Peoria City Council Observer Report
The Peoria City Council approved 14 items on consent agenda, with one pulled for discussion related to lobbying expense for city. Councilor Kelly asked for clarification of expense for two lobbyists in Springfield. City Manager Urich reported that with amount of state and federal funding anticipated, each lobbyist has expertise that would benefit city. Contract with Turning Strategies approved in amount $3,680 per month.
Follow up from City Manager and Community Development Director on elimination of various business licenses/regulations in city identified seventeen items that are no longer pertinent. An additional 17-18 more items anticipated to be identified. Manager Urich complemented Director Dulin, city staff for their work on this, as well as Councilman Cyr for his identification of this for small business owners. City manager also reported that $1.4 million from Department of Commerce distributed to more than 100 local businesses, in addition to $1.3 million DEA funds.
Representatives of Downtown Advisory Committee (DAC) made presentation to Council with recommendations on restoration of two-way streets in downtown area to increase economic development, pedestrian safety and compliance with sewer overflow plan. Riverfront Master Plan 2020 identified to resolve flooding, parking issues, ensuring green space and coordination with Peoria Park District, as well as coordination with Main Street redevelopment efforts. Wayfinding pilot with signage to help visitors get around easily last item covered in presentation. Funding efforts to include federal funds, grants, and public-private partnerships. Councilor Jensen asked that public meetings be advertised so community engagement and input can occur.
Community Development Director Joe Dulen presented 2020 census data for city to Council and potential impact on current council districts. Census results reported population in city as 113,150 residents, a decrease of 1.6% from 2010 census. Mayor Ali will appoint Redistricting Committee to meet to begin to address the proportioning of district boundaries based on census results. This process will begin after budget sessions completed with goal to conclude by March 2022. Director Dulen stated that the city has access to software to run scenarios for proportioning districts. Councilor Ruckreigel was recognized for his work in leading the census efforts.
Connie Romanus, Observer
The Peoria County Election Commission met on Tuesday, September 14, with all present but Commissioner Sandra Burke arriving a few minutes late.
The commission approved a three year contract with SOE Software for online election judge training. They provided training during the COVID-19 lockdown and were found to be very useful. There will still be in person training, but the additional online feature will aid with training on the new voting system. Peoria County State’s Attorney’s office will work out contractual issues.
Two proposals had been received that day in response to the Request for Proposal for a new voting system. They were from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the nation’s largest vendor, and Hart InterCivic. Director Tom Bride wants both vendors to come to Peoria early in October to present to the evaluation committee. He is hoping that the committee will present their choice at the November commission meeting. The decision will then go to the Peoria County committee in December and the full County Board in January.
A discussion was held about new mail drop boxes. Political party leaders were concerned about security. Director Bride wants to procure boxes through this year’s budget; number and placement can be discussed next month.
Also discussed was return postage for Vote by Mail. If a ballot comes back with inadequate postage, the Commission is required to pay it. However, 40% of mail-in ballots in the last election were returned through the drop boxes, so there was no charge. The Post Office will be reminded to put a postmark on those envelopes, even though they have postage paid printed on them.
Unfortunately, during the public comment item, members of the public were allowed to ramble on about supposed issues that occurred in other jurisdictions.
—— Irene Pritzker, Observer
Peoria County Board Observer Report
The Peoria County Board met Sept. 9, with all members present.
One presentation and three proclamations preceded regular business. The owner of Trefzger’s Bakery and developer Katie Kim thanked the board for a $589,000 Keystone Fund loan that partially enabled their building renovation and relocation to Peoria Heights. Trefzger’s was able to repay the loan in full with interest ahead of schedule. Several Board members commented this was an excellent use of funds and look forward to similar business loans in the future. Proclamations recognized National Rail Safety Week, National Preparedness Month, and the 20th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001.
One citizen offered remarks and a petition related to requested use of American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds available to the county to improve broadband internet service in rural Peoria County. An email from Beth Crider, Regional Superintendent of Schools, was read supporting this use of ARPA funds.
The regular agenda was short with the seven items on the consent agenda passing on a 17-1 vote with no discussion. Two items were pulled from the consent agenda for discussion. One requested approval of the Farnsworth Group and the other of River City Construction for preliminary consultation on the Health and Human Service Campus project. The county is exploring consolidation of these services at a remodeled Health Department site on Sheridan Road, or relocation of services to another existing site, or construction of a new facility. Following discussion both passed on 17-1 and 16-2 votes, respectively.
One resolution was approved on a 17-1 vote accepting a grant agreement that funds independent contractor attorneys who serve as appointed Guardians ad Litem in juvenile and neglect court. A second resolution approving the collective bargaining agreement between the county and the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council-Corrections unit also passed on a 17-1 vote.
A proclamation was approved on a 15-3 vote extending the Declaration of Emergency due to COVID-19 in Peoria County.
——— Jim Runyon, Observer
The Board of Commissioners of PHA held its regular meeting Sept. 7, with quorum present. Several members of the public attenders to express concerns regarding conditions of PHA housing family of seven scheduled to move into before end of September.
The Gardner family of seven has been assigned to Taft temporary housing and conditions of 2-unit location include mold, water damage, uncovered electrical outlets, as well as other issues. Mrs. Gardner was present in addition to Karrie Alms, Elaine Hopkins, Lawrence Maushard, and Allison Galvan.
Community members expressed concern regarding lack of communication to Gardner family regarding when unit would be available, checklist to ensure repairs completed and perceived lack of respect from PHA staff. Comments took 30 minutes of allotted time at beginning of board meeting. Mr. Maushard called for dismissal of Chairman Carl Cannon and CEO Jackie Newman.
Ms. Alms stated she had filed complaint this date with U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as 2022 PHA plan was not available for review, in addition to lack of digital access to plan information.
Elaine Hopkins spoke on behalf of American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) and member of North Valley Neighborhood association regarding locked gates at Taft complex over past year. She cited incident where emergency responders were not able to respond to call due to access issues. She has requested documentation under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Chairman Cannon expressed appreciation for comments and told group issues would be addressed.
Consent agenda was approved without discussion. Resolutions approved to upgrade flooring in common areas at Sterling Towers and Taft Homes redevelopment final closing documents. A Rector and Reeder & Lofton representative gave presentation on FY 2020 financial audit. Positive review with comments for improvement in turnaround of units and how wait list managed. One finding related to financial reconciliation reporting, with operation improvement plan developed. Financial employees recognized for improvements in operations and cooperation during audit.
Note: WCBU reporter Hannah Alani interviewed Jackie Newman on September 16,= about Taft redevelopment: https://www.wcbu.org/local-news/2021-09-16/q-a-interim-peoria-housing-authority-director-jackie-newman-answers-questions-on-taft-redevelopment
——— Connie Romanus, Observer
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