the Trustees to consider a position statement about the impact of racism. Following discussion, they decided to get additional information, including checking with other park districts’ statements. Trustee Harant also shared that a Task Force is being formed to address racism.
Farrell Davies, Observer
The Peoria County Election Commission held its July meeting with discussion, followed by approval of bids for two pieces of equipment that would be needed for the anticipated increase in mail-in voting. First was a system for ballot packing, sorting, and scanning. The one chosen will hold 500 at a time, time stamp them, and verify signatures by a ranking system that will aid election judges. The chosen vendor, Digital Copy Systems, was considered to be the cheapest and the best. An additional license can also be purchased for approximately $16,000. The system as approved costs $49,512. The other approved purchase was for ballot packet printing and mailing services. The commission staff recommended Rumbach because it had good references and a lot of experience. Printing 40,000 ballots and envelopes and mailing them will cost $33,120.
Further expenditures needed to comply with SB1863 include: on line ballot tracking for both the office and voters (app. $2500); PPE and cleaning supplies ($20,000); four ballot drop boxes for the office and early voting sites with infrared cameras, postage and extra judges ($312,000-315,000). Peoria County has received a grant of $335,000 which must be used for vote by mail. It will cover the extra expenses.
The Commission's attorney told the members that she had been contacted by the Attorney General's office about problems arising from the Open Meetings Act and the May and June meetings. They had not had proper notification, and a complaint had been filed by a member of the media. There would be no penalty, but things would have to change going forward.
Irene Pritzker, Observer
The meeting was held through streaming ZOOM on the Peoria Park District Face Book Page. The meeting was called to order at 6:00 PM by President Johnson. All Trustees were present.
2019 Audit Report was presented by Katie Bermingham, CPA with CliftonLarsonAllen. The audit was clean with no findings. Trends in major areas such as tax revenue, operating expenses, and long-term debt were all good.
The Golf Ad Hoc Committee report indicated that golf is doing very well, especially the Partner to Play program that currently has sold 276 passes to date.
The Trustees discussed the short-term closure of the Franciscan Recreation Center in West Peoria. Concerns about closing this site were expressed because West Peoria does not have any other recreation center. The Trustees were assured that it could still serve as a polling place for voting and that the outdoor area is still available. Trustees voted to approve the short-term closure of the center. Voting for the motion: Trustees Harant, Ryan, Snowden, and Williams. Voting against the motion: Trustees Cassidy, Petty, and Johnson.
The Trustees voted unanimously for short-term closure of the Glen Oak Amphitheater and the establishment of an Advisory Group for Glen Oak Park Reimagination.
The Trustees discussed the short-term closure of the Aquaplex, including the public comments that focused primarily on the need for people to have access to the lap and therapy pools for health reasons. Trustees also discussed concerns about the impact on the PPD relationship with OSF if the lap and therapy pools remained open. Trustees approved the short-term closure of the Aquaplex with the exception of the therapy and lap pools. Voting for the motion: Trustees Cassidy, Harant, Johnson, Petty, Ryan, and Williams. Voting against the motion: Trustee Snowden. Notification to RiverPlex members will be sent out immediately. OSF will also be notified in order for them to inform their patients that used the Aquaplex.
Trustees unanimously approved a motion to begin the process of evaluating the removal of the Christopher Columbus Statue in Laura Bradley Park through public hearings Aug or Sept.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:08 PM. Farrell Davies, Observer
The meeting was almost four hours long. Many of their recent meetings have been that longer.
You are aware of the gaping hole in the city’s budget and the two proposals the councilpersons are considering regarding staffing. Well more that one person also commented that staff reductions are not the only consideration, they will be considering raising taxes since staffing changes will not completely fix the budget.
Council approved recommended appointments to 22 committees and commissions including seven for the CDBG Public Service Advisory Commission and eight for the Advisory Committee on Police and Community Relations. (Past president Farrell Davies was reappointed to CDBG.)
Short Term Rentals STR was discussed at length. The city had indicated they would require a “special use” permit to allow VRBO’s, Air B’n’B’s, etc. to operate in our residential areas. But, they are proposing (First Reading) 20-182 STR’s be an allowed Commercial Use within all residentially zoned areas in the city subject to the properties paying hotel license, hotel tax, and comply with life safety codes. One question unanswered, was if these are not allowed by restrictive covenants of a Homeowners Association, can they operate within that neighborhood? There are many of these currently in operation.
Cheryl Budzinski, Observer
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