Decisions, decisions: Springfield firm to help village decide fate of building

RANTOUL — The village board will hire a Springfield firm to help trustees decide whether a former centerpiece of downtown Rantoul will be renovated for re-use or demolished.

David Leonatti, a principal in the firm of Melotte, Morse, Leonatti, Parker Ltd., Springfield, will give a presentation at the board’s July 11 meeting on what the work will involve for the former First National Bank building, more recently known as the Mathews Building Center, located at the corner of Sangamon and Garrard. The building was most recently used for office space.

The board is expected to approve hiring the engineering firm for $11,850. Village Administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh said a village panel reviewed presentations by three firms and deemed MMLP the best for the job. The firm also provided the lowest bid.

The building was closed about four years ago after it was condemned by the village due to its deteriorating condition. The village has since come into possession of the property.  

MMLP, a 39-year-old company, has experience in historical preservation of commercial buildings in Danville, Tuscola, Decatur, Peru, Ottawa, Peoria, Mt. Pulaski and others.

After a programming meeting with the village, MMLP will create an initial conceptual plan for the adaptive reuse and renovation concepts of the existing building based on the restaurant/hospitality/retail/residential uses.

“These people are experts in historical building analysis,” village Economic Development Director Rebecca Motley said. “This was the best choice, not to mention the cheapest.”

Chickens and zoning
The board also heard from Dan Hutton of the 600 block of East Sangamon Avenue. Hutton lobbied for allowing backyard chickens in residential areas.

“I want chickens,” Hutton said. “Bacon is my favorite fruit, and eggs go great with bacon, so I would love to be able to raise four-six hens.

“They’re quiet; they’re happy; they’re good for my yard.”

Hutton said he has a number of locusts “flying this far off my grass right now. It’s amazing. (Chickens) eat bugs. I’m just asking for chickens. It’s pretty simple.”

In April, Rose Smith, also of East Sangamon Avenue, approached the village board about allowing backyard chickens.

Trustee Terry Workman asked about the status of Smith’s request.

Fiegenschuh said the village is in the midst of redoing its zoning code, “and we recommend making no changes in zoning until we get our zoning codes updated.” He said the work on the changes has been ongoing for about a year.

David Silver of the village inspection department said he drafted a zoning ordinance modeled after Champaign’s.

Fiegenschuh said the issue will come before the board “in the next couple of months.”

He noted the village has also heard from residents who are opposed to allowing chickens.

The board will consider passage of an ordinance at the July 11 meeting imposing a moratorium on the zoning ordinance of up to six months.

Trustee Rich Medlen read a lengthy statement about the Broadmeadow storm sewer drainage controversy in which the village agreed to reroute the storm sewer line after trustee Chad Smith discovered an easement ran across two lots he had recently purchased.

Medlen said Fiegenschuh was within his legal rights to approve a supplemental engineering service agreement. He said while Smith paid for the storm line to be moved, the line was also moved for another homeowner with an easement problem in the project.

“As far as I can find, that homeowner was not charged for the moving of said line,” Medlen said, adding he has found other instances when residents have “had or requested infrastructure to be relocated and were not charged.”

Medlen said he obtained information from the village and met with resident Jack Anderson, who initially questioned the matter and asked for a third-party investigation to be conducted because he felt Smith was receiving preferential treatment.

“I believe the real boondoggle is an obvious attempt by some to purposely slander our village administrator who did not do anything wrong, and that is backed up by an attorney’s opinion letter and simple facts I found through research,” Medlen said.

Medlen said Fiegenschuh admitted publicly that he should have brought the issue to the board initially to preclude any appearance of impropriety, and the village should have “entered into a redevelopment agreement with Mr. Smith from the beginning outlining what he would ultimately be responsible for.”

Medlen also said the village “needs to clean up our code as it relates to change orders and its definitions,” and he has asked village staff to look into the matter.

The village needs to move on and work toward “bigger things,” Medlen said.

A full transcript of Medlen’s statement appears on this website.

Electric meter installation
In other business, the board was asked to approve a contract for $83,594 with Eaton Cooper for the purchase of new electric meters. (See related story.)

Public works Director Greg Hazel said installation of the water meters will be completed in the fall, while the gas-meter installation will continue until next spring. All three utilities (including electric) should have completed by next summer.

“The electric meters, except for these last couple hundred, are reading and bringing information back to the village office,” Hazel said. “I believe it’s working efficiently for the women in the office to get final reads for new residents moving in and for monthly billing. It’s been a great time-saver so far.”

Chad Smith said he had received some calls from residents who had received notices that their utilities will be cut off if they don’t schedule a time to change the meters.

Hazel said that is a last resort for residents who don’t make any attempt to cooperate with the village despite repeated attempts.

Smith said some elderly residents feel uncomfortable letting people in that they don’t know. He wondered if a village employee could accompany the meter installation workers to those homes. Hazel said that could be arranged.

Trustee Sam Hall also said if people have questions about the work, they can call Hazel’s office (892-2178).

Road maintenance jurisdiction
To clarify which entity has jurisdiction over two roads in south Rantoul, the board was asked to approve two ordinances.

The first provides for the addition of South Murray Road from County Road 2900N to Chandler Road (2800N) to the village of Rantoul street system, deleting it from the Rantoul Township system. The second provides for the deletion of East Chandler Road from South Perimeter Road to 1800E from the municipal street system. That road will become the responsibility of Rantoul Township.

“We believe the exchange simplifies who has the responsibilities for an entire stretch of pavement by having them under the same entity,” Hazel said.

He cited as an example, plowing snow. When an entire stretch of roadway is under one jurisdiction for plowing, it simplifies which crew is responsible for what stretch.

Rudzinski park pond
The board was asked to approve a change order allowing for the additional allocation of $7,238 for the Rudzinski Park pond project.

Hazel said the work, which involved dredging the pond of sediment and lining it with clay, cost more than initially anticipated.

“There was additional cost, not only to remove it from the pond but also to haul it,” Hazel said. “It was a slurry that came out of there that had to be managed on the site where it was taken, so that increased the cost.”

The pond is 14-16 feet at its deepest point “and should be fine for decades to come,” Hazel said.

Chad Smith said the project has enhanced the attractiveness of the park, and more residents are using it again.

“In the years past, because of the smell from the algae that would grow there,” people didn’t visit the park as often, Smith said.

Medlen also reported he has been working with Hazel and Fiegenschuh to implement a residential plan to encourage people to obtain high-efficiency equipment.

Fiegenschuh said the village has purchased a number of LED light bulbs with plans to get them to residents. He said he and Hall met with resident Debbra Sweat, “and part of our talk was about energy bills,” and trying to make some rental properties more energy-efficient.

Moving village board meetings
Hall suggested the board periodically meet in locations other than the municipal meeting room.

Hall said some residents are hesitant to attend village meetings, so the board should consider holding meetings at other sites such as schools or churches periodically.

“The public, for some reason, are a little intimidated to come to the board meetings, but if we go out to them and give them the opportunity to hear from us,” better communication could be the result.

Mayor Chuck Smith said that proposal has been broached in the past and is part of the Rantoul Tomorrow initiative.

“We are going to take a look at that,” Smith said.

The board was also asked to approve the purchase of a Toro lawn mower for the Recreation Department at a cost of $23,817.


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