Highland News Leader

Mayor sworn in for new term, new deal inked with city manager

Highland Mayor's grandson helps him take his oath of office

Highland Mayor Joe Michaelis introduces his grandson, Camden Michaelis, who wants to be the future mayor of Highland. To give his grandson some practice, the mayor let him help while he took his oath of office.
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Highland Mayor Joe Michaelis introduces his grandson, Camden Michaelis, who wants to be the future mayor of Highland. To give his grandson some practice, the mayor let him help while he took his oath of office.

The Highland City Council officially approved a four-year contract extension with City Manager Mark Latham during its meeting May 1.

Latham, who has served as city manager for 12 years, had said late last year that he intended to retire at the end of his prior contract, which expired at the end of April. However, elected city leaders got him to reconsider, and he rescinded his letter of resignation in January.

The new contract is not much different from the old in terms of pay or benefits.

Latham will receive a yearly base salary of $128,838.

The city also agreed to pay 100 percent of the health insurance premiums for Latham and his dependents. (Latham is covered under the city’s group policy for all of its employees.) The city will also pay the premium for his life insurance and pick up his pension contributions.

The city will also provide Latham with a vehicle and cell phone for work and limited personal use and agreed to pay $1,500 per year for membership dues and other expenses associated and with Latham joining clubs or civic organizations.

The contract also allows Latham five weeks of vacation time, which can carry over into the next year.

As a term of his agreement, Latham must also retain residence within the boundaries of Highland. He will also be subject to a yearly performance review for any time between Jan. 1 and April 30 during his agreement.

During the next four years, Latham said he hopes to finish improvements to the city wastewater system, construct a new roundabout at St. Rose and Iberg roads, improve Oak Street, and improve the watershed for Silver Lake to cut the amount of sediment finding its way into the city’s reservoir. He also plans to continue the fight against Federal Emergency Management Agency over its Map Modernization Program, which designated high-risk flood areas.

Other business

Swearing in

During a special session, Councilwoman Peggy Bellm, Councilman Rick Frey, City Clerk Barbara Bellm, City Treasurer Dennis Foehner and Mayor Joe Michaelis were sworn back into their respective offices.

During the election in April, there were no contests to any of the incumbents. Each will get to serve an additional four years in their positions.

Camden Michaelis, Mayor Michaelis’ grandson, stood by him as he took his oath.

According to Mayor Michaelis, Camden told him that one day he will be the mayor of Highland, too.

“He told me that, at first, he was going to need a little help,” Michaelis said.

Because of his grandson’s ambition, the mayor thought it would be fitting to give him a little practice during the meeting. So Camden, donning a Highland city shirt that said, “The Mayor’s Grandson,” raised his right hand and stood alongside his grandfather as he repeated the oath of office.


Michaelis read a proclamation making the month of May as Motorcycle Awareness Month in Highland. According to the proclamation there are about 676,000 registered motorcyclists in the state of Illinois. The goal of the ABATE Motorcycle Awareness Month is to raise awareness levels in motorists, to help them realize that the number of motorcyclists on the road is increasing. The month is about meeting the public’s needs to help them learn about motorcycle safety.

St. Paul road closure request approved

The council approved a request from the St. Paul Catholic School, asking for a road closure during an annual spring event.

The request was for the closure of the 900 block of Lemon Street, between Ninth and Main Streets from 9 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. May 25. The reason stated was for student safety.

The Viking Parents Association, a parent group for the Catholic school, holds Student Appreciation day on both the St. Paul parish and school grounds. In addition, the parents association wants to use the grass lot east of the parish for the festivities.

According to St. Paul Principal Kathy Sherman, maintenance personnel from the school will barricade the street and will remove the barricades after the event.

Staff reports

During the staff reports, Latham reported that the city of Highland has maintained a rating of 4 in the Public Protection Classification survey.

According to Latham, the classification is given to the city every five years by the Insurance Service Office as part of the PPC survey. The score is a statistical analysis of an area’s risk.

The measurement is calculated by observing Highland’s fire suppression delivery system. The survey breaks the system down and looks at the Highland Fire Department, water distribution system and the emergency dispatch system.

According to the ISO, many insurance companies use the PPC rating to make decisions regarding rates, coverage, and charges for personal and commercial property insurance. Latham said that the worst score an area can receive is the rating of 10, while the best score is one.

“Class 4 is really, really good for us,” Latham said.

Because Highland runs solely off of a volunteer-based fire department, Latham said it is harder for the city to receive a lower class. However, in a few years, he said that achieving a class 3 rating could be possible.

Latham recognized and thanked the Public Works Director Joe Gillespie and the Highland Fire Department Chief Rick Bloemker for the work they did to help maintain the PPC rating.

Additionally, Latham reported that the assessed tax valuation in the community has gone up by 1.57 percent. According to Latham, the increase which will save the community a little bit of money.

Letter issuance

The council also approved the issuance of a letter from Latham to the Combined Planning and Zoning Board.

The letter states that Latham was authorized and directed by the City Council of Highland to submit the letter to reaffirm the council’s confidence in the decision-making ability of the CPZB.

“The Combined Planning and Zoning Board serves a vital role thoroughly vetting all petitions regarding land use for City of Highland,” Latham states in the letter. “The recommendations of the Combined Planning and Zoning Board adhere to the City of Highland Comprehensive Plan and City of Highland Zoning Code whenever possible, and permit the City Council to make informed decisions. Members of the City Council have full confidence in the Combined Planning and Zoning Board, and look forward to continuing to work as independent, but complimentary components of City of Highland.”

According to Latham, the letter was issued due to what happened at the council meeting Monday, April 17, where the council voted down a rezoning request, changing a plot of land from a R1C single-family residential property to MX, mixed-use property.

The plot of land would have been used by Wilken Development. The plan was to build a multimillion dollar living complex, with two-to three-bedroom townhouse units.

During the meeting, residents who lived in a subdivision located by the potential development site, addressed the council, listing the various reasons they opposed the development.

After a lengthy discussion, the council voted down the rezoning, going against the recommendations of the Combined Planning and Zoning Board. This made voting on the additional special-use permit request associated with operating the dwelling unnecessary.

According to Latham, this is the first time in years that the council did not support the recommendations of the Combined Planning and Zoning Board, which is why the letter issuance was needed.

However, Latham said that the council has decided to revisit the ruling and reconsider letting the development proceed. He said that the development will go through the CZPB on May 3, and may appear again on the city council agenda for the May 15 meeting.

Schwiezerfest road closures approved

The council approved various road closure requests from the Highland Jaycees for their annual Schweizerfest event.

On June 9, Illinois Route 160, from Laurel Street to Washington Street will be closed beginning at 9 a.m. The same route will be closed June 10-12, beginning at 5 a.m. In addition Illinois Route 160 will be closed from Spindler Lane to Olive Street on June 10 and 11, from 4:45 to 6:30 p.m., for the Schweizerfest parades.

Eastbound traffic is recommended to detour west on Highland Road from Illinois Route 160 to Hemlock Street, then go north on Hemlock to U.S. Route 40, then east on 40 to Route 160. Westbound traffic should detour west on U.S. Route 40 to Hemlock, then take Hemlock south to Highland Road, then east on Highland Road to Illinois Route 160.

Schweizerfest has made an appearance on the last three council agendas, in attempt to get the details of the festival approved.

HCS rate schedule approved

The council approved Highland Communication Services to offer a lower connection speed for point-to-point and Internet data plans.

The adjustment was made to make smaller MBPS plans available for the Department of Public Works plant management systems.

According to the HCS Director of Technology and Innovation Angela Imming, right now, Public Works uses a SCADA system for this communication. However, the network and connectivity requirements for SCADA systems is relatively low and does not need MBPS plans that have higher base requirements. Imming said that HCS wanted to create a 3 MBPS lower speed option to help create a choice that fits the needs of the maintenance system.

The plan will cost only  1/3 of the existing 10 MBPS connection speed. According to Imming, the new plan will reduce the HCS income but it will positively impact the Public Works budget.

Surplus HCS sales approved

The council also approved a recommendation from HCS to allow offering communication services to resellers.

According to Imming, HCS recently received an opportunity to provide Internet services to resellers who work in areas outside of city limits and the planned service area.

Imming said that HCS will offer “layer 2” or “back connection” to these companies and the resellers will extend those services using point-to-point wireless technology. The HCS will not be responsible for services provided by the reseller after the hand-off point, which means HCS employees will not have to support the customers of the resellers who are outside the service area.

According to Imming, the model is a new concept for HCS and will hopefully have a positive impact on the departments finances.

Police vehicle bid awarding

The Highland Police Department will purchase a 2017 Ford Interceptor Sports Utility Vehicle and a 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe to upgrade the police fleet.

The council approved the issuance of bids during the April 3 council meeting. The low bids were submitted from two different companies. Tri Ford submitted the low bid for the Ford SUV at $28,629, and Miles Chevrolet had the low state bid for the Tahoe at $37,063.

The SUV will replace a 2013 Ford Explorer squad car being used by the HPD sergeant and shift-commanders. The second vehicle will replace a 2006 Chevrolet Impala, which is being used as an administrative vehicle.

While the new Ford SUV will just replace an aging vehicle, the new Tahoe will be used in the lieutenant’s and shift commander’s full-time squad and as a mobile command vehicle. The Tahoe is also being purchased with the intent to use it to tow a large oil boom trailer and the department’s new boat. The boat will deploy the oil boom on Silver Lake. The HPD does not currently have a vehicle heavy enough to safely tow either the trailer or the boat, but the new Tahoe fits the position.