A vote on Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s amended budget could come as soon as next Tuesday, but first the City Council needs to approve two new divisions in the mayor’s administration. City Council attorney Jim Rossler said it would be unlawful to fund Stimpson’s new IT Director’s budget and Planning and Urban Development Director’s budget without first approving their divisions.
“Those divisions should be approved by the council before they are budgeted,” Rossler said during a Finance Committee meeting this afternoon, where two out of three councilors voted to recommend Stimpson’s budget to the full council at its April 1 meeting. Finance Committee Chairman Joel Daves and Bess Rich voted in favor of the recommendation, while City Council Vice President Fred Richardson abstained, citing the unapproved divisions.
Rossler said the City Council can vote on the administrative divisions and the budget revisions on the same agenda next week.
Stimpson himself didn’t attend today’s Finance Committee meeting but commented earlier that he couldn’t think “of any outstanding questions” the City Council may have about the budget and said he “felt good” about it passing.
Except for John Williams, every member of the council attended today’s finance committee meeting, but it appeared few significant concerns remained. Richardson indicated he was still hesitant about the administration’s plan to delay a fire department recruitment class for a year as well as how it was moving performance contracts from departments where they had intentionally been embedded.
Finance Director Paul Wesch responded with the administration’s talking point that the cancellation of a cadet class was actually recommended by the fire department as a part of its “ground up” budgeting process and the resulting $1.39 million reduction is reflective of unfilled budgeted positions.
Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Colby Cooper reiterated that the only thing that was changing about the performance contracts was their “location on paper.” Richardson asked how moving the Boys & Girls Club’s $339,754 from the police department’s budget to its own line item would affect the police Explorer’s program.
Cooper said Police Chief James Barber was committed to maintaining the Explorer’s program but also mentioned for the first time publically that the program was the subject of a federal investigation. Last year, this newspaper ran a series of reports about how federal grants intended for underprivileged youth through the Explorer’s program may have been diverted to benefit city staff and their children.
OTHER CITY COUNCIL ACTION
At an earlier City Council meeting, Councilman Levon Manzie requested a two-week holdover of a new resolution on form-based code. After years of negotiations, residents of DeTonti Square still haven’t wholly signed onto the plan, which would assign an inflexible development code to replace its current mixed-use.
“I know a lot of discussion and deliberation has already taken place relative to what is being proposed, but some have not come to an agreement,” Manzie said. “I hope to take these next two weeks to get all the parties to the table and have something palatable to both sides of community in DeTonti Square.”
The council’s Public Service Committee will discuss the code at a meeting at 1 p.m. April 1 in the council’s 9th floor conference room. Affected parties are encouraged to attend.
A stink over portable restrooms may come to a head next year, when the council considers an annual contract to place the plastic potties at various parks around town. Councilman C.J. Small said it may not be a Number 1 or Number 2 priority right now, but eventually the city needs to discuss installing permanent restrooms in more of its parks.
Bill Harkins, the new executive director of public works, said of the city’s 92 parks and facilities, only 34 have “hardened” restrooms while only seven more have portable toilets. In the other 51, there is only nature when nature calls.
Significant contracts being introduced or approved included a $174,792 contract with Bill Smith Electric, Inc. for lighting on the baseball diamonds at James M. Seals Jr. Park and a $165,247 contract with Illinois Central Railroad Company for improvements to Ann Street around a railroad crossing south of Government Street.
Another issue that was held over for a later meeting was the waiver of a business license requirement for property owners around Ladd Stadium who want to sell overflow parking during special events. Rossler told the council he would need another two weeks to work out the parameters of enforcement with the police department.