Council approves mowing bid

This July 2017 photo shows a sign at a non-city owned lot on Payne Street that the city did not mow. City officials recently discussed mowing plans for this summer, with the possibility of more than 400 lots on the list.

DANVILLE — With spring here and grass getting greener, mowing will be just around the corner.

The Danville City Council Tuesday night approved a contract not to exceed $90,000 with Sprague Lawn Care to mow around 497 lots in the city.

The agreement is at a rate of $29 per lot based upon the average mowing of each property every six weeks for a 30-week period for city-owned and privately-held, non city-owned lots.

Danville Public Works Director Carl Carpenter said right now there are 497 lots on the list. That number fluctuates throughout the year. 

Some are city-owned vacant and abandoned lots acquired for blight removal purposes while others are privately-owned abandoned lots which are not being maintained by their owners and become a nuisance to the neighborhood.

City officials also looked into having city employees mow all the lots. The estimated cost for labor and equipment was $104,000.

"It still will be cheaper for us to farm this out if that's the way we decide to go," Carpenter told aldermen earlier this month.

He said they'd like to start the lot mowing in April this year so as not to have knee-high grass when starting in May like last year.

City officials internally also brought up "why are we even cutting Vermilion County Trust lots? The trustee is paid by the county to maintain the property. We need to enforce that with them," Carpenter said.

If that is done, it would bring the number of lots down to about 265 for which the city would be responsible, he said.

Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said he was to have a meeting with Vermilion County Board Chairman Larry Baughn to talk about that and other issues. That meeting has not yet occurred.

Carpenter said they won't be cutting back on any of the lot mowing, but added "there's no reason why we're maintaining the county's property for them. We're not being paid for that."

City officials want to talk about being compensated for that service.

"(The lots) will be mowed until that can be determined," Carpenter said. He also added there is a breakdown in communication when lots are sold.

Sprague in the past has gone to a lot to mow and found someone living in the house the city thought was vacant. The city isn't always notified when lots are sold, he said.

"We want to minimize that as much as we can because that will help," Carpenter said. He said about 40 to 50 lots could come off the list this year, but more have and will be added partly with the demolitions of dilapidated structures the city has completed this year. 

Carpenter said grass on those newly demolished structure lots likely won't be tall enough to mow until about July with normal rainfall.

Ward 6 Alderman Aaron Troglia said $29 a lot is a great deal.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sherry Pickering asked city officials to keep an eye on Sprague to make sure all lots are being maintained.

Carpenter also told aldermen the city tore down a dilapidated house at Ohio and Main streets, which he said is "a huge improvement," and they continue to tear down houses as they can.

In addition Tuesday, council members went into closed session to talk about the setting of a property price and purchase or lease of property by a public body.

In other business, the council approved:

• Appropriating $210,000 in motor fuel tax funds to rehabilitate the Voorhees Street bridge over lick Creek (east of Michigan Avenue) and approving project development (phase 1) engineering services for $78,700 with Farnsworth Group of Champaign. The city has applied for $1.06 million in special bridge funding for construction and construction engineering with a 20 percent city match of $265,200 required.

• Appropriating $230,000 in motor fuel tax funds to rehabilitate the Voorhees Street bridge over East Fork Lick Creek (west of Lynch) and approving project development (Phase 1) engineering services in the amount of $78,700 with Farnsworth Group. The city has applied for $1.1 million in special bridge funding with a 20 percent local match of $291,800 required.

Williams and City Engineer Sam Cole said most people don't know the bridges are there over the creek, such as the one near Second Church of Christ.

Williams said the bridges are estimated at five to seven years away from failing, with that roadway being important for the public, major factories and employees.

Cole said the bridges were built in the early 1960s.

• Abating part of the 2019 tax levy by $734,500 with the reduction coming in the bonds and interest levy, and that principal and interest be paid from various funds. The city had passed an ordinance providing for the issuance of general obligation refunding bonds which included $3.4 million in new bonds to finance the refunding of the prior bonds and to pay costs of issuance of the bonds. City officials have determined there are sufficent funds to cover the estimated extension amount for the general obligation bond refunding series 2019.

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