The Highland City Council wants a traffic signal at the intersection of Hemlock Street/Frank Watson Parkway and U.S. Highway 40 and made its wants known with an official vote during its meeting Monday, July 17.
“It is the worst accident intersection in Highland right now,” said City Manager Mark Latham.
About four years ago, IDOT spent about $1 million to widen Route 40 and added turn lanes at the intersection to help increase the traffic flow, Latham said, however, accidents keep happening. The main issue is the speed.
“With the speeds going through there, it is difficult for people to cross that area,” Latham said.
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Lowering the speed limit coming into town is not enough, Latham said, arguing a stop light is the only answer. There has not been a fatal accident at the intersection since Frank Watson Parkway was opened. But Latham feels that might just be a matter of time.
“How much is a life?” Latham said. “To me there is it is not even a question that it should be done.”
However, since U.S. 40 is a state road, the city would need permission from the Illinois Department of Transportation before any changes to the intersection can be made.
Latham said the city has been lobbying for a signal for almost three years. Due to the state’s budget constraints, the city even offered to pay the $300,000 to put one in, but there has been no movement on the offer, Latham said.
Latham said that he is hoping that the council’s vote will give “a little bit of teeth” to speed the process along. Latham will be sending a letter to IDOT stating the support from the council and the mayor and will be attaching accident reports as an addendum.
Failed political speech ordinance
The council unanimously voted down an ordinance that would have regulated political speech in the Korte Recreation Center.
Because public buildings are not traditional public forums, the city, under law, is able to regulate some speech within certain buildings. Director of Parks and Recreation Mark Rosen said that this past spring two people had requested to use the KRC for a rallies, for which he had to tell them no. As a result, city attorney Michael McGinley was directed by the staff to write the ordinance so the city would have an example to show parties requesting to use non-public forums for their separate political agendas.
Rosen said that the ordinance was not intended to silence the people from talking about politics in the KRC, or anywhere else in the city. He said the intent was to avoid the possibility that the city and/or the Parks and Recreation Department might be viewed as supporting any candidate during an election.
“I had absolutely no thought of silencing anyone’s opinion,” Rosen said.
When McGinely was writing the ordinance, he found a ruling from the Supreme Court that had already decided the precedent for the matter. Therefore, McGinley framed the failed ordinance after the Supreme Court ruling.
However, council members found because there is already legal precedent, adding an ordinance could just confuse the issue further. Because of this — and some push back from the public — each council member decided to vote down the ordinance.
Latham said that to proceed the city might ask McGinley to write up some policy for the city’s directors on how they should handle the situation if someone should ask to use a public building for political speech.
The council approved Mayor Joe Michaelis’s suggestion to reappoint John Hipskind and Denise Berolatti to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. Their terms would have expired July 31.
The council carried out the recommendations of the Combined Planning and Zoning Board to rezone a the property located at 12310 Sportsman Road from single-family residential to mixed-use.
A memo sent by Community and Economic Development Director Lisa Peck and Building and Zoning Supervisor Derek Jackson said there was no objections stated from adjoining or nearby property owners during the public hearing for the rezoning.
Steve Schmitt applied to rezone the property. The property owners are Sara E. Raeber, Othmar Raeber, and Betty Schmitt, trustees. The property is approximately 28.43 acres in size. One acre of the subject property is currently zoned mixed-use, and Schmitt requested to rezone the remaining acres to mixed-use. The council also approved adding in that additional acre to the whole property as the final plat to the Carriage Park Subdivision.
The memo said that the applicant does not have an intended use at this time.
Human resource position created
The council authorized the creation of a new part-time position for the city’s Human Resources Department.
Lisa Shoeck, the director of human resources, requested approval for the part-time Human Resources Generalist position in a memo. Shoeck said that functions in human resources have continued to grow in responsibility throughout the years due to an increase in statutory requirements, as well as city staff size.
The position requires 20 to 25 hours per week and the starting salary would be $18-20 per hour. The new employee would work out of the mayor/city attorney’s office when it is available because of spatial scarcity at city hall.
Bucket truck purchase approved
The council authorized the purchase and waived customary bidding procedure for a $131,360 Altec bucket truck for the Light and Power Department.
Director of Power and Light Dan Cook said in a memo that the purchase falls under the National Joint Powers Alliance pricing program, which provides access to purchases through pre-negotiated government pricing. The prior truck, a 2008 Ford F-550, has been a burden to the department, according to Cook. He said that the department preformed improvements to the truck to help with known issues, to help preserve the life and some of the resale value of the unit.
Cook said that under the department’s normal vehicle replacement program, the department would have requested a replacement for the city’s next fiscal year. But, due to service issues, he said they were requesting this replacement to be moved up a year. Cook said that $161,000 has been allocated for the purchase this fiscal year. The current truck, at some time, will be declared surplus property and sold at auction.
Truck purchases approved
The council approved the purchase of three new Ford F-150 Super Crew 4x4 pickup trucks for the Street and Alley, Water and Sewer Maintenance, and Water Treatment Plant divisions of the Public Works Department.
The trucks will be purchased from Tri Ford Inc. in Highland for a total of $92,970, after trade-ins, which were also authorized by the council. Tri Ford was the only bidder outside of the Illinois State Bid Contract. The purchase is budgeted for the 2018 fiscal year.
Truck cab and chassis purchases approved
The council approved the purchase of one-new truck cab and chassis for the Water Reclamation Facility from Tri Ford. The total cost will be $26,530 after trade-ins. The purchase is budgeted under the 2018 fiscal year.