Highland News Leader

Highland looks to incentivize new home construction

This file photo shows a home under construction in the Indian Prairie subdivision in Mascoutah.
This file photo shows a home under construction in the Indian Prairie subdivision in Mascoutah. File photo

City officials are moving to develop a plan to help encourage single-family home development in Highland.

City Manager Mark Latham said he has seen some “concerning” statistics on the lack of single-family home development over the last several years.

Among Latham’s concerns are:

▪  The city’s overall equalized assessed property value has been stagnant for 11 years.

▪  There has been a decline in school enrollment over the past five years.

▪  The city has had no new subdivisions developed in 10 years.

▪  The number of single-family lots has declined due to land being put back into farm ground at two main subdivisions, Prairie Trails and Prestige Estates. Latham said this leaves very few lots available and creates higher lot costs.

▪  City utility revenues have flat-lined for several years.

“It is a major concern,” Latham said.

Latham also said Highland has many positive community resources and attributes. However, people are not looking to build here.

Latham prompted the discuss to propose planning an incentive program that could encourage developers to come to the city. He said the purpose of the plan would be to increase the overall EAV by 3 to 3.5 percent, annually.

“That is a good, sustainable growth that we need to have,” Latham said.

To do this the city’s EAV would have to increase by $5 million each year, according to Latham. He said to see that increase 20 new homes would have to be built, which would lead to about a $90,000 increase in utility revenue and a $30,000 increase in city property taxes.

Latham brought his concerns before the City Council during its Feb. 5 meeting. Following his presentation, the council directed Latham to continue with the development of a new single-family home development incentive program.

Latham said he will begin to develop a plan and bring it to the council at a future meeting.

Other council business

Queen of Hearts discussion

The council discussed a drafted, potential ordinance that would allow the city to bring the Queen of Hearts raffle to local organizations. Latham, Highland Police Chief Terry Bell and the City Attorney Michael McGinley worked together to draft the ordinance.

Heart Health Awareness Month

Mayor Joe Michaelis proclaimed February to be Heart Health Awareness Month in Highland. Each year this proclamation kicks off heart health awareness activities being planned by the Cardiac Rehab Department at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland

Funding request approved

The council also approved the 2018 26th Annual Indoor/Outdoor Automotive Swap Meet. The event will be held on March 4 at the Highland Speedway at Madison County Fairgrounds, located at 1800 Lindenthal St.

The council also approved a funding request for the event in the amount of $500. The money will be used for advertising assistance.

The event is sponsored by Carl’s 4-wheel Drive in Bartelso and Misfit Motorsports Productions in Pocahontas.

For more information on the swap meet, call 618-765-2199 during the day and 618-664-4352 in the evening, or email misfit3366@gmail.com.

5K fun and walk approved

The council approved a special event request from Rachel and Billy Von Hatten to host the Tucker’s Trek 5K Run/Walk for Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) Awareness.

The race is scheduled for May 19. Registration will begin at Lindendale Park at 7 a.m. The race will begin at 8 a.m., and the event will be complete by 2 p.m. The route travels in a loop through town. According to the application, it is the same as the Kyle Deatherage route that used to be run in Highland.

The Von Hattens founded the race to help spread awareness about their son Tucker’s condition. This will be the second year the race has been held, but the first year the event will be in Highland. The Von Hatten’s expect 100-150 people to attend.

Easter egg hunt request

The council also approved the 2018 Highland News Leader Easter Egg Hunt. The event will be on March 24 at Square in Highland. The hunt will begin at 2 p.m.

Hotel/motel request postponed

The Highland Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancie Zobrist requested the council approve the chamber’s request for funding from the city’s hotel/motel tax fund.

Funds allocated from the tax help support events, like the Peanut Butter and Jam Festival and the Street Art Festival. Over the last several years, funds from the tax have decreased. In January 2017, it was said that those funds declined by 30 percent.

This year, the chamber requested an increase to its original allocation for $24,000.

Last year, the chamber’s hotel/motel tax fund were decreased to $18,000. Zobrist said, in 2017, the chamber spent about $38,095 on tourism-related projects and are expecting to spend about $39,150 on tourism projects in the next year.

The city has not finished its budgeting process. At the next City Council meeting on Feb. 19, Latham said the council will be discussing the budget. After that conversation, Latham said the city will be able to understand how much hotel/motel tax funding will be available, and the council will be able to respond to the chamber and other organizations’ requests.

Railroad work

Latham said that the CSX railroad has released restrictions on a culvert underneath the tracks near the Poplar Street. This is the next step in the city’s solution to lower the Federal Emergency Agency’s Special Flood Hazard Area to its original level for areas north of the railroad crossing.

The city also is pursuing a signal at the intersection of Hemlock Street/Frank Watson Parkway and U.S. 40. Latham said the railroad must examine how to synchronize the signal with the nearby train crossing. Latham said CSX has agreed to preform engineering services at the site of a future traffic signal for $120,000.

Sewer lines

Latham announced the city’s facility plan for the rehabilitation of the city Water Reclamation Facility and two major sewer trunk mains has been approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. This is the second step the city needs to move forward with the project. The next step is being approved for an IEPA loan. Latham estimated the city will be able to go out for bids for the project in within 45 days.

Grant application approved

The council authorized and directed the city’s Natural Resource Manager Ryan Hummert to submit an application to Madison County Sustainability Grant Program for a $15,000 sustainability grant.

For many years, the city has worked to improve the water quality of Silver Lake and Old City Lake through improving the lake’s watershed and by preventing shoreline erosion.

The city has participated with the program before, which allowed funds for 3,000 feet of lineal lake shoreline to be protected. Approximately  3/4 of the 20-acre Old City Lake reservoir’s shoreline is protected with filter fabric and rip rap, which has helped greatly reduce the erosion, according to Hummert.

If accepted for the program, the city will use the funds to aid the final covering of the remaining 1,500 lineal feet of shoreline at Old City Lake, according to Parks and Recreation Director Mark Rosen.

Park program application

The council authorized the city to apply for park enhancement funding through the Madison County Parks and Recreation Commission.

If the city is accepted, the funds will be used to at Glik Park, according to Rosen. He said some of the funds will help renovate the infield of the Optimists Field, which sees more than 85 games per year. The funds will also be used to replace the surface area under the swings.

“We were able to install all of the rubber, poured-in-place surface with a previous grant, and it has lasted almost 15 years,” Rosen said.

Other projects the city has payed for with funds through this program include new fencing at Hoffman and Spindler parks, building docks at Silver Lake, installing new lighting at the Spindler Park parking lot, swings at the Tot-Lot, building pavilions at Silver Lake Park and Spindler Park, and placing rip-rap to coincide with the previously mentioned sustainability grant.

Consulting approved

The council approved a $12,000 agreement for professional economic development consulting services with Development Strategies Inc.

The company will provide the city with an analysis of its healthcare sector and look at the strengths of the city, according to a memo from Assistant City Manager Lisa Peck. Peck said the company will also identify specific companies and individuals within those companies from the healthcare industry.

Once those companies and individuals are found, Development Strategies will invite them to Highland for a familiarity tour and prepare materials related to the tour.

Peck said this plan was unanimously recommended by the city’s Industrial Development Commission. The commission met with representatives from Development Strategies twice before recommending the plan.

Engineering services approved

The council approved a preliminary engineering agreement with Curry & Associates Engineers Inc. from Nashville, Ill.,for $24,000 to relocate a transmission water main extension located at Illinois 143 and Koepfli Lane.

According to a memo from Director of Public Works Joe Gillespie, a property owner wanted to expand his building in the early 1990s, however, the main was in the way of the expansion. Gillespie said the city agreed to relocate a section to accommodate the owner, and now the relocated main is in an area covered by a lease agreement between that owner and the city.

However, the lease agreement has a specific life, and unlike an easement, it must be renewed, according to Gillespie. He said that the city has been unsuccessful in renegotiating a renewal and is now left with no other option but to relocate from the property.

Gillespie said the water main is one of two primary feeds for the city’s water.

“It is vital that we maintain the ability to have two feeds in the event one is out of service,” Gillespie said in the memo.

Construction will begin at the intersection of Illinois 143 and Highland Park Road and will continue east along Illinois 143 to the corner of the Knights of Columbus Hall. Construction will then go south to Koepfli Lane, then west along the road, to reconnect near the Highland Cemetery.

Tobacco ordinance amended

The council amended an ordinance to coincide with state law concerning tobaccos and alternative tobacco products and their devices. The ordinance now prohibits minors from possessing alternative tobacco products and devices, such as e-cigarettes, e-liquids and vaporizers.

In a memo to the city, Highland Police Chief Terry Bell said this change will allow officers the option of charging a non-criminal violation to kids under 18 who possess these products and related paraphernalia. He said that, without this ordinance, all such incidents would have to be petitioned through the juvenile court system as petty criminal offenses.

Lt. Chris Conrad said the implications of violations for the ordinance are progressive.

The penalties are:

▪  First offense can be up to a $50 fine and 25 hours of community service;

▪  Second offense can be up to $75 and 50 hours of community service;

▪  Third offense can be up to $200 and 50 hours of community service.

Vehicle purchase approved

The council approved the purchase of a used 2016 Ford Edge from Tri Ford in Highland for $24,968.

The car will be used by the city manager. Latham said that his car, a 2011 Chrysler, will be given to the Assistant City Manager Lisa Peck to replace her 2008 Chrysler 300.

Latham said the reason for the switch is because Peck’s car is now 10 years old and is becoming increasingly unreliable.

Megan Braa: 618-654-2366, ext 23, @MeganBraa_