City Manager:  It Was Another John Phillips

Following Mayoral Candidate John Phillips' denial of ever emailing City Manager Tim Gleason (See yesterday's response below) about the legal outcome (at that point) of the action following the firing of Police Chief Brad Sweeney, Gleason issued the following statement this afternoon (March 22). 

"I’ve learned this was not the John Phillips I thought it was. If asked I would’ve said I don’t know any other John Phillips, but this is one apparently associated with the Illinois City Manager’s Association. I apologize for any confusion that this may have caused. I don’t want to lose sight of the larger message I released yesterday

"In August 2016, a comment like this seemed consistent with the improved relationship after John’s reappointment to the Library Board of Directors by Mayor Moore Wolfe and the City Council and our mutual goal of a long-term solution for the library property. Why I was so encouraged by an email in August 2016 from John Phillips? Because the library real estate transaction did not materialize that John led the efforts and put John and I at odds when I first started the job March 2015. Three issues I was forced to address as the new city manager 1) my elected officials were unaware of the details per them, 2) my elected officials had to vote on this transaction which was contrary to John’s opinion, and 3) $750,000 of remaining bond debt was not part of the real estate transaction that Decatur taxpayers would continue to pay until paid off in December 2017 after the asset was gone. In addition, Decatur taxpayers, would have been included in the taxing body paying off new debt created through the Public Building Commission for the necessary major renovations under the proposed real estate transaction.

"I did not think twice about an email that contained the name John Phillips could be a different John Phillips and am hopeful that the previous message in yesterday’s press release does not get lost and that the community recognizes the positive momentum that we are experiencing in Decatur."
 
 
 
City Council Candidate Andrew Apel calls for investigation
of City Manager Gleason and a vote on termination 

DECATUR (March 21) – Today City Council Candidate Andrew Apel called for an investigation and a vote on the termination of City Manager Tim Gleason. Apel said, “Decatur deserves honest and ethical leadership. After speaking to business owners and residents of Decatur, it is clear that immense dissatisfaction exists and the people want allegations of impropriety investigated and the City Manager held accountable.” 

Apel was disappointed by Gleason ordering an on duty police officer to drive him to St. Louis. “What he did was wrong. I believe in ‘zero-tolerance’ for public corruption, even for the City Manager. No one is above the law.” Apel hears peoples' concern that the City Manager taking our City in the wrong direction and believes new leadership is in order. 

“I join Councilman Bill Faber in calling for an investigation and vote on the City Manager’s termination. The people deserve answers and accountability,”
I
City Manager Gleason Issues Response To Council Candidate Apel's Call For Investigation, Termination 
 
Late this afternoon (March 21) City Manager Tim Gleason issued the following statement regarding City Council Candidate Apel's call for an investigation of Gleason' and vote on termination:
 
​"I’ve been asked to respond to the Herald & Review and WAND 17 about the Andrew Apel comment calling for an investigation into my conduct in May 2015. I choose to respond this way...

"On Byers & Company this morning I was asked about a claim Apel made on air last week that food & beverage audits were retaliatory by the city because of the opposition bar and restaurant owners had to the liquor license increases last year (2016). This is not retaliatory and often times does not produce a finding, but is a pathway to protect the integrity of this process. In fact most bar and restaurant owners have not had an issue with our audits because they have done nothing wrong. But we have had some establishments underreporting their collections – many of whom have complained – which is not fair to those who choose to do the right thing.

"When do I defend myself? I’ve been asked by many to do so and have been satisfied with the overwhelming support I receive from many in the community to include strangers. I often am speechless and will simply say “thank you”. It means so much and is what drives me to do even more for Decatur. The lies and rehashing of old news is not going to change that – I refuse... The old saying is true “the high road does prevail”.

"Decatur is a great community! Do you know that? Sometimes I wonder if you realize how great you are. There are many challenges and fortunately even more opportunities. There is not one box of things “to do” left unchecked since arriving two years ago. There are many challenges yet to face and city staff are doing that headfirst on your behalf.

"I will not take the bait on this matter regarding my ride to the St. Louis airport in May 2015. Mayor McElroy told me this was official city business and arranged it with the former police chief (without any objections being made). Councilman Jerry Dawson is aware if you choose not to take my word for it. I did not submit for the nearly $400 flight change cost and paid it myself even though Mayor McElroy directed me to. It has been investigated by a special prosecutor and when concluded I received a congratulatory email from John Phillips in August 2016 stating the following “Tim, I was so glad to hear about the positive court ruling. You have gone through a lot. I am certain the community will be better off because of your commitment to the profession. Best wishes for the days ahead. John”. I very much appreciated these comments from John.

"There are so many challenges that I could comment to and for what reason? They have been or currently are being worked on. Healthy relationships have been established, an accurate reporting of the city’s dire financial situation reported to the elected and community with steps taken to address the problem. Today we are firmly in an infrastructure chapter of Decatur’s history fixing the problems that have compounded over the years and the list of accomplishments goes on. I have very clear direction from a strong undivided council except for one (and that is not negative but simply a different perspective) and I am blessed to be part of a team that has a track record of “winning” for the community. I am honored to be the City Manager for this community of 75,000 and will never let you down...

 "No further comment necessary."
 
 
City Council Approves Infrastructure Work,
Requests More Information On Library Agreement

DECATUR {March 20) – The labor agreement the Decatur Public Library governing board and its represented employees was tabled Monday night by the Decatur City Council so that the council members could gather more information on the proposed nine-year eight-month agreement.

A portion of the library’s employees are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – or AFSCME – and the group’s labor agreement with the Decatur Public Library expires on April 30, 2017. The parties have negotiated a successor agreement and the City is required to consider and ratify the contract for it to go into effect because the library’s tax levy is authorized by the City.

The City Council received the ratified agreement this week and had several questions related to various items contained in the document.

In other business, the Council approved the funding of more than $1.2 million in infrastructure improvements to be funded through the city’s annual State Motor Fuel Tax allocation. The work will include more than six miles of street restoration and rehabilitation, traffic signal maintenance and repairs and funding will also cover the city’s road salt purchase. 
 
City Council Talks Neighborhood Revitalization,
Infrastructure Improvements

DECATUR (March 7) – The groundwork has been laid to move forward with plans to revitalize the city’s neighborhoods with demolitions to take down dilapidated structures and programs to help revitalize properties that can be saved set to kick off this year.

    That was the message from City Manager Tim Gleason to members of the Decatur City Council Monday night during a study session to discuss ongoing neighborhood redevelopment efforts. While final plans are still being formulated, the discussion centered about taking a strategic, targeted approach to demolition and rebuilding problem properties as part of a comprehensive program in an effort to make sure that the city makes the best use of taxpayer dollars going forward.

    “Simply demoing properties could be seen as being very short cited and simply turning vacant lots into side-lots, while better than doing nothing, doesn’t match the opportunities we have (if we proceed strategically).”

    While the council has previously discussed options for financing up to $1 million in demolitions and programs, an opportunity could exist to secure upwards of $2 million or more to make a bigger impact in a shorter amount of time. While Monday’s session was held to gather additional council input and no final decision has been made, Gleason stressed that the City will be moving forward with demos and rebuilding programs in 2017. 

    In other business, Council members voted unanimously in support of $2.3 million in water main replacement work to include the installation of new water mains, fire hydrants, valves and services south of Garman Park off of Ravina Park Road, and Turner Drive off of East Cantrell.

 
Central Illinois Regional Political Action Committee (CIPAC) Releases Local Candidate Endorsements

Decatur, IL- Central Illinois Political Action Committee (CIPAC) has released an endorsement for candidates of the local election to be held on April 4, 2017. CIPAC collected written questionnaires from all candidates running for Mayor of Decatur, Decatur City Council, and Decatur School Board. Along with receiving written responses from candidates, CIPAC conducted face-to-face interviews to gain a further understanding of individual views on business and political issues facing Decatur and Macon County. Following a detailed vetting of all fifteen candidates running for these local offices, CIPAC endorsed the following candidates:

 Mayor of Decatur: Julie Moore-Wolfe

 Decatur City Council: Pat McDaniel, Chris Riley, Chuck Kuhle, David Horn

 Decatur Public Schools: Al Scheider, Kendall Briscoe, Beth Creighton, Beth Nolan

The 2017 election will be significant to further economic prosperity in Decatur. CIPAC recognizes the importance to have pro-business candidates in office to serve as a powerful voice to advocate on behalf of the local business community. After rigorous review of individual policy positions and, where applicable, voting records, CIPAC chose to endorse the candidates who will best promote the business climate in Decatur and Macon County.

Central Illinois Political Action Committee (CIPAC) supports business-friendly candidates and issues at both the local and state levels in Illinois. The purpose of CIPAC is to improve government and business in the State of Illinois by assisting candidates seeking nomination and election to state and local offices in Illinois by supporting or opposing public policy issues.


Decatur Police Department Offers Public The
Opportunity To Report Some Crimes Online

    The Decatur Police Department now offers the public the opportunity to report some crimes online. Deputy Chief Jason Walker stated the online reporting systems is meant to be a public convenience for the reporting of nonemergency offenses by those affected, in which there is no identifiable suspect and no physical evidence to collect.
    To file a report online, the affected party must have access to the internet, valid email address and is reporting a nonemergency offense that occurred in the City of Decatur.
    The public can find the online reporting option by going directly to www.dpdconnect.com, or by going to the City of Decatur web page www.decaturil.gov and select Departments/Police, where a quick link to "file a report" can be located.
    Offenses currently available for online reporting include: Civil Matter/Information Reports, Criminal Damage to Property Under $500, Theft Under $300, Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property, Retail Theft Under $300 ( Businesses Only), Illegal Dumping/Littering and Nuisances.
    Once an online report is received, a detective sergeant will review the report, determine if the report is accepted, denied, and if additional investigation is warranted. The reporting party will receive an email indicating if the report was accepted or denied. If denied, the email will provide a reason for the denial.
    Deputy Chief Walker hopes that online reporting will make the reporting of some crimes a more effective/efficient option for the public and the police department.


Macon County State's Attorney Jay Scott Announces Adult Diversion Program Collected $83,656 In Fees During 2016

    Macon County State's Attorney Jay Scott announced Feb. 28 that the Macon County State's Attorney's Adult Diversion Program collected $83,656 in fees during 2016, a more than 13% increase over the previous year. Fees collected during the last four years, which go to the Macon County General Fund, totaled more than $378,500. The program also collected more than $20,000 in restitution for crime victims in 2016.
    The program's Give Back to the Community Fee, in its second year, collected $5,425 for local non-profit organizations. Organizations receiving funds were The Child 1st Center, Coalition of Neighborhood Organizations, DOVE, Inc., Decatur Community Partnership, Police Benevolent & Protective Association Unit #39, Macon County Fraternal Order of Police #144, Macon  County Animal Shelter, Decatur Macon County Senior Center and Independence Pointe.    Program participants also completed 5,110 hours of community service during 2016.
    The Adult Diversion Program has diverted appropriate non-violent first-time offenders from Macon County's court system since 1992. The program reduces the caseload of the office, allowing prosecutors to devote their efforts and resources to more serious crimes, reducing the backlog of cases, and saving taxpayer dollars. The program diverted 244 cases from Macon County court during 2016.
    "Kim Tarvin has served as coordinator for the program for the last four years," Scott said. "She works very hard and is very dedicated to making Adult Diversion a success. It's a good program for victims, it's good for first-time offenders who make a mistake in judgment, it's a good source of revenue for the county and it saves a lot of tax dollars."

    
 
 
Decatur Trades & Labor Assembly Announces
Endorsements in April 4 Election

DECATUR, IL - The Legislative Committee of Decatur Trades & Labor Assembly, representing more than 13,000 union members in Macon County, has announced their endorsements for the offices of Decatur Mayor, Decatur City Council, School Board, Richland Community College Board and Decatur Township.

In the race for Decatur Mayor, they have endorsed Julie Moore Wolfe.

In the race for Decatur City Council, they have endorsed Chris Riley, Marty Watkins and David Horn.

In the race for Decatur School Board, they recommend Alida Graham, B. A. Buttz, Courtney Carson and Beth Nolan.

In the race for Richland Community College board, they have endorsed Jim Underwood.

In the race for Decatur Township, they have endorsed Vicki Sheets for Assessor; and Amy Rueff and Lori Randle for Trustees.

The central labor council has also endorsed a YES vote on the Public Safety initiative.

Decatur Trades & Labor Assembly reminds voters that early voting starts on February 23.

The mission of Decatur Trades and Labor Assembly, AFL-CIO of Macon County is to improve the lives of working families-to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our state and the nation. The organization is a key part of the nation's largest and strongest labor federation-the AFL-CIO, which unites 10 million working women and men of every race and ethnicity and from every walk of life.

As a voice for working families, they encourage anyone interested in joining their efforts to contact Decatur Trades & Labor Assembly President, Bill Francisco, at 217-428-3013.

 
City Council Takes Action To Fix Sewer Problems

DECATUR - The Decatur City Council on Monday took steps to fix critical sewer problems as is being required by the USEPA that today lead to backups throughout our community, approving agreements for flow monitoring and engineering necessary to complete the work.

Members during a regularly scheduled meeting voted unanimously to support a professional services agreement with ADS Environmental Services for target area flow monitoring for a fee not to exceed $462,944.28 including contingency. The Council also approved an agreement with Crawford, Murphy and Tilly, Inc. to provide professional engineering services for a not to exceed fee of $723,008.

Both agreements are necessary to fulfilling an Administrative Court order (ACO) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifying proposed repairs and future alternatives to avoid ongoing overflow and backups of sanitary sewers. The Order binds the city to provide both a Capacity Management, Operations, and Maintenance (CMOM) Program and a Sewer System Alternatives Analysis (SSAA) with work identified in both to be completed by December 31, 2018.

The CMOM Program provides a comprehensive review of the City’s sewer collection system which includes a review of system management, maintenance and capital improvements funding. The SSAA focuses on efforts to prevent storm water from entering into the separated sanitary sewer and combined sewer system in areas identified as experiencing sanitary sewer overflows and back-ups during storm events. 
 
 
Lowell Brosamer Retiring After 35 Years
As Administrator At St. Teresa

     Lowell Brosamer, chief executive director of the St. Teresa Educational Foundation, has announced his retirement after 35 years as an administrator at St. Teresa, effective Mar. 30, 2017.
    Lowell served as the St. Teresa High School Principal from 1981-1999 (18 years). Following his retirement as principal, he served as the chief executive director of the St. Teresa Educational Foundation for the past 17 years, from 1999 to present.
    Dr. Kenneth Hendriksen, CEO at St. Teresa stated, "Lowell Brosamer is one of the finest educators I have ever known. He has represented St. Teresa with dignity and enthusiasm for many years. His wealth of knowledge and experience has certainly helped me, even from my previous years as principal."
    Tracey Jerger, current president of the St. Teresa Educational Foundation, reiterated, "Lowell has built the St. Teresa Foundation into one of the premier foundations in Central Illinois. We will truly miss his guidance and professionalism."
    A search committee comprised of Foundation Trustees and School Board members will soon be listing a vacant announcement for a Director of Development at the institution.
 
 
​​Blues in Central Park Coming to an End

Decatur, Illinois, February 8, 2017 - Decatur Magazine publisher Beth Stringer announced today that the Blues in Central Park concert series will not return this summer. 

 “We’ve had a great run over the past 16 years and have thoroughly enjoyed bringing talented blues musicians to the Central Park stage in downtown Decatur,” said Stringer. “After considerable discussion, we decided the timing is right to develop new projects.”

 Introduced in summer 2001, the mission of Blues in Central Park was to book nationally known blues musicians that would attract large audiences —  an objective that complemented efforts by city officials to establish downtown Decatur as an entertainment destination. “We definitely achieved our goal,” Stringer added. “Thousands of people attended the free blues concerts every summer, and many were visiting downtown Decatur for the very first time.”

Stringer credits the success of Blues in Central Park to the outpouring of community support provided by corporate sponsors, civic partners, and loyal blues fans who ventured downtown to hear great music. 

“I want to thank all of our longtime sponsors and tireless volunteers for supporting Decatur Magazine’s efforts to bring quality entertainment to Decatur,” said Stringer. “Special thanks go to Eric Mueller and Denny Harris at Mueller Distributing; Jim and Kathy Gresham and their merry band of volunteers; Jay Hartman, who played a huge role by booking and managing the band logistics for the first fourteen years; and Chris Brodnicki, who took over the last two years.” 

SPONSORS AND CIVIC PARTNERS:

Miller Lite and George Mueller Distributing 

Hickory Point Bank & Trust 

Decatur Conference Center & Hotel

Advanced Disposal 

WAND TV 

Goss Advertising 

Decatur Area Arts Council 

Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce 

Community Foundation for Decatur & Macon County
 
City Council Approves Reorganization Plan

(2/5/2017)  The Decatur City Council on Monday approved a citywide reorganization that will flatten the organization, lead to additional efficiencies and is anticipated to save city taxpayers in excess of $300,000 annually.
        Council members voted 6-1 in favor of the plan as presented, an opportunity that comes about in part as a result of existing, expected and unexpected vacancies in 2017. The changes will also create a work environment that allows employees to operate most effectively and continue to provide critical public services to the community without layoffs, although authorized staffing will be reduce by three positions through attrition.
        There are no anticipated direct increases in costs associated with the restructuring, which will include the following steps in the coming months:

• Establishing a Human Resources Department and Director

• Establishing an Economic and Community Development Department and Director,
moving the Mass Transit Division and incorporating the Neighborhood Services Department and the Economic Development, Planning and Sustainability, Building Inspections and Neighborhood Inspections (Code enforcement) Divisions to the department.

•  Having the City Clerk’s office report directly to the City Manager and establishing the Information Technology Department and Director.

• Eliminating one Assistant Corporation Counsel position in the Legal Department and (as seen above) relieving the Legal Department of the responsibility of supervision for the Neighborhood Inspections Division.

•  Incorporating the functions of the Water Management Department into the Department of Public Works.

• Eliminating both Assistant City Manager positions through attrition and creating the position of Deputy City Manager. 
 
Decatur Secures Spot in 
World’s 10 Most Affordable Housing Markets


    In the 13th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey published last week, Decatur ranks as the 3rd most affordable housing market both nationally and internationally. First reported by CNN Style, the Demographia report scores middle-income housing affordability using the "median multiple" principle, which takes median house price divided by gross annual median household income to calculate affordability. This method has been recommended by the World Bank and the United Nations. For instance, the median house price in Decatur is $99,400 and the median household income is $49,100, resulting in a housing market score of 2.0. Ratings of 3.0 & Under are rated “Affordable,” 3.1-4.0 “Moderately Unaffordable,” 4.1-5.0 “Seriously Unaffordable,” and 5.1 & Over “Severely Unaffordable.
    A total of 406 urban markets were analyzed in nine countries – Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, and the United States – using data from the third quarter of 2016. Decatur tied for 3rd place with Elmira, New York for most affordable housing market. Other central Illinois cities making the list were Peoria ranking 5th nationally, Springfield – 15th, Bloomington – 19th, and Champaign – 52nd. Among the least affordable were Hong Kong, clocking an 18.1 median multiple score, Sydney scored 12.2, and Vancouver 11.8.
    “The affordability of housing in Macon County has long surprised those locating to our area. And, perhaps, a major advantage often overlooked by our residents,” said Carla Brinkoetter, owner of Brinkoetter & Associates. “When you look at our housing costs along with the many other quality of life factors afforded area residents, I have to ask, "why wouldn't you want to live in Macon County?””
    “Combine Decatur’s affordable housing market, our low cost of living, and higher average wages than surrounding communities and we have a very compelling story,” said Nicole Bateman, Community Marketing Manager for Decatur and Macon County. “We’re experiencing major investments that enhance the area’s quality of life, and data like that from Demographia reiterates that this is a wonderful and affordable place to live, work, and play.”
Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe Announces
Aggressive Plan For City's Future
 
      Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe has announced an aggressive plan to attract and retain high quality jobs in the greater Decatur area.  The Moore Wolfe plan focuses on improved infrastructure; private and public investment; and strategic partnerships.  

“Decatur’s Northeast Corridor is our community’s gateway to opportunity,” said Moore Wolfe. “We and our partner Macon County have been working diligently with state and federal partners to secure funding to make transportation infrastructure enhancements to support current needs as well as future growth there.  The labor and business communities have also joined us.  And together, we’ve brought our case to Washington, D.C. and Springfield as a team.  We’re on the same page to make this effort a success story.”
Under Moore Wolfe’s leadership, the community has taken a fresh look at development funding options.  Organized labor has also been tapped as a financial partner in growing the opportunities in the Northeast Corridor.  

Moore Wolfe said, “In meetings held starting last spring, we began discussing potential investment in land acquisition for a development opportunity with labor leaders, opening relationships with another partner.”   

She points to other aspects of her plan:

•    Actively pursue annexing land into the city for future development.

•    Work to achieve Elite Site status by Ameren Illinois for Decatur locations with potential for industrial development.

•    Create an industrial tax increment finance district (TIF) to be used to attract businesses making location decisions.

•    Use the community’s Industry Clusters to identify businesses to attract to Decatur, building on the area’s strengths.

Moore Wolfe said, “We are setting the stage to help the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County (EDC) in its efforts to attract high quality jobs to the area.  We need to put the infrastructure in place and give the EDC the incentive tools it needs to bring companies here, which ultimately helps our current businesses grow.”

Additionally, Moore Wolfe plans to work with the existing business community to help local companies succeed through a partnership with the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce.  
 
Moore Wolfe said, “It is time to get creative.  On-line sales are hurting our local retailers, and we need to find a way to help them.  I propose a partnership with the Chamber to help these businesses expand their on-line presence, and possibly even their delivery options.  It’s a way to help the little guys fight back against the major companies that are often out-of-state and do nothing to help the local economy.”  
Moore Wolfe says:  “This is all about working together to grow our own success story.  We have a great team, and I’m proud to be a part of leading it.”
 
Moore Wolfe is running to keep the mayor's position in the April 4th Consolidated Election.  John Phillips is challenging her in the mayor's race.

NEWS FROM HERE AND THERE

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PAUL OSBORNE, EDITOR