Geneseo honors graduates, debates re-opening businesses

Beth Welbers

The Geneseo City Council met on Tuesday May 12 via teleconference. Mayor Sean Johnson called the meeting to order, with all members in attendance, a prayer from Pastor Steven Palm called for help in these trying times.

The Geneseo Chamber director, Zack Sullivan, gave a summary of the recent Virtual Artwalk, which replaced the physical one this year. More than 5000 people viewed the event on the Chamber's Facebook page. Several other prospective events may come to be, including a series of Canal Cruises, which fit into the Governor's new parameters, since they accommodate 32 people per cruise. A Taste of Geneseo discount card program is being considered, as well. An event for Memorial Day is in the works, as the Aisle of Flags has been canceled. More will be coming later, regarding this event.

“More needs to be done, the Governor's plan is too slow. Local businesses are hurting,” said Sullivan, during the meeting. The suggestion of following several downstate communities, and taking legal action against the Governor was made. Alderman Craig Arnold (Ward 1) noted that the smaller local stores seldom have more than a few people at a time in the building, well within the governor's guidelines, and no reason that retail outlets should not re-open. Restaurants could limit patrons to every other table, as they are also anxious to re-open. Bob Wachtel (Ward 2) urged “ Open Geneseo businesses now. It can be done safely and the economy needs it.” Martin Rothschild (Ward 3) stated that hair salons are due to re-open next month.

During the Mayor's comments, acknowledgement was given to businesses and citizens who have suffered hardships during the recent weeks. The Class of 2020 was given special advice from the Mayor, “On behalf of the City of Geneseo I want to say “you are not forgotten”. History has forever changed how you will remember your senior year. Taken from you amidst all this chaos have been so many wonderful senior year events and experiences. Graduation that we have all come to know will not happen as we once knew it. There is nothing I or anyone else can say to ease this pain. I want to encourage each and every one of you as you go forward in life to remember one thing. “In the middle of all difficulty lies opportunity. I call on each and every one of you seize the opportunity life has given you under these most difficult of times”. Let the fear you feel sharpen you, let it challenge you. Please remember from all of us when we think of the future, we think of you, the Class of 2020.”

The Mayor also recognized National Police Week, and the sacrifices of law enforcement, nationwide.

Alderman Doug Crow (Ward 4) suggested that each Alderman nominate someone from their ward for recognition of service to others, and their community during this time period.

Finance Director Jamie Matthews stated there was not a lot of change since the last meeting. Geneseo should be ok, financially at this time.

Bob Wachtel (Ward 2) asked what kind of response to the Census has come out of Geneseo. The response was that 70% of residents had answered, putting them at the top of many of the local communities, and the highest percentage in the Quad City metro area. Motion to approve the financial report by Brett Barnhart (Ward 4), second by Craig Arnold (Ward 1).

Approvals on the Consent Agenda were quickly managed, with highlights being the revision of verbiage on Solicitors and Hawkers, the vacating of Spring Street, and acquisition of a parcel of ground for drainage concerns. Approval of the Consent agenda was made by Arnold (Ward 1), and seconded by Wachtel (Ward 2).

The Administration also took a moment to recognize Larry Meyers for decades of service on the Planning Commission, in light of his recent retirement. The council appointed Joe Bedford and Rhonda Ludwig to vacancies on that board, due to the retirement of Meyers, and election of Keith Kennett to the city council.

The Council looked at the fate of the Thrill on the Hill event, scheduled to occur on the 2nd of July, and the fact that the event would be in violation of the Governor's guidelines for gatherings. The City has the fireworks paid for, so having the display move to another event or time would be possible. Whether the city have the display at the Christmas Walk, or some other time, once the Governor's Phase 5 is allowed. At this time, though, motion to cancel the event was made by Arnold (Ward 1), second by Rothschild (Ward 3), with Crow (Ward 4) as the dissenting vote.

Motion to pay the bills was made by Wachtel (Ward 2 ), seconded by Arnold (Ward 1).

In public comments, Pastor Palm thanked Zack Sullivan for his concern for the community. He noted how the Governor's standards are flawed on the number of people that are allowed to convene, citing how only 50 allowed to be in the structure of his church, which has many areas where 50 people could worship in social distance. He urged the community to push back against the Governor's advice that no one be allowed to go back to work until a cure is found.

The council adjourned to Executive Session. Upon return from that session, implementation of a city wide retirement incentive program developed by the staff was approved unanimously. Motion to adjourn was made by Wachtel (Ward 2), seconded by Arnold (Ward 2).