A quorum was present for Special City Council meeting regarding the proposed 2022-2023 biennial budget and other business. Meetings on budget are also scheduled for November 2 and 16th at 6:00 P.M. Minutes and videos can be found on city website: www.peoriagov.org.
Township officials asked Trustees to consider an increase in tax level of property taxes for 2022. Max Schlafley, Township Assessor, discussed decrease in levy annually since 2018; this was done to decrease amount held in reserve to 50%. An increase is of 4.5 percent is being requested for 2022 to maintain reserves and cover increase in services during coronavirus pandemic. Supervisor Leary presented ways the Township has decreased rent expenses with purchase of building more centrally located to residents. After much discussion, Trustee Oyler made substitute motion to maintain current rate not to exceed 0.0880. Option to use city recovery funds for Township could be alternative funding source according to City Manager Urich, if the requested. Motion passed
Mark Fenton gave presentation on Complete Streets and Active Transportation program. This includes redesign for walkability, access to shopping and safe streets for all users, as well as economic benefits. Pop up demos planned. Mr. Fenton is consultant for National Public Health, Planning and Transportation. Peoria was selected to participate in this program. See video of meeting for more details: www.peoriagov.org.
In other business, Councilman Grayeb expressed concern for ability to contain fires to point of origin and asked Fire Chief Bachman to provide statistics on this since Engine 2 taken off line. Mr. Grayeb asked the City Manager if there was funding in current budget to restore engine for remainder of the year; Mr. Urich acknowledged there were enough funds in Fire Department budget to accommodate this. Much discussion took place by council members regarding the timing, lack of information, legality of the action and overtime impact on budget. Legal council reported that city manager had authority via statute and city code to set head count of employees. The measure passed to restore the engine with six to four vote.
City Manager reviewed sixteen items in report back to council on budget issues for 2022-2023 Biennial Budget. More detail can be found online in meeting minutes, as well as video of meeting.
Connie Romanus, Observer
The Peoria County Board held its regular monthly meeting October 14th with all members present except Chairman Rand. Member Daley participated via phone.
Two proclamations recognizing Bartonville Hardware’s 70th anniversary and the Heart of Illinois United Way’s 100th anniversary were read.
Twelve citizens offered remarks related to the proposed 2022 budget’s staffing and appropriation reductions in the County Auditor’s office. Among those speaking were Jessica Thomas, County Auditor, and the three employees impacted by those reductions. State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos also spoke later in the meeting responding to some statements made during public comment.
The seventeen consent agenda items were approved on a 16-1 vote without discussion. Among those items were acceptance of five grants, approval of additional funds for the Distillery Labs Smart City/Mobility Living Laboratory, and approval of four infrastructure projects in western Peoria County.
Other regular business included approval of a Long Term Care Ombudsman/Senior Advocate position in conjunction with the Center for Prevention of Abuse, and discussion and approval of ten resolutions related to the 2022 budget. Highlights include:
Jim Runyon, Observer
Edwards Power Plant Coal Ash Pond and Site Issues Session Presentation Held October 13th
Representatives for Illinois Power Resources Generating, LLC, a Vistra Energy LLC subsidiary, held a public presentation about the Edwards coal plant ash pond at the Pere Marquette Hotel, Peoria, October 13th at 7 p.m. Notice about this session appeared in an ad in the Peoria Journal Star on Thursday, October 7th. The session was one of the requirements in a legal settlement over groundwater contamination at Edwards and several other downstate coal plants in the case Sierra Club v. Illinois Power Generating Company, et al, Illinois Pollution Control Board case PCB 2019-078. The meeting was moderated by a Vistra staff member from Texas. A panel of three specialists with the company discussed aspects of their work regarding the Edwards coal ash pond, including site investigations ongoing to meet existing state regulations for ash pond closures; data collection and monitoring well results; what could be a surface impoundment closure timeline; and additional measures the company will be taking to evaluate the site for closure.
Public comments included statements on the need for the coal ash to be removed from the river bottomland and safe handling and placement of the ash in an approved and monitored landfill. Some commentors stated doubts about the history of company compliance with regulations. There were questions on the company commitment to local concerns, including coal plant impacts of decades of polluted air impacting the south side of Peoria and minority neighborhoods. Thirty-six people were in the audience area, including the Chairman and members of the Peoria Park Board, the President of Illinois People’s Action Rev. Tony Pierce, City Council member Denise Jackson, Peoria League of Women Voters, and a diversity of faith-based, environmental, and justice group members.
Coal ash is the waste material left after coal is burned. It contains arsenic, boron, mercury and other contaminants, many of them toxic to people, fish and wildlife. When coal ash comes into contact with water, these hazardous materials leach out of the waste and can pollute both surface water and groundwater. Several of the substances can cause cancer, damage the nervous system and other organs, or cause other major health issues. Throughout its 52 years of operations, the Edwards plant has dumped large amounts of coal ash close to the Illinois River and coal ash has been used for fill and other site projects including the access road embankment. Some sources indicate the bottom ten feet of the existing ash pond is in contact with groundwater. The coal ash pond is an 89-acre, 32-foot deep incised pond with embankment and is located between the plant and access road off of Illinois Route 24 south of Bartonville. The area around the plant has been declared unusable for potable, drinkable water due to existing pollution according to the Illinois EPA permit for plant discharges. More meetings will be held in the future regarding the closure of the Edwards power plant at the end of December, 2022.
J B, Observer
A quorum was present for the regular biweekly meeting of the City Council. Consent agenda of 10 items was unanimously approved. Special Council meetings will be held November 7 and 16th regarding the Proposed 2022-2023 Biennial Budget, as well as other business.
The council voted unanimously to focus on redistricting based on census. Prior to the vote, there was some discussion regarding altering current structure of five districts with five at large positions to ten districts. Attorney Phillip Linzini presented an overview of the 1987 class action lawsuit representing Peoria Park District and Peoria School Board and City of Peoria for lack of equal representation in local elections. The outcome of this consent decree that has no expiration date. The result of this legal action was the cumulative five-vote for at-large council positions, as well as, school and park board positions.
The Council voted to approve two special use Class 4 (single family residence) short term rentals in District 2, with one councilor voting no. Concerns were expressed on maintaining quality of life in heritage neighborhoods, parking, number of persons allowed, and potential disruptive behavior with short term rentals. Guidelines on the number of short-term rentals in a district, as well as how close special use permits would be allowed in specific radius were issues discussed. Council deferred action on third special use permit to the next regularly scheduled council meeting by Mr. Grayeb to allow additional information to be provided.
City Manager Urich reported that General Fund Balance was in stronger position than anticipated in 2020 due to $10.8 million income from income tax revenues, state shared funds, and internet sales tax. Original projection was $1.2 million. The proposed capital budget is $34 million with focus on replenishing staff positions that had been eliminated including staff position, Public Works, Code Enforcement and Fire Department. Filling Police Department vacancies is also a priority, as well as thirty recruits scheduled for Police Academy.
Connie Romanus, Observer
A quorum was present at the monthly meeting of PHA Board of Commissioners. Two topics for community concern included one resident with issue of mistaken identity affecting her status with PHA and Rhonda Sexton, union bargaining representative, regarding employee contract issues related to Taft redevelopment.
Two residents of PHA completed Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program that enables them to increase their income and reduce reliance on welfare and rental assistance. Both are in process of purchasing a home for their family.
Jackie Newman, Executive Director of PHA, gave overview of Taft redevelopment project status. The new housing development will be names Provident Pointe, with ground breaking scheduled on October 6. Reports to Board were approved by consent agenda. A resolution was approved to accept revisions to Administrative and Occupant Plan which will change eligibility to allow persons without crime record in past six months to apply for housing, as well as maintaining records of denial for review by state Criminal Justice Board.
Kadar Hefner announced selection of CEO search firm, Organizational Leadership Edge, to find applicants for PHA Executive Director position. Board approved this action. Resolution passed to approve FY2022-2026 5 Year Plan and FY 2022 Annual Agency Plan which are posted on PHA website. The 5 Year plan has 45-day public comment period.
The Board discussed current lack of Resident Councils at PHA sites and effort to promote these. Latasha Perry, Board member, cited the benefits of these to address common issues and share information with residents. Councils have rules process and elections to elect residents to individual council.
Board adjourned for closed session to discuss collective bargaining issue.
Connie Romanus, Observer
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