DANVILLE — Danville City Council action Tuesday night to earmark $4 million in city general fund reserves for blight removal, relates to union negotiations.
Some aldermen were concerned about this and other items on the agenda, not going to committee first for discussion, prior to a final vote. The council voted 8 to 3, with aldermen Jim Poshard and Rick Strebing absent and one council vacancy, to table a vote to Oct. 19 on city non-union employee residency requirements to increase from a five-mile to a 45-mile radius outside city limits.
Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said this is something that could be offered in union negotiations. It could be for all employees, in order to get the best qualified candidates, he said,
Williams said the city has continued to have issues in finding engineers and filling other positions. Department heads are still to live within a five mile radius.
The council voted 8-4, with Williams providing the eighth majority vote, to remove the annual residency contribution fee, for those who live outside city boundaries but within the radius. The proposal was to have the fee fixed at $600 and deducted from paychecks over the calendar year, to replace property tax payments.
Ward 7 Alderman Bob Iverson, who voted against getting rid of the fee for employees living outside city limits, said he thought the fee was well liked by city residents.
Ward 1 Alderwoman Brenda Brown and Ward 4 Alderwoman Tricia Teague asked what was the urgency for these votes, saying there’s been no committee discussion and they’ve not gotten constituent feedback.
Williams said the urgency in the $4 million budget amendment to demolish Bresee Tower and other downtown buildings is because the city isn’t in compliance with its financial policy and unions are trying to access the reserve funds for wage increases.
He said unions are starting to ask for that money, and building up reserves to $9 million is “not to make city employees richer.”
Aldermen approved the financial policy amendment to demolish Bresee Tower and other buildings in the downtown area by a 9-2 vote, with Teague and Brown voting against it.
Ward 4 Alderman Mike O’Kane too said he didn’t like the fact they got hurried into the vote.
Williams said the amendment should have been brought for council action earlier in the city’s fiscal year that started May 1, such as in May or June.
City officials have estimated it will take $2.5 million to tear down Bresee Tower, 4 N. Vermilion St., and the annex, 6 N. Vermilion St., not including asbestos abatement, fill and other costs. The county also is to partner on the annex with the city.
The additional money would be used to demolish city-owned 129 and 129 1/2 N. Vermilion St., two short buildings north of DC Fitness, which have been unoccupied for 10 years and had roof leaks and are completely rotten with most of the floor gone, according to Williams; the former Model Star Laundry and adjoining buildings at 15 N. Jackson St., 208 Van Buren and 22-24 Washington streets; and the former night club buildings at 124 and 128 N. Walnut St. that had housed Studio 25 and other clubs in which the roof is falling into the street, Williams said.
Aldermen also heard Williams’ city proclamation for the 175th anniversary of the Olive Branch Lodge No. 38, a masonic lodge in Danville, and heard from Vermilion County Museum Director Sue Richter about not making Lafayette Street one-way and narrowed with the Carle project. Richter said it’s a safety issue for museum visitors and buses traveling to the museum off busier Gilbert Street.
In other business, the council approved:
- Several board and commission appointments: reappointing Stephen Nacco and George Dowell to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners; appointing Aaron Troglia to replace Ted Vacketta and reappointing Troy Savalick to the Danville Area Planning and Zoning Commission; reappointing Linda Bolton, Mark Denman and Mary Reik to the Danville Public Library Board; reappointing Scott Dowers to the David S. Palmer Arena board; reappointing Melissa Rome to the Vermilion County Emergency Telephone System Board 911; and reappointing Martha Espino, Darren York, Mary Thompson and Barbara McHone and appointing Lester Potts to replace Quan Chen, all for four-year terms, on the Danville Human Relations Commission.
- A $50,000 budget amendment for downtown holiday decorations. Brown said this was another item that didn’t come to committee first. Aldermen voted 8-3 not to remove this and the financial policy amendment from the agenda for action Tuesday night. Williams said the order needs to be placed now for Christmas cascading lights and other decorations downtown to get them in time for the holidays. “I choked at $50,000,” O’Kane said, adding that this large cost is coming at a time when residents will soon see higher sewer bills. He also asked why Downtown Danville Inc. isn’t paying toward this. City officials said the majority of the decorations have a six-year warranty, and these are commercial-grade. Funding comes from the city’s general fund reserves.
- Amending city code pertaining to the Danville Police Department. The rank of deputy chief(s) would be created, and the rank of commander would be replaced with lieutenant.
- A waiver for the sale of a side lot property at 1504 Cleveland Ave. to city council alderwoman Sharon Pickering, The side lots are sold for $99.
- Amendments to the city and Harrison Park budgets as hotel/motel tax revenue has been higher than expected, and to reflect the change in the business operation structure of the pro shop at Harrison Park Golf Course. The city had budgeted $375,000 in hotel/motel tax revenue and has added an additional $225,000.