W.F. City Council to meet on electric aggregation


The West Frankfort City Council will meet at City Hall at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The meeting is a continuation of Tuesday night’s regular meeting. Mayor Tom Jordan asked commissioners to continue the meeting until Thursday, because he was participating in a conference call on Wednesday regarding electric aggregation.

At today’s meeting, Jordan is expected to report on the call and ask for council action on choosing an electricity supplier.

West Frankfort voters approved electric aggregation in November. The process allows the city to buy electricity for residents on the competitive energy market. (If you still have questions about electric aggregation, check out our Q&A on the subject here: How electric aggregation really works.)

After an energy supplier is selected, residents will be notified of the new supplier and rate, and will be given time to “opt out” of the program and stay with Ameren if they desire.

W.F. railroad crossing work to commence later this month


Union Pacific Railroad crews will be in West Frankfort later this month to make repairs to railroad crossings at Cleveland and St. Louis streets. The work will begin Jan. 21, according to Street Commissioner Tara Fasol-Chambers.

Fasol-Chambers told the West Frankfort City Council that the work will result in the roads being blocked for five hours on that date, unless the weather prevents the work from being done then.

At the first city council meeting of the year Tuesday night, commissioners also discussed the next steps in the electric aggregation process. West Frankfort has joined with eight other Southern Illinois cities to buy electricity as a larger group. Bids for the electricity are expected today, and Mayor Tom Jordan will be participating in a conference call about them with the mayors of the other cities involved. The council continued its meeting to 10 a.m. Thursday to hear from Jordan about the bids.

In other action, commissioners:

  • Approved the payment of city bills totaling $144,762.07.
  • Approved a payment to Larry Grimm Auto for $2,145 for tire and brake work on one of the city’s ambulances.
  • Approved a payment of $2,900 for roof repairs at the city’s Public Service Building. Commissioner Jerry Harkins said the repairs fixed some leaks in the roof that were occurring around the building’s heating and air conditioning units.
  • Agreed to spend $2,026 to replace 2 front tires on one of the city’s backhoes and 2 front and 2 rear tires on a second backhoe. The low bid was from Hammer’s Tires in West Frankfort.
  • Approved a building permit for Brandon Smith, who wants to add a 22×24 office addition to the former dance studio on East Main Street that he is converting into an auto body shop.
  • Fire and Police Commissioner Jerry Harkins commended the West Frankfort Police Department and Chief Jeff Tharp for the active shooter training the department conducted recently at Frankfort Community High School.
  • Commissioner Tara Fasol-Chambers reported that progress is being made on a project to extend sidewalks for three blocks on Ninth Street where children walk to Central Junior High School and Frankfort Intermediate School. The owners of the final home that must grant an easement for the sidewalk have been located. Fasol-Chambers said they are amenable to the project, and she is working with City Attorney Mike Riva to wrap up easement paperwork. The next step in the process will be leveling the area out – a big undertaking, she said.
  • Commissioners discussed the condition of the former Ken Gray Museum in the Heights. Fasol-Chambers, who lives near the building, said that the recent snow and rain seems to have taken a further toll on it. The front of the brick building bows out toward Main Street. City Codes Inspector Ed Hammonds told commissioners that he had been in contact with the building’s owner, and would talk with him again about the building’s condition. Fasol-Chambers expressed concern that the building would fall into Main Street at some point. Hammonds quipped, “It’s not going to fall; it’s going to explode.”
  • Mayor Tom Jordan said work with the school board on a proposed land swap in the city is ongoing. The city will be scheduling public hearings about the land swap soon.


West Frankfort City Council to meet Tuesday

A regular meeting of the West Frankfort City Council will be held Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at West Frankfort City Hall.

On the agenda: approval of payment of bills totaling nearly 145 thousand dollars, next steps in the electric aggregation process, officer reports, approval of a roofing repair at the Public Safety Building, and commissioner reports.

The meeting is open to the public.

W.F. Council allows later bar hours on special days


The West Frankfort City Council has given local tavern owners a gift for the New Year.

Last week, Mayor Tom Jordan announced that local tavern owners had asked to be open later on New Years Eve. However, at last Thursday night’s meeting, no action could be taken. The item did not appear on the agenda, and to act upon the request would have violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

So, the council set a Special Meeting for 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.The Council hoped to address 2012 New Year’s Eve, but also draft an ordinance that would serve for future years as well.

Monday, the Council passed an ordinance allowing bars to remain open until 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. On weekends currently, bars are allowed to remain open until 2 a.m. In the future, when New Year’s Eve falls other than a weekend bars may remain open until 2:30 a.m., with last drinks served at 2 a.m.
Another date that requires a special council ruling is Super Bowl Sunday. Traditionally local bars have asked to be able to open on that day. In the past they have been allowed to open, with permission granted each year on a one-year basis. Friday’s ordinance that was adopted also allows bars to open at 2 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, and remain open for an hour following the game.
These new rules apply to Class A, C, and D liquor licenses.  These are the bars, clubs and the restaurants that serve liquor. Not included are the Class B license holders, which are the package liquor stores.

West Frankfort finishes fiscal year with surplus

In the same manner that most of us want our household to end up at the end of every pay period, the City of West Frankfort finished the fiscal year with more money coming in the door than went out.
An audit report accepted by the West Frankfort City Council at its Thursday night meeting showed a surplus of $139,000, according to Fiance Commissioner Mike Simpson.
Mayor Tom Jordan called the audit “pretty good,” but said he wished it could have been better. He noted a decision to change worker’s compensation providers in 2012 had resulted in savings to the city, and that the city would continue to look for ways to cut expenditures.
One area of concern mentioned was a loss of $7,800 in the water/sewer department. Jordan said the council may need to look at a rate increase in 2013.
In other action, the West Frankfort City Council:
  • Reported that the city will begin the process of buying energy under electric aggregation on Friday morning, when supplier responses are due to Select Energy, the company West Frankfort is using as the energy broker. These responses will be studied by the company before the next phase of the project, according to Mayor Jordan.
  • Approved a bid to Randy Pearce Construction for a handicap ramp at the Veteran’s Memorial and Museum. Pearce Consruction was  the low bidder. The 5-foot wide  by 60-foot long ramp will allow handicapped persons access to the Museum located next to the railroad tracks.Approved paying routine bills of $372,532.55 for the month. This included payment for liability/workman comp insurance premium of $ 202,000.
  • Voted on a provisional approval to transfer the liquor license from the current owners of Tom’s Mad Pricer to the new owners, pending sale believed to be completed in January.
  • Approved final payments for the Mainline Road project.
  • Approved a payment of $3,935 to Grimm Auto Repair for brake work on a fire department vehicle.
In commissioner reports, both Street Commissioner Tara Fasol-Chambers and Finance Commissioner Simpson praised work done by Street Department crews to clear city streets following this week’s blizzard. Fasol-Chambers said that they were hampered by having two members of their five member crew off work.
Finally, an end-of-the-year problem will necessitate a special council meeting on Monday, Dec. 31 at 3 p.m. Local tavern owners have requested a 2 a.m. closing on Monday night for New Year’s Eve. However, the request was not made in time to get the item on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting. The Council will take up both New Year’s Eve bar hours and Super Bowl Sunday bar hours at the meeting on Monday.

Benton City Council decides not to decide: No liquor license for Benton Bowl


Benton city commissioners let their silence speak for them Thursday night when it came time to decide whether or not to grant the Benton Bowl a license to sell beer and wine. No commissioner chose to make the motion to bring the issue up for a vote, so it died.

Benton Bowl owners say the death of the issue will mean the death of their business.

The council’s final regular meeting of the year was the third meeting at which the liquor license had been discussed. Benton Bowl co-owner Mike Fitzpatrick asked the council to consider the license last month, saying that the bowling alley’s business was down, and the owners would like to sell beer from a cooler at the snack bar. Fitzpatrick further noted that his real reason for wanting the license was to get video gambling machines. State law requires that businesses have a liquor license before they apply for the machines.

At a council meeting earlier this month, Benton Mayor Gary Kraft presented the commissioners with some information gathered on other bowling alleys in the area. Other area bowling alleys do serve beer, Kraft said, and have not reported problems with their liquor licenses.

At Thursday’s meeting, Kraft, who is also the city’s Liquor Commissioner, brought the issue back before the council. He asked for a motion that would create a new liquor license for the Benton Bowl. After some discussion, he proposed that the license be restricted to beer sales between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Fitzpatrick attended the meeting, as did Benton Bowl co-owner Dennis Odle.

Odle told commissioners that the goal of the liquor license is to attract a bar league and get more patrons in the door, and that the bowling alley may not ever get video gambling machines. This perceived change in the reason behind the need for the liquor license prompted some questions from commissioners.

Odle said he and Fitzpatrick and their wives bought the bowling alley 16 years ago.

“Our business is down 50 percent in 16 years,” Fitzpatrick told commissioners.

“We’re down to grasping at straws,” Odle added. “If we don’t get something in there, we’re gonna have to shut down.”

Kraft told commissioners the fact that other area bowling alleys had liquor licenses was a deciding factor for him.

“I think if it’s regulated, I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot,” he said. “If all the rest were dry, it would be a different story.”

Commissioner Ron Baumgarte then told the Benton Bowl’s owners that he wanted to congratulate them for running a business that his family had enjoyed, and that he understood how tough times were.

“I understand business being down 50 percent,” Baumgarte said. “I run a small business myself, and mine is off 60 percent.”

But, Baumgarte said, he would be voting no on the liquor license. “I want you to know it has nothing to do with you guys, it’s what’s inside of me.”

A vote would first require a motion and second from commissioners, though, and when Kraft called for that, the commissioners sat silent, and no motion ever came.

Fitzpatrick and Odle walked out of the meeting, with Odle telling commissioners the lack of action would kill the business.

“After May, don’t bother coming to the bowling alley,” Odle said. “It won’t be there.”

In other action, the Benton City Council:

  • Discussed changes to the city’s health insurance deductible. Finance Commissioner Dennis Miller told the council that the city’s health insurance policy is up for renewal on Feb. 1, and Blue Cross Blue Shield is increasing the premium by more than 31 percent, from $537,000 to $595,000, to keep the same coverage. Miller said the premium increase is largely due to claims over the past year. Increasing the deductible on the policy from $1,500 to $2,500 per year and changing the provider to Health Alliance would keep the premium closer to what it is currently. Commissioners agreed to think about the changes and take up the issue at their next meeting.
  • Discussed the renewal of agreement for the City of Benton to do street sweeping for the City of West City. The agreement runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 annually. Street Commissioner Don Wyant told the council that increases in diesel fuel and payroll costs necessitate an increase in the amount Benton charges West City for this service, from $83.26 per hour to $92.14 per hour. That cost breaks down to $56.25 per hour to run the street sweeper, and $35.89 per hour for the operator’s wages and insurance. Commissioners approved the agreement’s renewal with the rate increase, contingent on West City also approving the agreement.
  • City Attorney Mike Malkovich told commissioners that the city had received six notices of foreclosure in the past two weeks, more than he had received in that time period before. “I just mention it so that you know that the foreclosures are still pretty prevalent,” Malkovich said.

West Frankfort City Council to discuss ramp at memorial


A ramp to make the Veterans Memorial more accessible to the disabled is among the items up for discussion at the next West Frankfort City Council meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 27 at City Hall.

Commissioners will discuss a bid to install the ramp and consider action on it.

This meeting — the last regular meeting of the year — is being held on Thursday because the regular day for the meeting would have been Christmas Day.

Other items on the agenda include:

  • Consideration of a resolution allowing the mayor to sign a contract buying power under the electric aggregation contract, rather than requiring action of the council to enter into the agreement. Other area cities have approved similar resolutions so that when bids are received, action can be taken quickly. (Still confused about electric aggregation? Check out this link: How electric aggregation really works)
  • Consideration of a request from Ameren to allow an easement on the Redbird Tank Property.
  • Possible approval of a liquor license for Schmutz Family Holdings, the new owners of Tom’s Mad Pricer supermarket.


Public hearing on tax levy set for Friday night in Zeigler

A mandatory public hearing is scheduled for Friday evening in Zeigler. The hearing is required before the Zeigler City Council votes on its tax levy for the year. It’s a time for city commissioners to hear comments on the levy.

The public hearing will be held at 5 p.m. city council chambers at Zeigler city hall.

West Frankfort settles union grievances


City officials have announced that four grievances filed by Laborers Local 773, which represents West Frankfort’s Street Department workers, have been settled.

Street Commissioner Tara Fasol-Chambers detailed the settlements at the conclusion of this week’s West Frankfort City Council meeting.

In the first grievance, union workers said they were required to use their personal cell phones for work purposes, and requested $40 per month reimbursement from the city for the use of their phones. The union also requested 16 months of back pay for the phone use. In the settlement, the city will pay for eight months in arrears – $320 each for four street department employees. The city has purchased prepaid phones for the workers to be used for work purposes going forward. In addition, street department employees have been instructed to limit personal cell phone use to emergencies only while on the clock. The city was already paying for cell phones for the Street Department superintendent and foreman.

The second grievance related to a change in the time the lunch hour is given. Fasol-Chambers said employees had typically taken lunch at 9 a.m. The workers’ shift starts at 7 a.m., and by the time equipment is started and moved to a particular work site, it is often 7:30 or 7: 45, which does not allow much time for morning work projects before lunch, so the lunch hour had been moved to 11 a.m. The union dropped the grievance, and employees will take lunch at 11 a.m.

The third and fourth grievances were related to disciplinary actions taken with a particular street department employee. The city has agreed that a written record of verbal warnings regarding threatening language used and tardiness would be removed from the employee’s file. The city will issue a memo to all city employees reminding them that they are required to arrive prior to their scheduled start time and call in to their supervisor if an emergency warrants a late arrival.

Fasol-Chambers said that the city had also agreed with the union on a more open policy of communication.

“Everyone trying to work better together in the future might resolve some of these issues before they get to the grievance stage,” she said.


WF City Council to discuss next step in electric aggregation process


A regular meeting of the West Frankfort City Council is slated for tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 201 E. Nolen St. One of the items listed in the agenda is the next step in the city’s electric aggregation process: Commissioners will consider approval of an agreement with the city of Marion to pool their households and buy energy under the same contract.

West Frankfort voters approved an electric aggregation referendum earlier this month, which allows the city to buy power in bulk on the futures market for residents, a move that can save households 20 to 25 percent on the purchased power rate on their electric bills.

Both Marion and West Frankfort have contracted with Select Energy to facilitate the electric aggregation process, and the company has recommended the two cities buy under one contract, as more households can add up to greater savings.

West Frankfort residents will be given the opportunity to “opt out” of electric aggregation and continue to buy their electricity from Ameren before the program begins.

The Council is also expected to approve a $35,000 loan to Morthland College. This had been discussed at a previous council meeting, but tabled. There had been concern that the city would not be able to grant the loan to the private college.
A third major item on the agenda is the next step in renovating the now cleared site of UMWA Hospital, on West St. Louis Street. The site, being purchased by the city, will be offered to developers. At tonight’s meeting, the Council is expected to approve a $2,500 expenditure to begin Phase One of the environmental site assessment.
A new tenant is expected to be approved for the Business Incubator, Street Department grievances will be discussed, and routine business is also expected to come before the council tonight. As always, the meeting is open to the public.
Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News