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By BETH ZUMWALT
At the Jan. 4 meeting of the Pittsfield City Council, the council voted to pay the $138,000 fine levied against them for infractions dating back to 2017. The fine included several infractions including not putting the proper amount of deodorizing agents in the gas supply, 13 infractions where a non-certified employee went into the field and completed a locate and one where an non-certified employee performed a locate on a gas leak.
“They occurred over a period of years,” Gary Mendenhall, mayor, said. “Some of them were multiple infractions of the same offense. They have all be corrected and shouldn’t happen again.”
The city was able to take the money out of the future projects portion of the gas department.
“He (referring to Steve Watkins, head of the gas department) has been saving money each year for various projects like replacing fire hydrants, etc,” Mendenhall said. “We borrowed from three different places, all within the gas department’s budget, without having to borrow from maintenance and repair fund. The budget is still intact, it just hinders some future plans.”
Alderman Chris Little asked why the council charged for hook-ups for gas and water.
“It seems like if somebody wants to build something here, there should be incentives,” he said.”Someone builds a $250,000 home and we charge them a $1,000 in hook-up fees. We should be offering incentives to get people to build here.”
No council member disagreed with the idea, but said the city needs hook-up fees to pay for the meter and installation costs.
“We just charge enough to cover the costs,” Kevin Wombles, Ward 3 alderman, said.
City economic development director Ed Knight agreed with Wombles.
“We just try to break even and if there is any left over, we put it back for future expenses,” Knight said.
Max Middendorf, city engineer, said the city does offer advantages for those wanting to build within the city limits.
“You offer the TIF district, the enterprise zone,” Middendorf said. “You need to leverage that. You need to put it all together.”
Mendenhall agreed, saying he would like to see a packet put together that showed all the advantages the city has to offer.
Robert Richart said he was disappointed the city couldn’t offer any incentives to business that had been here 50 years or longer.
The city also approved the long-talked about propane ordinance.
City residents will be allowed to have propane tanks, but must adhere to some regulations
The rules will apply to propane storage containers less than 125 gallons, those 125-250 gallons and those 25-1,000. Tanks over 1,000 are prohibited, except in a business district.
No residential property will be allowed to have multiple containers or bigger than 250 gallon
Tanks 30 gallons and under, frequently used with barbecue grills and campers are along with tank owners 125 or less, will not have to pay a permit fee. Tank owners of 125-1,000 will pay a $250 permit fee.
There are other requirements and a copy of the entire ordinance is available at city hall.
The council also agreed to allow Illini Hospital to have four parking spots along Adams Street to be used for employees only. The spots will accommodate employees of the new day care is opening for employees only. The spots are on the south side of the building at 401 N.Mississippi Street,with the spots being entered and exited onto Adams Street.
“The spots in front of the building will be for parents dropping off and picking up children,” Kathy Hull, CEO of Illini, said.
The city agreed as long as the hospital paid for having the sidewalk widened at that location as cars are likely to encroach with their bumpers, impeding travel for pedestrians and the handicapped.