BY JENNIFER BAILEY
City Council members on Tuesday approved placing the city’s proposed 2013-2014 budget on public display for two weeks prior to final action on April 2.
There were no public comments and only two alderman comments at the council meeting about the city’s spending plan for the next fiscal year. It starts May 1. The city’s proposed $50 million budget is a 2.4 percent increase from this year’s budget.
Ward 7 Alderman Bill Black asked about the city’s rainy day fund of $1.2 million the city keeps in reserve as per its financial policy.
Black again said he believed the city should have cut more costs in case the state cuts its revenue to the city.
Ward 1 Alderman Rickey Williams Jr. also again voiced his concerns about the city having too much “middle management” and having several “unnecessary” positions. Personnel costs and increased salaries are a large part of the budget increase.
The city’s $22 million proposed general fund includes an increase in personnel expenses of about $563,000.
Also Tuesday, one former alderman was among those appointed to the city’s new Zoning Board of Appeals. Those appointed Tuesday night were: Ron Candido, Bruce Meachum, Tracy Taylor and Ted Vacketta.
The appointment of Linda Bolton to the board of appeals was removed from the agenda because she asked that her name be removed from consideration, according to Mayor Scott Eisenhauer. The board had been made up of three city employees.
Concerns about the board’s make-up were brought up by Black during discussions about a height variation for a cell phone tower near Provena United Samaritans Medical Center.
The zoning board of appeals now is to be a five-member board, with two persons from the zoning commission (Taylor and Vacketta) and three other city residents. The three other city residents cannot be city employees.
Danville Public Development Director John Heckler has said there often is difficulty in finding citizens who can attend monthly meetings to serve on city boards.
Other changes to the city’s zoning ordinance included the zoning board of appeal’s recommendations on major variances would be conditional for a 15-day period. An alderman or the applicant for the zoning ordinance variance could appeal the decision and the recommendation could then go before the city council.
In other appointments, Melody Ehrlich and Chris Hanson were reappointed to the Danville Area Planning and Zoning Commission, while Brad Cunningham was appointed as a new member to the board to replace David Pettigrew.
Also, Stan Grubb, Ernie Jorgenson, Kevin Mitchell, Jim Ray and Mike Vandewalker were reappointed to the Electrical Commission, while Matt Purcell, an Ameren representative, was appointed as a new member of the commission.
City council members also discussed the city’s sign ordinance.
Eldon Wright with Wright Motor Co., Gary Knight with Carmack Car Capitol and other dealerships/businesses in the city and Miles Clark, pastor at Crossroads Christian Church, were among those who spoke against the city making businesses take down banner signs. Recent letters from city inspectors threatened the establishments with fines.
“This has been a knee-jerk reaction,” Clark said.
Ward 7 Alderman Steve Foster agreed, saying when he brought up the signs issue last year to be reviewed, he asked that dilapidated signs flying out in the streets and intersections considered.
“I was really shocked by the letter,” Foster said about the letters the city sent to businesses that had nonconforming signs in general to the city’s sign ordinance. “That is not the intent of the ordinance. It overdressed the problem.”
Eisenhauer met earlier in the day Tuesday with Black and Knight about the issue. It was decided that a group of people be put together to go through the ordinance and provide a re-write.
In the meantime, businesses can put their “feather flags” and other banner signs back up.
“We just won’t enforce it,” Eisenhauer said about the banner section of the temporary sign ordinance until a rewrite of the ordinance is complete.
The entire ordinance isn’t suspended as a whole. There also will be no fines collected on those businesses that received letters.
Black said Village Mall Manager Cindy Compton called Black expressing confusion about the ordinance and stating that Ross Dress for Less also had taken down signs per the city’s ordinance.
Compton wants to serve on the sign committee, Black said.
“We don’t have staff to monitor a certain number of days (a sign can be up),” Black added about the ordinance. He said the city must adopt a more business-oriented ordinance.
Knight and others complained the city hasn’t been enforcing the sign ordinance since the zoning ordinance was changed in 2008.
“Business is not the enemy. Why can’t the city support the businesses that have a history here?” Knight said. “The city’s attitude to small business must change.”
“We put these (signs) up to drive business,” Wright said.
Wright and Clark said more disturbing signs and images than banner signs are the for sale signs, such as in front of the former Fazoli’s, and empty buildings around the city.
“I think a huge part of this is the way it was approached,” Clark said.
Ward 4 Alderwoman Sharon McMahon agreed, saying “we have to be a little nicer. It’s terrible to treat people like that.”
More than 50 business owners in the city received letters in late February from the city asking that specific signs be removed before March 15 to avoid $100 per-day fines.
The city letter stated that the city recently performed a non-targeted survey of commercial properties and found illegal signs posted at businesses.
Business signage is allowed through the permitting process described in city ordinances.
In other business, the city council: