Revolving loan fund will remain

RANTOUL — The village board will not be asked to terminate the revolving loan fund.

Village Administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh told the village board at its study session last week that comments from the public, Economic Development Director Rebecca

Motley and board members caused him to decide not to ask the board to eliminate the program, which would have meant the payback of about $1.268 million to the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The issue had been listed on the agenda for discussion at the meeting.

Elimination of the revolving loan fund would have meant the village would have been able to retain about $422,840, which Fiegenschuh said could have been used for the more frequently used microloan program, which is free of federal restrictions.

“Last year the Economic Development Administration had made a visit to go through our revolving loan program,” Fiegenschuh said, and found that some changes needed to be made for it to continue.

The EDA was last used to provide a $250,000 loan to build the new Holiday Inn Express. But the fund has been used infrequently in recent years — a fact cited by EDA officials.

“They noticed it’s a very inactive account,” the administrator said.

The fund money was originally granted to Rantoul following the closure of Chanute Air Force Base in 1993 as a means of helping to rejuvenate the local economy. But one of the requirements was for the village to update its loan policies and procedures every five years — something the village hasn’t done. Fiegenschuh said staff has not been available to make those alterations.

He said the village will make a point to update those policies and procedures to keep that fund active.

When established, the federal government required the village to provide a 25 percent match of its grant. If the village were to pay back the money, it could use $932,177 in unused revolving loan cash to pay back part of the loan and the remainder at about $9,543 per month.

Loan program proposed
for police pension fund

The board was also asked to consider issuing bonds of $11.33 million to fund the remainder of the village police pension obligation. State statute requires that police pensions funds be funded by at least 90 percent by 2040.

“Why would you borrow money to fund your pension?” Fiegenschuh asked. “What you have to remember is your pension unfunded liability is just like a general obligation of the village. We are legally obligated to pay it.”

He said borrowing the funds would be cheaper — a potential $8.6 million savings — in the long run for the village if it is able to secure the bonds at a low interest rate and receive a high rate of return (about 7 percent).

“If we would issue bonds of $11.3 million, we would have an infusion into that fund which is earning,” Fiegenschuh said.

The police pension fund is currently funded at 61 percent. Last year it was at 67 percent. That figure dropped due to an actuarial update of the mortality tables. In short, people are living longer.

Fiegenschuh said issuing the bonds would not mean a tax increase. The bonds would be paid from the levy currently in effect.

“If you don’t want to raise taxes or raise fees, you’re talking about significant service cuts,” Fiegenschuh said. “By going with this plan, you’re able to keep your property tax levy or any tax you have (at current) levels because you have a constant debt service.”

The issue was placed on the Feb. 14 monthly meeting agenda to “explore the merits of the issue.”

Lower utility fee for pension
Fiegenschuh also announced the fee increase to be tacked onto utility bills approved in December will be less than originally indicated.

Instead of a monthly increase of $2 for residential users, the first year will see a $1.50 increase, while commercial customers’ fee will increase $2 and industrial users $14.

Fiegenschuh said a resident also suggested the increase be based on kilowatt usage to benefit those on a fixed income. But Fiegenschuh said it would have meant only an average savings of 95 cents a month for residential users while some industrial users would see their bills go up as much as $2,000. That idea was scrapped.

Change order or engineering agreement?
The board heard from resident Jack Anderson, who asked for the village to clarify whether Fiegenschuh had the authority to issue change orders of more than $10,000.

He said village regulations are conflicting — one saying the administrator has a $10,000 limit and another saying it’s a limit of $30,000.

At issue was Fiegenschuh authorizing a change order of “about $18,000” for supplemental services for Broadmeadow drainage improvements and street rehabilitation with Burns and McDonnell engineers.

Fiegenschuh said he was under the assumption that he had the authority to approve that amount.

“I didn’t see that as a change order,” he said. “If I thought it was a change order, I would have brought it to (the village board).”

The alteration was a result of public works department officials wanting to change the Broadmeadow project from a two-phase project to a one-phase project.

The board was also asked to approve a design engineering agreement with Burns and McDonnell to the Broadmeadow project.

As part of the supplemental agreement, additional design services will include street resurfacing on Malsbury Drive from U.S. 136 to Broadmeadow, James Road from Broadmeadow to U.S. 136, Gerald Road from Manor Court to Mary Alice; and Manor Court.

Board member Chad Smith said he will recuse himself from voting on the issue because an easement for part of the project originally ran between two lots he had purchased to build a house. The easement was rerouted, and Fiegenschuh said the village and Smith will negotiate an agreement for Smith to reimburse the village for the additional cost.

Board member Gary Wilson said he doesn’t think it is right that “just because Chad is an elected official” he would have to pay the cost “whereas it’s going to affect the entire neighborhood.”

Joint planning, zoning commission proposed
The board was asked to consider establishment of a seven-member joint planning and zoning commission rather than having separate plan commission and zoning board of appeals.

The joint commission would include appointed members serving four-year terms.

Village attorney Ken Beth said the plan commission met recently and voted unanimously to recommend the change.
Mayor Chuck Smith said the change is designed to “expedite and to streamline new applications for planning and zoning. This is long overdue.”

No parking implemented
The board was asked to designate the north side of Innovation Road next to Vista Outdoor (formerly Easton-Bell) in the industrial park as a no-parking zone.

Company officials had expressed a safety concern for their employees due to numerous semi trucks that have been parked along the roadway, which has created several near-miss accidents when employees leave the plant.

Zoning plan presented
Champaign County Regional Plan Commission officials Kathleen Oldrey and Susan Monte presented a review of the village’s new zoning ordinance draft.

The draft includes amendments proposed to the zoning ordinance and zoning map.

A public meeting at which residents can view the proposed changes and make comments is scheduled from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at village hall.

The board also heard a presentation from Craig Rost of Champaign County Economic Development.

The board was also asked to approve the purchase and installation of two new vacuum circuit breakers at the Century Boulevard substation at a cost of $33,494.

The replacement is needed due to the failure of a re-closer on the evening of Dec. 19.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com

 

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