(Geneseo)- The July 23 City Council heard from Bernard Anderson, Regional Director of Community Affairs from NICOR, about what went wrong, and what went right, with the July 2 incident. While there was universal agreement that the emergency reaction from Geneseo police, fire, and electric utility personnel was excellent, hard questions about the cause, and NICOR's response were asked. Alderman Martin Rothschild (3rd Ward) said, "It took too long to get the appropriate people here. That is the perception that people in the community have." Mr. Anderson responded, "We were far away, coming from Sterling or Dixon. That may be the perception but I do not know if it is the reality." Alderman Bob Wachtel (2nd Ward) asked about the extent of the danger caused by this gas leak. "We want to know how scared we should have been," Mr. Wachtel quipped. Mr. Anderson answered "most of the gas went straight up into the atmosphere, but there were some buildings close by that had significant gas levels, and that is dangerous." Mayor Kathy Carroll-Duda then asked how the line was hit, "Who is responsible for marking it?"Mr. Anderson disclosed that the contractor hired for that duty by NICOR is USIC of Des Moines, IA, a fact first reported by the Republic in the July 12 edition. Mr. Anderson said, with regards to culpability, "the investigation continues." To which Mr. Rothschild asked incredulously, "I want to know, we all want to know." Chief Casey Disterhoft presented a Power Point about the the new Recreational Cannabis Act (HB1438), that takes effect January 1, 2020. While the City of Geneseo cannot prevent legal use of marijuana in the city limits, they can prevent the opening of a sales or grow center. During Public Comment, Rev. Stephen Palm, head of the Geneseo Ministerial Association, spoke strongly against recreational marijuana. "It strips people of their motivation and drive. We need the next generation to be sober. Let's preserve our community's values." Two other residents spoke against, and one in favor, of the new law. Individuals will be able to have up to 30 grams of marijuana for personal use on their own private property, the Chief explained. Alderman Sean Johnson said, "This law was not necessarily properly thought through." Much concern was expressed about driving while high. Alderman Bob James (2nd Ward) said, "Reports out of Colorado are that fatal crashes are up 21%." The City will hold a Public Hearing on this issue in the near future, possibly in September. The Council passed 7-1 (Mr. James dissenting) an updated ordinance regarding utility shut offs. Shut off door tags will be hung one day, and shut off will occur the next if payment is not made by 2:30 PM. A $250 after hours reconnect fee is an option, or people can wait fir the next business day to be reconnected without that penalty. A discussion was then held about expanding a partnership with Augustana College for another year at $5000. The students will help with parkway tree mapping, social media/videos, and stormwater issues. Alderman Craig Arnold (1st Ward) questioned the value and need of some of those services and voted no, as it passed 7-1. A discussion was held about a reschedule date for "Thrill on the Hill", including fireworks. With July 3, 2020 falling on a Holiday Friday, Interim City Administrator Dawn Tubbs noted the overtime impacts on city employees. Alderman Paula Simosky proposed July 2 as an option. Aldermen Arnold, James, and Johnson all spoke of removing city employees and staff from roles serving and preparing alcohol and food at the event, Mr. Arnold said, "Let's turn it into a 'Taste of Geneseo.' and Mr. Johnson said, "I'm speaking for city employees who do not want to be forced to sell alcohol." More discussion on the subject will be held at a future meeting. Chief Disterhoft announced that Tim Steines will become Geneseo's 14th and final sworn officer. Mr. Steines just retired as a Lieutenant with the City of Rock Island after 28 years of service. He has special expertise in narcotics enforcement.
The Council next meets August 13 at 6 PM.