RANTOUL — A village trustee said he believes state restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic “are getting somewhat out of hand.”

The Rev. Mark Wilkerson said he felt obligated to speak on behalf of “some people in the community.”

The trustee’s comments were among the topics during last week’s village board meeting. Trustees also approved, in a straw vote, a district map for voting in future village board elections, approved a resolution amendment that will allow for the creation of a small business stabilization grant program and approved an emergency county-wide allocation for the purchase of personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

Believes he speaks for many

Speaking during the trustee comment portion of the meeting, Wilkerson said he believes many residents feel the same way he does about state restrictions during the stay-at-home order.

“I love people,” Wilkerson said. “I desire people to be safe, healthy and free.”

Wilkerson said he believes the restrictions are eliminating the freedom of people to choose “and practice personal responsibility.”

He said he believes it is inconsistent at the state level to have liquor stores and cannabis dispensaries open with long lines, but “essential services like a church and other essential services continue to be limited and restricted.”

He believes some people in other states seem to “have more common sense” while using the “same science.”

Wilkerson said if a person does not want to be tested for COVID-19, he or she should not have to be.

“That’s their prerogative,” he said. “If an employer wants to do that, that’s up to them.”

District map tentatively approved

With little discussion, the board voted to tentatively approve, by straw vote, the A22 version of the districting map for village board elections. The choice will remain open for public comment prior to a final vote of the board. The measure passed 5-1 with Trustee Terry Workman voting against.

The maps were similar with minor differences in the boundaries.

With a population of 12,941 according to the 2010 census, each of the six districts had to be as close to 2,156 residents as possible.

The districting is mandatory as a result of the Nov. 6, 2018, election in which voters backed changing the village board election system from an at-large system to a district one. The majority of trustees reside in north Rantoul, and the south part of the community is underrepresented.

Three of the trustees elected in that first election will serve one two-year term while the other three will serve four-year terms. Afterward, all will be elected to four-year terms.

A community work group helped to develop the two map options.

Trustee Sam Hall said he put both options on Facebook and had three comments in favor of the A22 option and one in favor of the other option, A3.

CDBG program approved

The board approved a resolution that will free up additional money for a program to assist small businesses that have been hurt by the pandemic.

The resolution amends the Community Development Block Grant annual action plan. The amendment frees up an additional $203,224 in CDBG CARES Act money from the 2019 plan and an additional $95,627 from the 2015 plan that had been allocated for housing rehabilitation.

“One of the components in the process is community engagement,” Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said. “We want to make sure this money is going to businesses based in the community.”

In answer to a question posed during the public comment section, Eisenhauer said it is not necessary for a company to be a member of the chamber of commerce.

He said the grant totals won’t necessarily all be the same amount. He said different businesses have been impacted differently.

He said the initial amount is about $15,000 per grant, which would allow for the awarding of 19 grants. The grant amount would be affected by the number of applications.

Eisenhauer, urban planner Chris Milliken and Ken Turner, grants management and HUD administrator, will be part of a small group that will review applications. Eisenhauer said he would like to add someone from the banking community, members of the public and trustees. The goal is for the award process to be completed by the end of May or early June.

Emergency equipment funding

The board voted 5-1, with Wilkerson voting against, to set aside $10,000 for the purchase of personal protective equipment or other resources for first responders in Champaign County. Also participating in the program are the University of Illinois and Champaign County.

The cities of Champaign and Urbana opted not to contribute.

Eisenhauer said to date emergency responders have received PPE from the state of Illinois and the federal government. He said is not known if the local funds will be needed.

Call for two meetings a month

For the past two months, the board has met online only, and has met just once a month. The monthly study session has not been held.

Two trustees, Sherry Johnson and Hank Gamel, said they would like the board to go back to meeting twice a month.

“I’m hoping this is our last combined meeting,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping by June we can have two meetings.”

She said receiving information just a few days before a meeting makes it difficult to “get everything investigated that you need to investigate.”

Gamel concurred, saying even if the meetings continue to be held online, “it would be easier to follow” if a study session and regular meeting are both held.

Agreement with park district

The board approved an intergovernmental agreement with Rantoul Park District to mow and maintain park district-owned parks. (Some of the village’s parks are owned by the park district and some by the village.)

The $35,000 price will be paid in quarterly sums. Unlike last year, the park district no longer wants to pay a $15,000 fee for fleet service maintenance.

“If they have a machine go down, they ask to be able to call us and we will bill them at $75 an hour with the park district paying for the parts,” Recreation Department Director Luke Humphrey said.

He said the district has a new superintendent at Brookhill Golf Club, and he has the ability to maintain equipment.

The agreement includes the mowing and maintenance of Wabash Park, Mary Alice Park and the Maplewood Sports Complex. It also includes the continued use of the main shed at Wabash Park and the facility at Maplewood Sports Complex by the village.

Mower purchase

The board voted to approve the purchase of a Toro Groundmaster 4000-D lawnmower from MTI Distributing for $55,710.

Humphrey said it will replace either a 1999 Toro with 11,050 hours on it or a 2001 Toro with 9,250 hours.

“If either one of these goes down, we won’t be able to keep up with the acreage needed to mow,” Humphrey said. “With the purchase of the new mower we can move either one of those into backup service.”

Ultimately, he said, they will be scrapped for parts.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com