Highland News Leader

Ball diamonds in Highland will catch a break on their electric bills

The electric meter at the VFW fields in Highland.
The electric meter at the VFW fields in Highland. clibbra@bnd.com

A save will be recorded in a lot more games played this summer in Highland. But it won't be noted in the score book. It will be registered on the field's electric bill.

The Highland City Council has passed a new ordinance allowing games to be played earlier at fields owned by non-profit organizations, as well as Glik Park, without operators having to incur an extra demand charge.

"Over the past year, I have received several complaints and inquires as to the origination and the current necessity/applicability of the existing ordinance we have in place for non-profit, outdoor sports fields," Light and Power Director Dan Cook wrote to council members in a memo.

In 2008, the city developed an ordinance that allowed non-profits, whose demand was over 20 kilowatts, to use lights on their outdoor sports fields without imposing extreme peak demand charges.

The ordinance was framed so the non-profit paid a one-time fee of $500 for a special meter and a customer charge of $18 per month with an energy charge of about 6 cents per kilowatt hour after 7 p.m. However, the organizations would have a demand charge of $6.76 per kilowatt if they flipped on the lights between 1 and 7 p.m.

In Highland, both the VFW and the Knights of Columbus have baseball/softball fields that host hundreds of games a year. However, the manner in which they have been billed for using their lights was affecting when, and how many, games could be played on those fields.

"The current ordinance waives demand charges if the lights are not turned on prior to 7 p.m. However, it is currently getting dark much before 7 p.m., and this is impacting league schedules," Cook wrote in his memo.

The old ordinance also did not afford city-owned athletic fields the same discounted rates given to the VFW and Knights of Columbus.

"I have also received repeated inquiries regarding why Glik Park doesn't fall under this ruling as well," Cook's memo said.

Cook brought both issues to the attention of the council in December and was instructed to figure out an answer.

The solution Cook came up with was to modify the city's code to allow for lights to be turned on as early at 4:01 p.m., from Sept. 15 to May 31, without penalty and add Glik Park to the fields that qualify for the discounted rate.

"I think that will serve everyone well," Cook said.

The council unanimously passed the changes at its meeting March 19.

Other business

Engineering approved for railroad culvert

In other business at its March 19 meeting, the Highland City Council approved an engineering services with Oates Associates Inc. for a project to remove and replace culvert pipe underlying the CSX railroad tracks at Poplar Street.

Replacement of the culvert is paramount to the city's plans to curtail expansion of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood plain maps. Preliminary map updates for Highland show the Special Flood Hazard Area might potentially be tripled, compared to when the maps were last updated in 1986.

After looking at the culvert, engineers saw the original, 100-year-old opening had been altered by extending its upstream section. The addition cut the volume of water that could pass through the culvert downstream almost in half. Engineers said they believed this is what caused FEMA to raise its flood plain calculation by six to seven feet in places, affecting 52 more properties and 124 additional acres in the city.

The projects will include removal of the current and replacing it with a one the same size as the original before the restriction was placed on it. Engineers said removing the barrier should bring the FEMA's new 100-year flood map within two feet of the existing elevation.

The contract with Oates is for $88,000. The project to replace the culvert is expected to cost about $500,000. The project is being funded by tax increment financing (TIF) district dollars.

Earlier this month, Highland City Manager Mark Latham met with railroad officials and Congressman John Shimkus in Washington, D.C. Latham said CSX agreed to an expedited time line on the project. Latham said the city hopes to start construction by September.

Art in the Park funding approved

The council approved $7,000 in funding for the Highland Arts Council’s 2018 Art in the Park festival.

Korte appointed to Silver Lake Commission

The council approved Mayor Joe Michaleis’ appointment of Craig Korte to the Silver Lake Advisory Commission. Korte will replace Dan Shimer on the commission. Korte’s term will expire in 2021.

Loan to pay for water mains

The council also approved a preliminary engineering services agreement with Curry & Associates in Nashville, Illinois for $135,000 to plan work replacing aging water mains in areas of town that have experienced frequent breaks. The areas include along Illinois 143 (Troxler to U.S. 40), Broadway (Illinois 160 to Poplar Street), Beech Street, Cedar Street, Deal Street, and Monroe Street.

The city is in the process of securing a $1.7 million loan from a private a bank to pay for the projects. The loan would be paid back by raising water rates. The city could have sought a loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which likely would have had a lower rate, but approval would have taken longer than city leaders wanted to wait.

The council also approved use of extra funds, should there by any, from the loan to be used for a water main relocation project at Illinois 143 and Koepfli Lane. The main is one of two primary feeds for the city’s water. The main needs to be relocated because it is on property leased by the city. The lease is up, and the city has been unsuccessful in renegotiating its renewal, meaning the city has no other option but to relocate the main.

The loan money would only be used if the other work came in under the approved loan amount. The idea was recommended by the city's financial adviser, Joy Howard.