Geneseo City Council continue to review utility rates

Infrastructure for town homes reviewed

Beth Welbers Contract Editor

The Geneseo City Council had a full plate of items at their February 25th meeting. Utility costs and revenues again dominated a portion of the meeting.  Several other items, including the demolition of public restrooms on First Street and potential vacating of Spring Street to accommodate rail traffic. The preliminary paperwork regarding new town homes being built in Geneseo was also set in motion. 

The meeting was called to order.  During the Public Comments portion, Don Beck stated that a committee to review various Ordinances should be appointed, for the purpose of bringing them up to date, especially Zoning. The Mayor spoke of the Judge Davis Trust which distributes monies to the Geneseo Park District and School District.  The attorney for the trust wishes to distribute a portion of the principal in addition to the interest. Letter was sent to the attorney to give to parties involved. 

The Board heard of The Planning Commission's decision to approve the application from Bear Development for the building of five two story 8 unit townhouses, for a total of 40 two and three bedroom apartments. A second similar development may be looked at in the future.  These will be a combination of low and moderate income apartments. Extensive dialogue occurred regarding the ability of existing infrastructure to absorb that density there, and how to handle rainwater runoff and sewer capacity. 

Recommendation was made to approve pending compliance with existing ordinances. Motion to place on the consent agenda was made by Brent Barnhart (4th Ward) and second by Martin Rothschild ( 3rd Ward). Craig Arnold (1st Ward) was the only dissenting vote. 

The City bathrooms located on First Street behind the old City Hall were recommended either for demolition by the City or to be sold as is, to the owner of the building, who can demolish them, as well as remove the HVAC unit on the roof of the bathrooms. The old City Hall is going to be the prospective home to a new high end restaurant.  The prospective owners are currently remodeling the building. An electrical easement will need to be maintained for the work the City plans to do to the alley. Motion to proceed with the demolition of the bathrooms once weather breaks and relocate the HVAC unit at the property owner’s expense, and place on the consent agenda  was made by Sean Johnson (3rd Ward),and seconded by Craig Arnold (1st Ward). Unanimous vote by the Board. 

Acquisition of 34+ acres by the City was tabled pending additional information being gathered.  Motion to table made by Brett Barnhard (4th Ward) second by  Bob Wachtel (2nd Ward). 

Electrical Rates were revisited.  Eric Rowald gave a detailed presentation on historical  revenues created by the utility, and the expenses that were incurred at the same time. At this time, expenses exceed revenue and have since 2016. Proposal of adding $15 to the basic service rate and an additional increase of 5% per KW was suggested. In the near future, at least 15 power poles per year will need replacing.  These come with a price tag of $8000 per pole for all procedures involved. Utility rates have not been increased for 14 years on the overall, and suggestion was made to review the revenues to expenses on an annual basis, maybe with smaller annual increases.  Motion was made to table until the next COW meeting March 24, to give the Department a chance to look at long term increases and pending capital project plans.  A more pro active method of approaching the capital projects should be devised, according to Alderman Wachtel, who referred to the current policy as “Whack A Mole”, in fixing each problem when it becomes an issue.  Motion to table the discussion was made by Brett Barnhart (4th Ward) and seconded by Doug Crowe(4th Ward). 

The Police Department requested the City pay to replace their fingerprinting machine, as it recently broke. A Federal Share budget will cover it, and the revenue generated from fingerprints from background checks can go back to the City's General Fund. Motion to place the fingerprint machine on the consent agenda made by Sean Johnson (3rd Ward) and second by Bob James (2nd Ward). 

The permanent closure of Spring Street was addressed to accommodate a train depot which is planned on behalf of the High Speed Rail corridor which should take in Geneseo in the undetermined future.  300 feet from the edge of the platform will be needed to allow for normal gate operation, and the loading and unloading of passengers. The street will not be vacated until construction begins. The City  would own the depot, parking lots, and platform, at an estimated cost of $2.2 million.  Motion to move forward with the legal work was made by Craig Arnold, second by Brett Barnhart, with Wachtel and Crow as dissenting votes. 

Motion to pay the bills was made by Bob Wachtel and seconded by Craig Arnold. 

Public comments included a resident who had lived in the rural community, with Mid American as her utility company, who now lives in town, who commented that Geneseo's utilities are still a bargain compared to what was being paid while in the rural community. Rev. Palm commended local law enforcement on handling of a recent missing teen, and was amazed by the response of people on social media on getting the word out.  The teen was returned home within hours safely. He also commented that should the City decide to make improvements to sewer lines in the area of the Evangelical Free Church, consideration should be given to the church, as they would like to expand sometime in the future.

The Council removed to Executive Session.  Upon returning, no action was taken on the matter of a property at 602 N. Center St, and would be sent to counsel. Motion to do so was made by Craig Arnold, and seconded by Sean Johnson. Motion to adjourn. Council next meets on March 10.