Public hearing was held regarding disconnection of property Parcel ID 13-23-326-005. Michael Fleming, attorney for property owners, spoke to council requesting property be disconnected from city of Peoria. Property annexed to city in 1993 with Charter Oak development. Adjacent parcels known as Ravina. Property owners asking for parcels that remain undeveloped and without access to roads be disconnected from city of Peoria and allow land to fall under county authorization. City staff have recommended to deny this request. After discussion, Council members voted to defer to January 11, 2022 meeting.
Communication from City Manager and Corporation Counsel with a first reading of request new ordinance amending City code regarding automated traffic violations. This is prompted by request from Peoria Public Schools who have seen an increase in motorists driving around school buses when stopped with their stop arm out. Buses can be equipped with a camera on their stop arm; photos can be shared with Peoria Police Department and violation ticket issued.
Councilors voted 9 to 2 to remove four am liquor license zone in Warehouse District, with exception of existing license for Status night club. Councilor Jackson expressed concern regarding the checkered past of this business with fights and shooting; she requested background information from Legal Counsel on this issue.
It was noted that: $4,038,664.00 for Pension Obligation funding; and assignment of $500,000.00 from the General Fund for 2022 and 2023 was identified for potential due diligence on the purchase of the local water system.
Under new business, Councilor Riggenbach commended Mayor Ali for her leadership in reaching out to Representatives Gordon-Booth and Ryan Spain to engage in discussion on Public Safety Pension System in Illinois. This would include reaching out to cities, such as Rockford, Springfield and Bloomington to unite to encourage state to modify the current structure.
December 28 meeting was canceled; next Council meeting January 11,2022. Minutes and video of meeting available at www.peoriagov.org
Connie Romanus, Observer
PEORIA CITY COUNCIL Budget Meetings Nov 16 and 23
The City Council members met for special meeting November 16, with focus on 2022-2023 biennial budget. The elephant in the room is how city will pay the public safety pension obligation over next two years. At prior meeting, council members voted to allow public safety pension tax to sunset as scheduled rather than ask property owners to continue paying a fee. This tax added two million dollars annually to city budget in 2020-2021 towards the pension obligation.
City Manager Urich provided the council with six options for upcoming budget including: whether to fill open positions in Police and Fire departments, restoring one engine for fire department and code enforcement positions. There was little support to cut $621,000.00 for public safety. By law, the city pension obligation for 2022 is approximately $27.7 million with an additional $360 million due before 2040. Mr. Urich reminded the members that pension obligation comes up every year with budget process and paying minimum amount puts city further behind and may mean city would have to dip into reserves to make pension payments in the future. He stressed importance of a long-term solution strategy.
All members agreed they did not want to cut public safety funding for police and fire departments. Another option put on table by City Manager was to take funds received in 2021 due to increased revenues to cover 2022-2023 Pension Fund obligations, giving the Council more time to consider long-term solutions. After much discussion on options provided, the Council deferred voting on request to approve the resolution adopting 2022-2023 biennial budget for one week to consider how to fund public safety pension.
During Public Comment period of meeting, Karrie Alms, concerned citizen, reminded Council that requesting names and addresses of citizens was a violation of Open Meeting Act (OMA) and asked staff to ensure compliance to OMA. She also cited lack of availability of handouts and Council correspondence to public as issue for transparency, especially in view of City Budget and Committee Meetings. Another concern mentioned was Robert’s Rules of Order and lack of respect for each other during discussions and asked Council members to be positive role model in community, especially to youth.
The Council convened on November 23 for regular meeting to conduct regular business and approve 2022-2023 Biennial Budget. A motion was approved to accept FY2021 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant in amount of $78,319.00 and approve two-year agreement with Flock Safety for automatic license plate recognition cameras.
The main event of the meeting was how to address the $4 million gap in budget. City Manager Urich gave overview of revenue in general fund so far this year in addition to payments anticipated for last two months of 2021. Increased performance in sales tax, shared state revenues, funds from American Rescue Fund for 2021 and recovery from pandemic have exceeded expectations and are anticipated to be total of $17.4 million by year end. This will allow $4 million to be used for pension fund liability for 2022-2023, as well as fund reserve balance of general fund at 27.4%.
The Council approved a resolution to adopt 2022-2023 Biennial Budget for City of Peoria with vote eight to three with Councilpersons Oyler, Cyr and Ruckriegel voting nay. The funding for police and fire remained intact for upcoming biennium.
Connie Romanus, Observer
The PCC members continue to meet weekly to discuss proposed 2022-2023 Biennial budget, as well as, other business matters. Consent agenda of 8 items was approved with minimal discussion. Councilperson Jensen noted the CDBG public services funding includes support for survivors of domestic assault and stalking.
Joe Dulin, Director of Community Development, gave an update on restaurant license requirements related to Chapter 27 of City Code. This will be streamlined to be more business friendly. Businesses that fail to pay taxes to city will have increase in penalty to $5000. Councilperson Cyr was recognized for asking City Manager and staff to review outdated codes for local businesses.
The Council voted to freeze stormwater utility tax for 2022-2023; City Manager Urich is anticipating the rate of inflation growth will go down in 2023. The Council voted against extending the Public Safety Pension Fee, allowing it to sunset. The city collected approximately $2 million with the fee on top of property taxes. The council members acknowledged little control locally over the safety pension and recommended trying to work with legislature in Springfield and consolidated pension boards. This is an issue for most communities in Illinois and a lobbying effort may be considered. The public safety pension fund must be 90% funded by 2040. Councilperson Grayeb stated that some members around the horseshoe did not value public safety by not supporting the fee; Councilperson Ruckriegel was quick to clarify that judgement was inaccurate and unfair.
During budget discussion, Councilperson Oyler made motion to set aside $250,000 in 2022 and 2023 budget years as restricted funds to be used for due diligence of water works should the council decide to do so. In past, there has been criticism the council has accepted funds for due diligence from outside sources and this would allow for funding to be allocated. If the funds were not used for this purpose in 2023, they would be released to General Fund. The franchise agreement option between City of Peoria and Illinois American Water Company comes up every five years. Motion passed six to five with Councilors Allen, Grayeb, Jackson, Jensen and Mayor Ali opposed.
Reminder that you can check minutes and video of Council meetings on website: www.peoriagov.org.
Connie Romanus, Observer
video of meeting (copy paste): https://youtu.be/d3HhnSqQmy0
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
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
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
Peoria City Council passed its consent agenda with no discussion and moved on to new business on Aug. 24. Councilor Andre Allen discussed pavement preservation project coming up for Rolling Acres in District Four. Councilor John Kelly complimented the First District tours taking place on Saturdays through September sponsored by Councilor Denise Jackson and Alex Sierra, Peoria Park District trustee for the Southern District. Tours start at Trewyn Park at 10 a.m. and tours area by bus to show needs of the area to all interested residents.
City Manager Patrick Urich reported citizen response to on-line survey on how to use Covid Relief Funds was very good, with 836 people completing survey, as well as giving comments. City staff will compile responses which will be reported to Council at September 7 meeting. The Council will hold a policy session September 6 and introduce the budget process for upcoming year.
There was one citizen who addressed the Council: Lashandra Riley spoke in favor of saving Harrison School building which is scheduled for demolition. She also asked what can be done to provide grocery service on south side of Peoria, citing issues for residents with transportation and quality of foods available for reasonable cost. Mayor Rita Ali offered to meet with Ms. Riley to discuss these issues after the Council meeting.
——— Connie Romanus, Observer
On August 10, 2021, Council spent much time discussing whether or not to charge fee to businesses who currently dispose of old tires.
The City currently spends many staff hours removing old tires that have been disposed of improperly, especially by unknown persons on the south side of Peoria, as well as incurring cost of disposal. The resolution put before the Council would have required all businesses that dispose of tires to register and pay $50 fee in addition to keeping records of tire disposal for review by the city staff.
One area of concern was providing means to cover cost of staff time, both administrative and legal, in enforcing this measure. General feeling was that fines charged for improper record keeping and illegal disposal would help cover City costs. City Manager Patrick Urich will reach out to the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office to collaborate with prosecution of illegal dumping. Councilor Sid Ruckreigel asked Urich to reach out to the Peoria County Board to collaborate efforts on management of tire disposal as this is an issue for the County, as well.
It was recognized that most businesses follow proper disposal. A substitute motion removing the fee was eventually passed 7-4, with Councilors Beth Jensen, Denise Jackson, Chuck Grayeb and Andre Allen voting no.
Interim Community Development Director Joseph Dulin reminded the Council of the Tireless Project. This project collects unwanted tires from city residents throughout the year. Residents can dispose up to 20 tires, with the first ten free, then $1 per tire. Businesses may not participate. The schedule for the year can be found at www.appreciatepeoria.com/opportunities. The next scheduled day is October 30.
—— Connie Romanus, Observer
The Peoria City Council met July 13, 2021 with all Council members present except John Kelly.
City Manager Urich informed Councilors that a public engagement survey would be posted on the city’s website to invite residents to give input on how the city should spend remaining state and local Coronavirus relief funds.
The city was awarded $47,089,976, with $10,301,585 spent in June to eliminate need to issue cash bond and curtail furloughs for city employees. Three public hearings will be scheduled, as well, for public input with one being virtual. Dates for public hearings are:
July 26 at 6 p.m. live streamed on city u-tube channel;
August 1 at 6 p.m. at Peoria North Branch Library; and
August 12 at 6 p.m. at Lincoln Branch Library.
In addition, paper copies of the survey will be available at all Peoria Library locations. The survey will be available until 5 p.m. August 19. City Manager Urich will give an update on public input at the August 24 meeting. Funds must be committed to specific projects by the end of 2024 and funds spent by end of 2026.
Interim Corporation Counsel Peterson updated councilors on additional measures and consequences for tobacco, liquor and retail gasoline dealer licenses due to rise in violence at some businesses. Among the options are fines, suspension or revoking licenses. The council also discussed consequences on license holders for unpaid fines, and the effect proposed changes would have on majority of license holders who are not a cause for concern. The Council will discuss this issue again at the July 27 meeting.
Panhandling and solicitation concerns were addressed next. Councilor Grayeb thanked legal department staff for research on Federal law regarding these two issues. He referred to existing laws that would prevent pedestrians from standing in the street and that the city and police should work on plan to enforce these laws. Discussion included motivations for increase in panhandling, as well as, how this could affect local non-profit groups and safety issues of pedestrians. First Amendment rights and enforcing existing laws was concern. Counsel Peterson clarified that the Supreme Court has looked at panhandling and public safety as separate issues and gave examples of two municipalities addressing prohibition of pedestrian traffic at specific locations based on local data related to collision reports and statistics. A change in ordinance would prohibit all pedestrian traffic at specified intersections and would need to be enforced for all citizens equally. The council voted to receive and file the report.
Connie Romanus, Observer
On April 13, 2021, the Peoria City Council approved the following by Omnibus Vote:
In unfinished business, the council adopted Ordinance updating the City Code for Short Term Rental Uses after many months of delay. Currently, short term rentals through Airbnb, VRBO and other websites by owner of home are not been legal in Peoria. Under this agreement, home owners wanting to rent room or single- family home would have to live in home in order to meet guidelines for rental. Property not lived in by an owner would require a special use permit to rent out the home. In addition, existing covenants or rules of neighborhood associations could prohibit rentals. Currently, hotel taxes are not collected on rentals; Airbnb has reported it would collect hotel taxes from property owners if city required that, forwarding funds to the City. In addition, Airbnb would work with Peoria Police Department through law enforcement portal for any issues on property rented through Airbnb.
On a final note, Council Person Riggenbach questioned safety of panhandlers at busy intersections. Interim Corporation Counsel, Chrissie Peterson, related that it is difficult to enforce limitations on this but that it should be done in safe manner. She will provide report back at next meeting. Ms. Peterson reported the ACLU has upheld protection for individuals holding a sign and soliciting money on public property and prohibits discrimination of these persons.
Connie Romanus, Observer
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