The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

January 8, 2014

Council votes to remove dams

Potential for lawsuits sways members

DANVILLE — Danville aldermen on Tuesday approved two resolutions that will ultimately see the removal of the Ellsworth Dam and the Danville Dam.

Funding for the removal of both dams will come from Illinois Department of Natural Resources. After nearly two hours of discussion as well as audience comments, the council voted by a 13 - 1 vote to remove the Danville Dam and by a 12 - 2 vote to remove the Ellsworth Dam.

It was apparent that several aldermen changed their minds on the dam issue after alderman Steve Foster told the council that his research showed that the city would significantly risk the amount of punitive damages it could pay if someone else is injured or drowns because of the dams.

"If we have the opportunity to remove these dams and at no cost to the city, if someone is injured or drowns around either of these dams, we are going to be liable and we could be made to pay millions of dollars due to our liability for not removing these dangers when we had the chance," Foster told the council.

Corporation counsel David Wesner backed up what Foster said.

"Not removing the dams when we have the opportunity could create a huge liability for the city if there were a lawsuit," added Wesner. "Punitive damages from a lawsuit are not covered by city insurance and cannot be paid out of the general fund. A separate tax would have to be levied on the residents to pay any court-awarded damages."

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources had presented its report to the city with recommendations concerning the Danville Dam behind the Public Safety Building and also the Ellsworth Park Dam.

Alderman Bill Black said that the funds that the IDNR is using for the dams removal are from bonds that can only be used for dam removal.

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