Belleville Council: Some make stink over $15K to enclose trash bins

News-DemocratJuly 19, 2013 

— Some City Council representatives are making a stink over money the city will spend to enclose large garbage containers for businesses that use them.

The city will spend $15,484 in tax increment financing money to hire Calhoun Construction to build the cinder block enclosure around two trash receptacles, a grease bin and a recycle bin used by Tavern on Main, Eye on Design, Blue Agave and Big Daddy's 618 off East Main Street.

The trash bins are off the city's parking lot at North Church and East A streets and next to Liese Lumber Co.'s warehouse.

The City Council approved the plan with a 9-5 vote Monday.

Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult, Ward 5 Alderman Joseph Hayden, Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti, Ward 8 Alderman Joe Orlet and Alderman-At-Large Lillian Schneider voted against this move.

Hult said she voted no because the city is essentially spending taxpayers' money to build a fence around a garbage bin on public property that would serve four private businesses that in turn do not have to pay rent to the city. She also said she understands that without a fence, the trash bins' close proximity to Liese Lumber Co. creates a fire hazard.

However, she opposes not charging these businesses for using city property.

"I am frustrated with the inconsistency," Hult said. "They're putting it on our land and we are not charging anything for it, but we are spending extra money to box it in."

Scott Schmelzel, co-owner of Big Daddy's 618 at 313 E. Main St., said his and neighboring businesses need a more secure space for trash collection. He said the occasional overflow of garbage comes not only from the bars and restaurants like his, but also seasonal festivals that are downtown.

"Downtown has been doing very well at night, but there is a lot of trash, not just from our block, but from people from blocks away," Schmelzel said. "It's very dangerous."

He also said aldermen should realize the level of business and tax revenue that his and others generate in the city. He said Big Daddy's 618 has invested more than $500,000 since opening downtown eight years ago and did it without any tax incentives or grants.

"I don't know if they are looking at the big picture," he said. "We pay licensing fees, restaurant and liquor licenses and we employ a lot of people in downtown Belleville."

Mayor Mark Eckert has met with these businesses during the past 12 months because he recognized a potential safety hazard.

Eckert said these businesses helped revitalize the downtown area.

"We've got a bustling downtown now," he said. "Wednesday through Saturday, downtown, lunchtime through late in the evening, it is very successful. We've seen just what we've been working for. A lot of people visit just to eat and to socialize and enjoy our downtown, the walkability, the restaurants, but we're creating a little bit more trash."

Eckert also said the garbage enclosure will not only make a conditions safer, but look better and more appealing so the city can continue to grow business downtown.

"To me, it's a good use of TIF money," he said. "I think it's going to benefit those four businesses, plus Liese. You have five downtown businesses that are producing sales tax and helping the city with revenue and they're going to share in this pretty nominal fee for safety and improvements."

The nine council members who voted in favor of the trash enclosure are Ward 1 Alderman Michael Heisler, Ward 1 Alderman Ken Kinsella, Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle, Ward 3 Alderman "Gabby" Rujawitz, Ward 4 Alderman Johnnie Anthony, Ward 4 Alderman Jim Davidson, Ward 6 Alderman Paul Seibert, Ward 6 Alderman Bob White and Ward 8 Alderman James Musgrove.

Ward 2 Alderwoman Janet Schmidt and Ward 5 Alderman Phil Silsby were absent.

Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden said he voted against the move because the winning bid from Calhoun Construction was the only submitted. He said the city only accepted bids from pre-qualified union contractors.

"Which means some small construction companies would not necessarily be able to meet prequalifying standards," Hayden said. "That was a bone of contention."

Eckert said this is a consistent approach to the city's bidding process. He also said the city occasionally receives only one bid for projects.

"In the last year or so, we've had about five times when we had bids out and we've had only one person respond, and nobody's ever complained before," he said. "But now, suddenly, it's an issue."

Hayden believes the city should have rebid the project, even if the bids were to come in lower than the initial bid. He said that he and other city representatives owe it to city residents to get the best bid for their money.

"They say if they rebid it, others will know what Calhoun's bid is," Hayden said. "That may be true, but if we're rebidding and it comes in at $10,000, and we can save taxpayers $5,000, then that's our job."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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