Your city council has been working hard for you.
Three of the last four meetings have gone until after 8:30pm – more than 3 hours!
Here’s a very brief summary of items of possible interest to ICON.
Animal Control Services
Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement with Sangamon County for Animal Control Services 3/1/2020-2/28/2021 for $303,289 remains tabled. Issues are with lack of service and unavailability. Zerkle: agreement is waiting to have specific performance measures added. DiCenso: County is already being paid for animal control services through the fees Springfield City residents pay for registration / tags that go to the county $600k per year. This agreement is on top of that. By state law, any police officer can handle an animal issue, and Springfield Police are doing it NOW in cooperation with local animal protection organizations.
Anti-racism continues to be on the council agenda, with the NAACP requesting the city adopt their 10 Shared Principles. Read the principles at https://www.ilchiefs.org/shared-principles.
COVID-19 Pandemic Fiscal Shortfall
COVID-19 will have a negative effect on the city budget as revenues fall short of budget projections. In 2020, pension obligations consumed 100% of Springfield property tax revenue and part of sales tax revenue; next year’s pension payments could increase $1.7m. The Mayor mentioned layoffs and furloughs.
OBM McCarty will reported on plans to cut expenses to meet the anticipated budget shortfall from COVID-19. Mayor indicated a $2-3m cost savings by departments so far.
Actions already taken & under consideration: cease spending from beginning of pandemic, extrapolated through end of fiscal year will save $3m; federal & state reimbursement likely $1-2m (could be up to $4.8m); spend down reserve; review contracts & shared services; no raises subject to collective bargaining possible $750k; furloughs & layoffs are last resort but not off the table; support IML pension ramp changes; use cannabis sale revenue.
Downtown Springfield and the Downtown TIF
Ferguson Building: a request for $3.15m in Downtown TIF funds to complete the Ferguson Building renovation was tabled. The council wants more accurate reporting on Downtown TIF money and to be sure problems won’t continue with new owner and developer. Downtown Springfield Inc. continues to bring funds into Springfield through strengthening downtown businesses and winning grant funds. The city’s $50k annual investment in DSI has a significant return on investment.
The Abraham Lincoln Association will create a replica of Lincoln’s Cottage Home at 617 S 8th St to be donated to Lincoln’s Home site.
Homelessness continues to be a discussion item. Consultant John Horn, hired by the Mayor without council vote (cost below threshold), wants to talk to council members, but they want him to present an actionable proposal.
The city continues to spend money for infrastructure improvements funded through the Motor Fuel Tax and for the Springfield Rail Improvement Project, the majority of which is funded by federal grants. The city is seeking loans to: anticipate future TIF revenue and fund current projects and to: refinance sewer bonds at a more attractive rate.
Long term infrastructure funds received: $2.55m in Rebuild Illinois Grant Funds is going, in part, for two specific projects; the rest of the funds are not yet spoken for and will be held in the Motor Fuel Tax Fund to be used for previously prioritized long-term infrastructure projects. The two projects are 1. preliminary planning for Downtown Traffic Signal modernization & one-way street conversion and 2. Stanford from 11th to Fox Bridge Road.
Problem Properties & Fly Dumping
Old Towne Apartments substandard housing: Donelan contacted by many residents. Impacting neighboring property values – never a good thing. City repair plan due middle of August. Zerkle checked on status & photographs after last week; get order from Admin Court Aug 19 status report & proposed schedule. Per diem fines back to day receiver appointed. Commercial lender disputed liability to make repairs; substantial issues with them. Public Works – admin search warrant – administrative court – go through every single apartment. Problems on interior. Intend to go through whole property. Update: the City is gaining access to the interior of every apartment to ascertain the condition.
Fly Dumping: Gregory: Wheeler, Old Rochester Road is a hotspot for fly dumping; city cleans it up frequently. Game plan to reduce repetitive work in such situations? Vacant properties, too. Repeat calls for same properties every month. Bottom: cameras.
Rail Improvement Project & Rail Right-of-Way Maintenance
Impact of construction on neighboring properties and owners and property acquisition continue to be issues; council entered exec session to discuss on 9/1/2020. Repairs to property damaged by construction (settling / cracks / broken windows / fences damaged) would be covered by rail funds, but acquisition of property deemed “not needed” by rail plan would need to be covered by the City. No vibration studies were done for construction phase of the project.
The council requested to hear from Hanson Engineers about the prioritization of vacant rental property acquisition for future phases of the rail project and about owner-occupied homeowner problems caused by current work on the 4th, 5th and 6th Street underpasses.
Rail right-of-way maintenance: Railroads have been much more responsive about maintaining rail property since the city started cutting right-of-way weeds and charging them.
Speeding and running red lights and stop signs continues to be a safety problem, with a 7-year-old boy hit in August. Chief Winslow says he is short staffed and may be even more so if they need to lay off 18 police officers. They are running speeding details for an hour a day at complaint locations / high-accident intersections / rush hour / school zones. They only write tickets 50% of the time, with a goal of compliance.