The city of Highland will share costs with local landowners on several projects meant to keep soil from eroding and finding its way into Silver Lake.
On April 16, the Highland City Council authorized partnerships on three new watershed enhancement projects.
"What they are doing helps the whole community, and it's very commendable," Councilwoman Peggy Bellm said.
The projects will be on the land owned by Stan and Sharron Giffhorn, Jared and Jamie Schwarz, and on the Hunsche family farm.
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"I'm happy these three landowners have come to the table," City Manger Mark Latham said.
The city agreed to pay 65 percent of the project costs. Latham said the percentage is based on federal guidelines. The projects have a total estimated cost of about $140,000, which will mean the city will pay about $84,400.
The lake's issues
Because of erosion and sediment runoff, it is estimated between 1962 (when the lake was first built) and 2005 that about 22 percent — or 754.8 million gallons — of the lake's water-holding capacity was lost. Last July, Director of Parks and Recreation Mark Rosen said that amount is closer to a third overall. It the northern reaches, it's closer to half, Rosen said.
City officials hope the investment will help to reduce the amount of sediment flowing into Silver Lake.
"If we don't do anything, (the lake's water capacity) is going to continue to silt up," Latham said.
Soil erosion also dampens water quality, and helps to bring other chemicals, like phosphorous into the lake. To stop this, the city has pursued a variety of projects. Many of the efforts include shoreline stabilization and protection projects. Recently, the city worked with the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District to encourage farmers to use cover crops to reduce erosion.
"We had to basically reinvent the wheel," Rosen said.
In addition, the city was instructed by the Silver Lake Commission to identify areas of concern within the watershed and work to fix the problem. To identify the priority projects, Latham said the city began working with Heartland Conservancy, a non-profit conservation organization formed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Resource Conservation & Development Program.
However, water and sediment flow into Silver Lake from a 35,000-acre watershed, and the city can only do so much without the help of surrounding private landowners. Last February, the city had an informational meeting in Grantfork to start the conversation on forming these partnerships.
How these projects will help
Of the landowners that came forward to help, the three projects which were approved by the city council were identified by Heartland Conservancy to be of the greatest benefit to Silver Lake, according to a memo from Ryan Hummert, the city's natural resource manager.
The first of these projects will focus on dredging an existing pond basin and install two sediment basins on the Giffhorns' property, according to Hummert. The property, located at 714 Prairie Road, is in close proximity to the lake. Hummert said large volumes of water flow through the area. At the moment, the existing pond basin has filled up, and has stopped collecting sediment.
"It is actually going to make it functional," Latham said.
Once the project is complete, Hummert said it will have a direct impact on the lake, as the new sediment basins will trap all sediment coming into the area and allow clean water to go into the lake. This project will cost the city about $37,700, and the Giffhorns about $30,495.
The second project will focus on constructing a large pond on land owned by the Schwarzes at 5004 Illinois 160.
"The Schwarz pond project will help to trap several hundred acres of drainage sediment, which comes from the surrounding fields and ditchways," Hummert said.
Hummert also said the pond will trap the sediment while water to pass through an overflow pipe and into the creek system. Overall, this project will cost the city $37,950 and the Schwarzes about $20,434.
The final project will focus on some landscaping at the Hunsche farm, located at 12610 Niggili Road. The project will include installing several sediment basins and risers along with grass waterways, according to Hummert. The project is expected to cost the city about $8,742 and the Hunsches about $4,700.
As another benefit to the projects, Rosen said, these partnerships will also help the city's search for grant funding in the future.
"When you partner with landowners, that really puts you at the top of the list," Rosen said.
▪ Budget amendments approved: Also at its April 16 meeting, the council approved some amendments to the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget.
Latham said that none of these amendments were "surprises," and were just adjustments that needed to be made for unforeseen circumstances throughout the year such as purchases, projects and unexpected expenses and revenues.
Latham said even with the amendments, the 2017-2018 budget will remain balanced.
▪ 2018-19 budget approved: After a brief public hearing the council approved the city budget for fiscal year 2018-2019.
Some budget takeaways are:
The city expects about $54 million in total expenditures, about a 20 percent increase over 2017-2018;
the budget projects about $12.8 million in capital expenditures for next year;
the majority of these capital costs are for sewer and water projects;
operating and maintenance expenses are at about $33.4 million, which is a 4 percent increase;
operating revenues are also expected to go up 4 percent to about $41.5 million.
sales tax collections are estimated to go up 6 percent to $2.66 million;
non-home-rule sales tax will likely stay the same at about $1.4 million;
the city's collection of property taxes will go up 4 percent to about $4.4 million;
the city expects $1.12 million in state income tax, about a 2 percent increase;
total revenues are expected at $55.4 million;
the city expects an estimated surplus of about $863,370;
the city also expects to transfer $1.9 million to reserves.
▪ Architect contract approved: The council approved an architect contract with Loyet Architects for $7,000. The Highland-based architectural firm will draw up a design for a proposed senior citizens center.
If approved, the center is expected to be located near the Korte Recreation Center.
The same architectural firm was just hired by the council to design the city's new combined public safety facility.
▪ Road closure approved: The council approved a road closure request from the Viking Parent Association, a parent group for St. Paul Catholic School.
The parents requested that the 900 block of Lemon Street, between Ninth and Main streets, be closed from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for Student Appreciation Day on May 18. The closure is a precaution for student safety during the event.
▪ Cowpie Bingo approved: The council approved several requests from the Highland Band Parents Association that will allow them usage of the Square on Sept. 13 for the annual Cowpie Bingo fundraiser.
The event runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Patty Take, the group's representative, said this is their largest fundraising event of the year. There will be games, food and music provided by the bands.
"And a cow walking around — hopefully, a well fed one," Take said.
▪ Proclamations: Mayor Joe Michaelis read two proclamations.
The first proclamation declared April 21, 2018 as Arbor Day in Highland. The city celebrated the holiday with the annual Spring Bloom Festival last Saturday.
Secondly, Michaelis declared the month of May as Motorcycle Awareness Month in Highland. The month is promoted by Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education of Illinois, which is an organization dedicated to protecting motorcyclists rights.
The month is an effort to remind other drivers to watch out for and share the road with motorcyclists. The local chapter of ABATE's sergeant at arms, Jewels A. Brangor, was present for the proclamation reading.
▪ Sound upgrade approved: The council awarded a proposal to upgrade the audio system in the council chambers at City Hall.
"Everybody will be able to hear," Latham said.
For several years, citizens, council members and city employees have complained about the poor acoustics in the council chambers. Tech Electronic from St. Louis will upgrade the sound system for $9,985.
▪ Evidence device purchased: The council approved the purchase of a Cellbrite UFED Electronic Evidence Device and its software for the Highland Police Department.
Highland Police Chief Terry Bell said up until this purchase the department has outsourced this need to neighboring communities who have the Cellbrite machine or something similar. But the department's need to search and secure evidence from electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, and tablets has been increasing, according to Bell
"The demand is growing to the point that it has become necessary to purchase our own device," Bell said in a memo to the city.
Bell submitted two quotes to the council. The machine and its software will cost $9,085. Bell also included the cost to train two officers which will be $6,580.
▪ Vehicle purchase approved: The council approved the purchase of a new 2018 Ford Escape SE from Tri Ford in Highland. The vehicle cost is $21,978.
The Escape will replace a 2007 Chevrolet Impala with over 118,899 miles on it, and was bought by the Highland Police Department in 2010. The Impala is currently used by city building inspectors.
The vehicle was not available on the state bid list, therefore the city obtained three competitive bids. Highland EMS Chief Brian Wilson, who is overseeing building inspections until a new employee is hired, said the budget was not included in this year's budget. However, he said capital funding is available to support the purchase.
▪ Bid letting approved: The council authorized the letting of bids for the removal and installation of poured-in-place playground surfacing at Glik Park. Rosen, the Parks and Recreation director, said the current surfacing is over 10-years-old and is "in dire need" of replacing.
The project is estimated to cost about $37,000. However, $20,000 of this cost will be covered by a PEP grant from Madison County.
The council also authorized bid letting for the demolition of two city-owned structures located at 914 and 916 Deal St. and 1311 Oak St. The city acquired the properties through standard abandonment procedure. The council approved this demolition during its meeting on April 2.
▪ Re-appointments confirmed: The council approved various re-appointments to city commissions, which were recommended by Mayor Joe Michaelis.
Darell Bellm, Jon Greve, Diane Korte-Lindsey, Ryan Goodwin and Eric Rehkemper agreed to serve an additional one-year terms on the Industrial Development Commission.
Bonnie McGinley was also approved for an additional two-year term on the Police Pension Board. McGinley was originally appointed to the board in March of 2016, her term would have expired in May.
▪ Net metering discussion: The city's Director of Light & Power Dan Cook prompted a conversation about the city's existing net metering ordinance. Cook said he wanted to seek direction with how the city should modify its existing ordinance for its electric customers.
Cook said the current ordinance has been in place for four years. The ordinance pertains to distributed generation technology, which Cook specifically referred to as solar power.
Cook said that legislation that applies to this type of power has rapidly changed over the past four years. Due to this, he said it was time to revisit the ordinance and make some changes.
Cook said he will draft some ordinance changes to bring to the table at the first May council meeting.
"Expect it to be several pages longer than the one we currently have," Cook said.