RANTOUL — Some village of Rantoul department heads can be fired from their jobs without board approval, while others can’t.
Village Trustee Terry Workman wonders why that is so.
He said village ordinance specifies who is under contract and who isn’t and the process by which the village board can override the mayor’s decision to fire a department head. But he said the language is confusing.
“Everything is in this ordinance that we need. We just need to clarify it,” he told other members of the village board last week. “To me, that’s ridiculous. We need to correct that as soon as possible.”
Workman agrees if a department head “does something wrong,” and needs to be removed from his or her job, that person should be fired. But he believes the village ordinance is too nebulous when it comes to firing a department head without cause.
The question was raised at a recent candidate forum at which Trustee Chad Smith said if there was one thing he disagreed with it would be that each department head is reappointed in May with the consent of the village board, “which I feel is not the best way to treat our department heads.”
Smith said he believes that leaves some department heads hanging. He also cited the removal of former Village Administrator Bruce Sandahl by Mayor Chuck Smith. Some on the board disagreed with how it was handled, but Smith was within his rights to do so.
The board could have overturned Chuck Smith’s action, but it would have taken five trustee votes to do so.
Village attorney Ken Beth said the department heads who operate with contracts are the village administrator, the police chief and the comptroller.
Those without contracts are the offices of fire chief, director of public works, director of community development, director of economic development and recreation department superintendent.
“Why do we have contracts for some but not for others?” Workman said.
Beth said it has been the determination of the mayor over the years as to who has a contract. He said the board could decide that all department heads have a contract as is the case in Champaign. But in Urbana, they don’t.
Added Trustee Hank Gamel: “By way of explanation of that question, ... all the people with contracts were hired from somewhere (else). All the people without contracts were employees that were promoted. I don’t think that was an intentional decision, but that’s just the history that puts us where we are.”
The board asked Administrator Scott Eisenhauer to combine, with the village ordinance, the state statute that indicates a two-thirds board majority is needed to overrule the mayor’s dismissal of a department head, and to look at either contracts for all department heads or another mechanism that would allow the employees in those posts not to have to be reappointed on an annual basis.
Building to be sold
The board at this week’s meeting will also consider the sale of the building at 1112 Enterprise Drive on the former Chanute Air Force Base.
The prospective buyer is Lexycan LLC, headed by Yudong “Mark” Xu, a dentist at Angel Smiles dental clinic in Rantoul.
The 3,000-square-foot brick building, which is unoccupied, will be sold for $105,000 minus $25,000.
“They requested a credit of $25,000 because they noticed the roof needs to be replaced,” Airport Director Eric Vences said.
Vences said the plan is for Lexycan to renovate the building and redevelop the site. Proceeds from the sale will be earmarked for future Economic Development Conveyance improvement projects as outlined with the agreement with the Air Force.
Vacant lot purchase program update
Eisenhauer reported the trial portion of the vacant lot purchase program has been a success.
Seven lots owned by the village were put up for sale with owners of neighboring properties getting the first right to make an offer. Eisenhauer said adjacent landowners have made offers on four of the seven lots.
For the other three lots, two non-adjacent property owners have submitted letters of interest. Those lots are at 1124 and 1136 Clark Street. That process will remain open through April.
Eisenhauer said there has been no interest to date for the lot at 519 Fairlawn.
The village is also likely to place other village-owned property up for sale to the public.
Bus ridership moving on up
Eisenhauer also reviewed C-CARTS bus ridership totals.
Ridership numbers have soared. The Eagle Express numbers in March have increased from 309 in FY 17 to 802 in FY 18 to 1,251 in FY19.
Fixed-route numbers have also climbed in March from 626 in FY 17 to 1,201 in FY 18 to 1,675 in FY19.
At this week’s meeting the board will also:
— Vote whether to approve a contract with ZoomEX LLC for the sale of scrap metal aluminum wire and copper wire for 50 percent of the commodity exchange and American metal market price.
—Vote on a proposal to buy $59,191 worth of underground primary cable from Anixter for use in the Veterans Parkway area. The contract also includes a $10,000 contingency.
n Vote on a construction engineering agreement with Burns & McDonnell for $70,252 for the phase 3 wildlife deterrent fencing project at the Rantoul airport. The fencing will be installed along the southwest corner of the airfield near the campground and behind the fixed base operator building. It will fully secure the remainder of the airfield. The village’s portion of the cost will be $3,511. Illinois Department of Transportation will pay for the remainder of the cost.
— Vote on the purchase of $114,838 worth of pump station equipment from various vendors for the Rantoul Foods hog plant on village’s west side. Public Works Director Greg Hazel said the initial design of the pork plant in the early 2000s called for two pumps. However, those have accumulated many service hours “in a very caustic environment” and need to be replaced. He proposed installing three new pumps at the site due to the expansion of the plant. New equipment will also include variable-frequency drives and automation and controls. It all will be installed next year.
— Vote to approve an engineering agreement not to exceed $75,000 with Hutchison Engineering for resurfacing Maplewood Drive.
In trustees’ remarks, Chad Smith gave a “shout out” to the Central Maintenance department for staff coming in during the weekend to repair fire equipment. The fire department had a busy weekend with four fires in 24 hours.
“We have some of the best fire equipment around, but at times you do have equipment problems,” Smith said. “We are fortunate to have an in-house Central Maintenance department.”
Trustee Sam Hall thanked the Rec Department and administrator for allowing the start-up of an open gym for young adults at Forum Fitness Center. The open gym will be available on Saturdays for anyone ages 16 to 24.
Eisenhauer noted that thanks to Grants Manager/HUD Manager Ken Turner, 10 University of Illinois students did a transportation study in the village during the weekend. They knocked on 200 doors in about three hours. The goal was to determine if there are any gaps in the village’s transportation program. He said Youth Programs Director Andy Graham and the Rec Department provided transportation for the students.
Eisenhauer also noted the village realized an additional $3,500 that was collected through the Illinois Debt Recovery Program.
The village administrator said he has heard something he has never heard before — compliments about a village rental inspections department. He said both tenants and landlords have called to compliment inspector Scott Morgan and staff. He said they are “proactively looking at rental properties and where violations exist and need to be addressed.”