Citizens’ input needed by city

Lisa Depies

Geneseo officials are appealing to the public to help set a course for the city’s future.

Mayor Pat Eberhardt and economic development director Heather Roberts presented information at the?Jan. 12 city council meeting on the MAPPING?(Management and Planning Programs Involving Non-Metropolitan?Group) program.

The goal of the program is to bring city leaders and interested citizens together to create a vision for the future.

“We want this to be a community project,” said Eberhardt.

Roberts said the plan is to “open a dialog with the community in a more formal setting.”

Geneseo will receive assistance from the Illinois Institutions for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.

A small steering committee will be created, with that committee inviting a group of citizens to a series of seven, two-hour sessions.

The sessions will be designed to answer questions such as “Where are we now?”?“Where do we want to be?” and “How do we get there?”

“MAPPING will help us develop the future of economic development strategies in the community,”?said Eberhardt.

“We’re not perceived as leaders of the community,” said Roberts. “This is a way to show that we are leaders; we are at the forefront of economic development.”

The city’s tight budget “means we need to prioritize where we put funding” said Roberts. “This will help us see where the community wants us to put our money.”

The goal of MAPPING is to develop a three-to-five year strategic plan for the city.

Eberhardt said the project should take several months and end with a town meeting in May.

At the Jan. 12 meeting, council members voted 7-1 to table an ordinance which would allow a cell tower to be built on private land in the city. Alderman Arnie Schmid voted against tabling the issue.

Tower Sites Inc. and iWireless officials would like to build a 150-foot cell tower on land owned by Tom Steele on Exchange Street.

Previously, a cell tower was to be built on electric department property near the Old Athletic Field. The Steele property and the electric department property are separated by the railroad tracks.

The electric department property was rejected by developers because the land where the tower would be erected is contaminated.

Alderman Schmid said the contamination stems from when diesel fuel for the power plant engines was stored at that site. A limited amount may have spilled over the years, contaminating the site, he said.

The city’s wireless communication facility sites ordinance list locations in town where cell towers may be placed. The list only includes sites owned by the city, school district or St. Malachy’s Church.

The ordinance was written a decade ago. “I feel any ordinance that comes from 1999 needs to be reviewed,” said alderman Linda Van?Der Leest.

Some sites listed in the ordinance may no longer be eligible for cell towers, while others may need to be added.

Alderman Curt Spensley said a review of the ordinance was necessary to prevent future confusion. “Let’s do it right, and do it once.”

iWireless representative Andy Anderson urged the council to review the ordinance “as rapidly as possible.”

“More and more people in Geneseo are using cell phone service not only for talking, but for texting, and it consumes huge amounts of our capacity,” he said. “There is a genuine need for new sites, and I’m sure other wireless providers are in the same boat.”

At the Jan. 12 council meeting, aldermen also:

• Approved waiving a $336 building permit fee for Concordia Lutheran Church which is re-roofing a portion of its building.

The city has traditionally waived building fees for church or other taxing body projects, however that standard may end.

“We need to start looking at ways to increase income or decrease the budget,”?said alderman Ed Deener.

“I don’t know how long we can afford to keep waiving (the building fees),”?said Eberhardt.

The issue will be discussed by the city’s administrative services board.

• Learned repair parts for one of the city’s wind towers are expected to arrive in February. The parts are being shipped to Geneseo from Germany at no cost to the city. The parts are under warranty, and all other costs will be covered by Vensys, the German­ company that built the towers.

• Commended the Geneseo Police Department and all other law enforcement personnel who responded to the hostage situation in Geneseo on Dec. 11. In a letter to the police chief,

Eberhardt acknowledged the responding departments “bravery and professionalism.”

The downtown business community also was recognized for its “willingness to work together to solve this dangerous situation.”

Geneseo police chief Tom Piotrowski told the council he was “glad the situation was peaceful – for the most part— and nobody got hurt.”

He said the response from other law enforcement agencies showed “mutual aid agreements do work.”