BELLEVILLE — The City Council voted 14-1 on Monday not to put up a fence around a downtown corner lot destroyed by a fire two years ago.
"Our legal counsel has advised that we take no action at this time," Mayor Mark Eckert said.
Spending money on the fence at this time could affect the lawsuit, Eckert said after the meeting.
The city awaits results of a lawsuit that will determine the responsible party for cleanup of the overgrown, sunken lot at South Jackson and East Main streets.
A temporary, orange-colored plastic fence, a "no trespassing" sign and wooden "City of Belleville" barricades currently surround the "hole."
The City Council went into executive session for about 30 minutes to discuss whether to approve up to $7,000 to put up a 6-feet high chain link fence around the site. Aldermen also discussed in closed session a union contract and three worker's compensation settlements.
Ward 4 Alderman Dean Hardt was the only alderman who voted "yes" to approve the funds to put up a fence.
Hardt said after the meeting he did not think that putting up a fence will affect the lawsuit.
"We're simply installing that fence on the city's property and therefore we are not taking on any liablity or responsibility, or agreeing that we are, by putting up a fence on our own property," Hardt said.
Some city officials believe that putting up a fence will indicate the city takes some responsibility for what occurs at the site.
After a fire in May 2010, property owner Ronnie Phillips sued the city for unlawfully tearing down his commercial building.
The city then countersued Phillips, asking a judge to force Phillips to pay for demolition and debris removal at his lots. The city believes the mayor rightfully removed a dangerous structure.
Hardt also believes the city has the responsibility to protect itself from potential liability and to make the area more appealing, especially during the busy holiday shopping season.
Last week, several aldermen expressed views similar to Hardt's. However, on Monday, they decided to vote based on the legal advice they were given.
Ward 1 Alderman Michael Heisler was absent.
Also on Monday:
* Aldermen voted 15-0 to approve a three-year contract for union operating engineers.
About 15 employees of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 148 will get base wage raises of 2 percent the first year, 2.5 percent the second year and 2.5 percent the third year.
Raises for the first year will be retroactive to May 1.
The contract also calls for a minimum raise of 2.5 percent for a fourth year, and for negotiations for that wage increase to begin no later than 30 days before the anniversary of the scheduled increase.
Also, new employees will be required to live within the city's corporate limits and they have 15 months from their hire date to comply.
Starting the second year of this contract, bargaining members with 12 or more years of service will be allowed to live within St. Clair County.
* Aldermen voted 15-0 to settle two workman's compensation cases: $27,601 to city sanitation worker, Kip Schneider, and $14,605 to city wastewater treatment worker, John Massa.
* Aldermen voted 15-0 to approve a special use permit for a liquor license for The Abbey at 5801 W. Main St.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.