O'Fallon Progress

St. Clare parishioners upset over parking plan for downtown O'Fallon

A file photo shows St. Clare of Assisi parish' Oktoberfest.
A file photo shows St. Clare of Assisi parish' Oktoberfest. BND

The city’s new parking lot downtown is moving forward over the objections from a group of St. Clare Church parishioners.

Several members of the parish spoke during the first citizens’ comments portion of the May 7 City Council meeting, but more had called and written letters to aldermen prior, asking the council to reconsider the location of the new parking lot downtown, or just the asphalt paving.

“Is there another place we can put in parking?” asked Carl Lurk asked, who is on the parish Oktoberfest committee, and last year, chaired set-up and clean-up.

The parishioners worried how the plan might affect the annual festival, which is held on both parish and city grounds.

“The parcel directly to the west of the new lot is owned by St. Clare of Assisi’s Roman Catholic Church. In the past, the Oktoberfest has been located on the lot owned by St. Clare and the lot owned by the city," Assistant City Administrator Grant Litteken explained.

“It’s a nice community event. We like downtown, for the coziness. It has a neighborhood feel to it. It wouldn’t be the same if we have to move it," Lurk said.

The event, celebrating the region’s German heritage, has been held since 2000. The 150-year-old parish built a new church in 2007 that is located at 1411 Cross St., but the old church, across from the school, is used as a chapel for daily Masses and other services.

Lurk suggested delaying the decision so that the city could work with St. Clare on an environmental-friendly, eco-green pavement, as opposed to concrete.

The new City Hall West parking lot will have 46 spots. City employees will park there during the day, and then at night, people can park there for events.

“Currently, a small concrete pad used for parking and City Hall’s generator sit on this parcel. When the new parking lot is finished, City Hall staff will be directed to park on this new lot, and the existing lot north of City Hall can be utilized by downtown businesses and City Hall visitors. Both, the west and north lots will be open to the public,” Litteken said.

Parking has been an issue with the revitalization of O’Fallon’s downtown area. The former First Bank building and parking lot were sold to Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation. Because of that, the current City Hall parking lot can’t accommodate parking for the area businesses, residents, visitors and city employees.

Mayor Herb Roach told those in attendance that the council took all things under consideration, but explained that communication regarding the proposed lot had been ongoing for several months.

Bids were accepted at the April 30 Committee of the Whole meeting, but that was not the first time information was available, he said.

“We have to have that balancing act. We must give consideration to the growth of downtown for the business community. If we didn’t have ample parking, the businesses would be affected. We’d have empty buildings and run-down properties,” he said. “I sympathize with St. Clare. That’s where I started school.”

Roach said the city looked at other alternatives, including asking the railroad for some of its space, but those requests were rejected several times.

Alderman Matthew Gilreath said it wasn’t true that the plans just came out in the past two weeks. He defended the mayor for being a pro-active communicator.

“We work hard to be transparent,” he said. “We have respect for the church and the school.”

The project couldn’t be delayed because of grant money coming to the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation, which is tied to its purchase of the bank property, city officials said. There was a time frame connected to the bid as well.

After some aldermen commented pros and cons, the council approved Rooter’s Asphalt for the City Hall parking expansion project for $158,553 on a 10-4 vote. Those voting no included aldermen Mark Morton, Richie Meile, Ross Rosenberg and Dan Witt.

Korte & Luitjohan Contractors of Highland was the low bidder out of seven submissions for the downtown pavilion with a base bid of $1,398,840. That contract was also approved.

Litteken said city property would still be open for St. Clare's use.

“The city-owned lot west of City Hall would still be available for St. Clare to use for their Oktoberfest, which is a great event in downtown O’Fallon,” Litteken said.

Other business

In other action, the council approved revisions to the Crime Free Rental Housing Program, including the addition of Air B&B, and vacation rentals by owner (VRBO) and Home Away.

Most of the other changes were minor, including cleaning up old language and mirroring the ordinance to best practices.

Late fee payment penalty language was added, as there had been nothing penalizing the applicant if they did not pay their fees. This will allow licenses to be suspended or revoked for no payment.

The renewal notice process was cleaned up to reflect actual practices and accommodate the ability to notify by other methods beside mailing a renewal notice, such as emails.

A penalty provision for not completing Crime Free Training Seminar was cleaned up, as currently there is not a one for missing the seminar. The language was clarified, too, for management changes. The owner of the home can take the seminar themselves to address the issues.

The council approved two public works projects, awarding Millennia Professional Services of Illinois the Holliday Drive drainage project for $54,800.

After years of erosion, the ditch behind homes at the end of Holliday Drive has had a history of drainage issues. The existing storm sewer infrastructure is close to failing unless preventive action is taken to repair.

To repair the area, Millennia will provide a geotechnical study, prepare plans and specifications, bid documents and construction observation.

The council approved Gonzalez Companies to prepare easement documents and negotiate acquiring the easements from 13 different property owners for the Woodstream sewer by-pass project phase 2 easements, which will cost $29,008.

The council also approved purchasing two new storage arrays that will replace current ones at City Hall and the Public Safety Building.

They use storage arrays in two data centers to enable servers to host various software applications, virtual servers, databases and for file storage. The existing storage arrays are approaching "End of Support" in August and will need to be replaced to assure the city's data needs for day-to-day operations.

Following review of options and with recognition of the short timeline following approval of FY19 Budget, staff selected HPE Nimble Storage arrays to specify for purchase to replace the existing Dell Compellant arrays. Services specified in the RFQ included equipment purchase, configuration, installation, migration, ongoing support and related items in the amount of $172,158.24.

The bid by Sayers was the only bid received for this purchase. It is under estimate, within budget, and compares favorably to GSA pricing.

The ongoing concrete program for street and sidewalk repairs continues in the new fiscal year, with pavement management to be done by KRB Excavation Inc. for $178,895.00.

The Taylor Road South Minor Subdivision was approved. The Timpsons will develop 6.64 acres west of the Fire Department. The subdivision will create two lots — one of 10.71 acres, retained by the city, and the other for the homes after rezoning is complete.

Stop signs were added to numerous streets in these subdivisions: Augusta Greens, Illini Trails, Milburn Estates and Parkview Meadows.

The council met at the Public Safety Building because of the work underway at City Hall, and plans are to continue there until the renovations are ready. During this period, there won’t be videos of the meetings. That will resume when the meetings return to City Hall upon work completion.