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
The meeting of the Township and City Council was almost four hours long. Many of their recent meetings have been that long or longer.
The Township of Peoria’s Annual Meeting which had been postponed from April was held with little discussion except discussion of not including the $20,000 donation to Center for Prevention of Abuse and instead donating $10,000 with a donation to another worthy nonprofit getting the other $10,000. Because I have attended many of their meetings, I know that the donation to the Center was to help women and their kids with housing. The majority of expenses paid by the Township, besides overhead, is for single men who need housing. That is because the “rules” are that only people who receive NO other assistance from governmental units (VA, food assistance, etc.) can get the General Assistance support payments. And that used to go toward the men’s rent, although the recent rule changes allow payments to utilities, food, etc.
Cheryl Budzinski, Observer
The Peoria County Election Commission held their June meeting on FaceBook Live. Two League members tried to follow it with mixed results. One was kicked off after about 10 minutes, and even after getting back on, had no sound—only closed captioning. The other could follow most of the meeting, with sound, but had glitches at various times. The Board is hoping to meet in person in July, assuming the State is in Phase 4.
Director Tom Bride presented several budget amendments anticipating the County Board approving an increase of $300,000, and the Governor signing Senate Bill 1863, which includes measures to expand vote by mail and early voting for the November general election. (Both of these things happened that afternoon.) The office will need to mail over 68,000 vote-by-mail applications by August 1. They will need software for a second scanner, a process sorter that can scan return envelopes and verify signatures, a secure ballot box for returned ballots, printing and postage expenses for applications and ballots, and extra judges.
Savings will be found by reducing the number of early voting days at specific locations and some consolidation of polling places. Polling places located in senior living facilities will be moved to other locations that are already being used.
Director Bride is anticipating few problems with recruiting judges, since the new law will close schools on election day. This will allow teachers and students to be judges that day, taking the pressure off senior citizens who might not wish to spend the whole day with strangers.
The Commission's attorney reported that the court case concerning whether the Commission had to pay real estate taxes has been dismissed with prejudice, meaning that it is settled. The Commission will pay pro rated taxes to the landlord, who will in turn pay the City and County. Even with taxes included, rent for the location is still considered reasonable.
Chris Schmidt & Irene Pritzker
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. Trustees Cassidy, Harant, Petty, Snowden, Williams, Ryan, and Johnson were present.
Trustees approved a one-year deferral for the Donovan Sculpture Garden.
Trustees approved a Welcoming Ordinance that will be posted at District locations. The ordinance will broadly communicate that PPD is open and accessible to all residents.
Trustees were shown a new marketing approach for PPD during the pandemic. Titled “New Ways to Play” it will feature the various activity options of the district such as Peoria Park District Academy that will be located at Proctor and Lakeview Recreation Centers, Yoga in the Park, and mobile movies.
Guidance from the May 27 Trustees’ meeting for addressing the budget challenges presented by COVID-19 included the following:
Chair Cannon presided at the Board of Commissioners of the Peoria Housing Authority (PHA) Regular Meeting 6/1/20 at 4:30 PM via Zoom with all Commissioners present. There were no Community Comments. New employee, Holly Karl, Executive Assistant, was introduced.
The minutes of the May 5, 2020 meeting were approved. The Reports were approved by consent of the members, unanimously.
Jackie Newman, Chief Executive Officer, reported that while the PHA office continues to be closed to the public, the process of placing families into housing continues. Four hundred nineteen applications were processed in the past month, as well as, six hundred annual resident verifications were completed. Improvements continue to be made at properties, including replacement of gutters and gutter guards at Harrison, hydro-flushing of hydrants and sewers, improvement of boiler at Harrison, and sidewalk repair/replacement. At Taft families are being moved to central locations to facilitate caulking of windows due to water intrusion. Security camera installation at Sterling Towers is now complete. Twelve scattered units have had improvements routine maintenance improvements. PHA staff anticipate a positive score on next audit and will continue ongoing maintenance of properties.
Finance Committee met earlier in the day and Treasurer Heffner reported no issues. Resolution approved for modification of current contract with Point Services of $63,500 for complete renovation of 2411-B Starr St. due to vandal damage while vacant. Resolution approved to award professional legal services contract for evictions. Prior contract had expired; this was put out for bid.
Regular meeting was adjourned at 4:50 PM. Commissioners then went into closed session.
Connie Romanus, Observer
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