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 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.

New tenant expected at West Frankfort business incubator


City officials say they have a verbal commitment from a business expected to occupy 75,000 square feet at West Frankfort’s Business Incubator.

West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan announced at the Dec. 11 city council meeting that Irwin Industries had toured the portion of the facility once occupied by Raytech Machining and are interested in moving into the space.

The energy industry construction conglomerate is based in Long Beach, California. West Frankfort’s central location near Illinois Basin coal mines is attractive to Irwin’s division that sells, repairs and maintains long wall jacks, Jordan said.

Though specific numbers are not available yet, Jordan said that Irwin’s move into the facility would create jobs.

Irwin Industries makes the third new tenant at the business incubator in as many months. The council also voted to spend $2,150 for office construction expenses for J&J Gaming, another of the incubator’s new tenants.

In other action, the West Frankfort City Council:

  • Approved the city’s annual tax levy ordinance, effective May 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013. The ordinance includes a 5 percent increase in the tax levy. Mayor Tom Jordan said the city’s tax levy, which is largely used to pay for police and fire pensions, represents about 10 percent of the city’s $12.7 million total annual budget.
  • Designated three street parking spaces on the east side of Emma Street, south of Oak Street and north of the alley, for the exclusive use of Morthland College. Street Commissioner Tara Fasol-Chambers explained that because of tight parking in the area, the college, which has recently moved into the old First Christian Church / Grace Baptist Fellowship building, had requested some designated spaces for a few staff members with health issues, and for loading and unloading. Signs will be erected denoting the restricted spaces.
  • Approved no parking signs for the block of Mulberry Street between Oak and Elm streets. Fasol-Chambers said that because the street is narrow, residents have trouble accessing their driveways when street parking is allowed.
  • Added Sam E. Ward and Christian M. Whittington to West Frankfort’s auxiliary police force, at the request of Police Chief Jeff Tharp.
  • Approved the transfer of Lake Lot Lease No. 84 from James and Jean Reeder to Glenn and Kay Bridewell.
  • Proclaimed December as Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month in West Frankfort, as part of a national campaign sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
  • Approved a calendar of city council meetings for 2013. The council will continue to meet at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, with the exception of the second meeting in December. It has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 23 to avoid conflicts with Christmas Eve.
  • Approved a payment of $11,713.29 to Brown & Roberts Inc. for 2012 motor fuel tax program engineering.
  • Approved change order No. 4 for the Route 37 water main relocation as part of the road construction project there. This change actually decreased the contract amount by $32,867.09.
  • Approved the final payment of $5,000 to KPS, Inc. for the Route 37 water main relocation.
  • Approved a payment of $2,302 to Frank Tresso for repairs of two pieces of Street Department equipment – the jet truck and the 580 backhoe.
  • Approved a new sign for Pup’s 212 Tavern.

The next regular meeting of the West Frankfort City Council will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 27 at City Hall.

Questions answered at W.F. electric aggregation hearing


On Monday, a handful of residents attended the first of two informational meetings on electric aggregation at West Frankfort City Hall. The meeting was led by Anna M. Baluyot,  managing partner of Select Energy, of Chicago.

Baluyot reported that on Election Day, 95 percent of the electric aggregation ballot questions were approved by voters across Illinois. West Frankfort was one of the those communities approving the question. This means that the city will work with Select Energy to buy the lowest kilowatt hour rate available on the energy market for the residents of West Frankfort.
In many cases, it was said, these savings could be as much as 20 percent off the rates currently being paid to purchase power by electric customers. Ameren will continue to provide basic infrastrucure in the city, and customers will continue to pay Ameren for the delivery of their electricity.
West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan reported that one of his prime concerns was how current provider Ameren felt about aggregation. Jordan pointed out that the city has a 30-year contract with Ameren Illinois.
“I was concerned about hurting Ameren,” said Jordan. But, once he ascertained that the plan was not hurtful to Ameren efforts, Jordan said he began supporting the possible lower rates for local residents. Now, said the mayor, “The only people against it are the small door-to-door individual power salespersons.”
Baluyot answered questions that have been frequently mentioned during multiple such meetings she has led, including:
  • No action will be needed to take advantage of the savings. You are included unless you choose to opt out. Eventually, residents will receive a letter explaining more about the program and how it may help residents. There will be a card included that you can fill out, to opt out of the program.
  • Ameren will still maintain the city’s electric infrastructure, power poles and lines into homes.
  • You will continue to get one electric bill, but with the savings included.
  • Power purchase will begin with this larger base of consumers in January.
  • The city will oversee the process, with Select Energy, to help insure the lowest possible rate for residents.
Currently, according to Baluyot, “Some 400 Illinois communities take part in this program.”
Another mandated public informational meeting will be held at West Frankfort City Hall at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20. The meeting is open to the public.

WF Council donates land to Habitat for Humanity

West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan visits with local Habitat for Humanity board members, including President Vanessa Sneed, right, at West Frankfort City Hall. The board members attended the West Frankfort City Council meeting Tuesday night to thank the city for the donation of a lot to be developed by the nonprofit.

A lot on East Elm Street in West Frankfort is set to become the fourteenth piece of property developed by the Helping Hands unit of the Franklin County Habitat for Humanity, after the West Frankfort City Council voted to donate the land at 1102 E. Elm Street during their regular meeting Tuesday night.

In other action at the meeting, Franklin County Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Swofford presented $1,000 to the city for its Police work on drug cases. Swofford went on to say that the West Frankfort Police Department had conducted more than 70 controlled substance buys since Jan. 1 in the course of investigating illegal drug sales in the city. He commended the department and Police Chief Jeff Tharp, calling their work “first class, first rate.” City Attorney Mike Riva added that he commended State’s Attorney Evan Owens and his staff for their “aggressive prosecution” of drug cases.

Council members also approved a new resident for the Business Incubator – J&J Gaming. The firm will be working on a state contract for video gaming in the region. The city will spend $6,422.12 to build a security fence at the Business Incubator for the gaming company. Mayor Tom Jordan said he believed that J&J Gaming will be creating jobs in West Frankfort.

The council voted to accept a land donation at 513 W. Midway Street as part of the city’s renewal program. Buildings on the lot will be torn down, and the lot will be made available for sale and development.

— Bruce A. Fasol

West Frankfort marks Veteran’s Day with downtown service

One of the largest Veteran’s Day crowds in recent memory assembled Monday morning in downtown West Frankfort to honor America’s war veterans. The ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial/Museum was preceeded an hour earlier by a detail at the monument in one of the traveling graveside programs. The first eye-catching remembrance of those lost in combat, or injured in battle, comes from the concrete doughboy statue bearing the inscription, “Lest we forget.” Ceremonies like this Veteran’s Day program make sure that will never happen.

West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan spoke, with the mayor’s theme being “unity.” Jordan read the lyrics to a song which contained the phrase ” United we stand, divided we fall.” That lyric has been oft repeated in American history, the mayor said. Jordan pointed out how today’s society has fragmented along religious, political, sexual orientation, and other divides. Jordan then said that the military was a good example of the unity that is needed in society today.  The mayor spoke for others there, reminding everyone he is not a veteran, yet has a deep sense of their service in making us a free nation.

As people arrived for the service, some probably noticed a simple, wooden unit located in front of the Doughboy memorial. Led by Drill Sgt. Brad Dunning, the Black Tigers Ceremonial Guard made a stirring presentation to the assembled crowd. Flags from the various branches of the military were presented by the Black Tigers.

Following that, individual Black Tigers made a solemn procession to place items on that wooden shelf. There was a military weapon presented, along with boots, helmets and hats, dogtags and other memorabilia from past wars. Each piece represented a facet of military life: a life that those being remembered gave for our freedom. The presentation brought tears to the eyes of many of those assembled in the morning cold.

West Frankfort native Dunning then asked the crowd to put their hands over their hearts “in a show of respect” for those being honored. He then ordered the veterans, “You will salute the flag.”

It was pointed out that we gather for these few minutes at the same time each year to honor those who have made a sacrifice so that we remain free. Since World War I, over one million soldiers have died, and another 1.5 million have been wounded.

Following the outdoor ceremony, a public reception was hosted by the West Frankfort Veteran’s of Foreign Wars. Names of local veterans who had passed were solemnly read, with a single bell tolling after each name.

— Bruce A. Fasol


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