Geneseo Council addresses streets and cemeteries

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic
Geneseo City Hall

The Geneseo City council had a full agenda Tuesday May 24.  All council members were in attendance.  

As a matter of general information, City Administrator Jo Hollenkamp addressed questions several community members had as to the reason for a July 2 date for Geneseo Fireworks.  She stated that the company who puts on the display would not allow July 4 as a rain date. By scheduling the display for July 2, a July 3 rain date is available to the City. This year, the fireworks will be a stand alone event, with hopes that the traditional Thrill on the Hill can return in 2022.

The findings of the IMEG study of the block of North Center Street between Exchange and Brown were brought to the Council.  The street measures only 31 feet across, not wide enough to allow parking on both sides, and two way traffic.  The Council was advised to limit parking to the west side of the street in that block. The motion was passed unanimously.

The city attorney Derke Price was on hand to advise the council regarding a volunteer committee for the Cemetery that insurance would not cover volunteers using mowers or weed eaters.  Volunteers would be allowed to assist in clean up, ie: removing debris after winter or a windstorm. 

A lengthy discussion about the Cemeteries ensued.  The rules and regulations that are posted at the entrance of Oakwood Cemetery will be adhered to.  No decorations on a grave will be allowed unless directly on the stone itself. The period from November 1 to March 31, that provision is waived, grave blankets and wreaths are allowed in that period. 

The idea of flat markers only being allowed whenever a new section was opened was introduced to the Council, who summarily declined the idea.  The cemetery expense is $82,000 annually for upkeep.  Cemeteries have no revenue producing events that help offset that. Currently City staff and 8 part time employees are utilized to take care of the Cemetery upkeep. 

Craig Arnold (Ward 1) noted that years ago, the cemeteries were the green spaces before parks, and it was not uncommon for families to picnic or visit deceased loved ones as a family outing. Now the police are called if someone is caught walking a dog in the cemetery, which is not prohibited.  Arnold commented there should be a way to utilize them, drawing attention to their place in the community.  Keith Kennett (Ward 3) suggested a Celebration of Life event. The motion was made to return the issue back to the Committee for further discussion and thoughts. 

The Council went over the 6 month audit of City finances for July through December of 2019.  The change was made of the fiscal year to coincide with the calendar year, to make budgeting easier. 

A committee was formed regarding the suggestions given by the Geneseo Creek Study.  City Administrator, Jo Hollenkamp, City Engineer, Chad VandeWoestyne, and councilmen Brett Barnhart and Doug Crow will make up the committee.

Gaming once again came in front of the Council.  Illinois statute allows 10 gaming machines in truck stops. Per City Attorney Derke Price, the Illinois statute supersedes the city's provisions for only 6 machines. The proposal to amend the city provisions to align with the Illinois statutes was made, and passed. 

The final step in approving bonding $4.2 million for the outstanding police pension was done, and approved unanimously by the Council.  This move will save the City more than $2 million in interest fees. 

A number of members of the community attended in order to voice concerns over items on the Agenda.  Don Beck, a member of the "All for Arts" group in Geneseo would like to see a Beautification Committee created.  He called attention to the poor timing of Clean Up week and the High School graduation occurring the same weekend. 

Matt Schramm of Green River Hobbles, who has an entrance to his building off Center Street, noted that any one way traffic on Center would only cause confusion, and supported only parking on one side of the street. 

Paula Simosky (Ward 1) wanted to state that other communities have begun closing streets to enable outdoor dining, and that allowing Geneseo to do it would be an enhancement to night life in the downtown.