Mayor Ottens called the meeting to order 5:30 PM and directed the Deputy Clerk to call the roll. On roll call Aldermen Keith King, Paul Banker, Barbara Mask, Dan Nederhoff and Gene Field were present. Alderman Crosthwaite arrived shortly after meeting started, and Alderman VanKampen and VanZuiden were absent. Also in attendance were Dan Clark, Nick Neblung, Dwayne Hamilton and Tammy Garibay. Visitors in attendance were, Wendy Ottens, Russ Holesinger and Mike Casper.
The meeting was also publicly available via a “Zoom Meeting”.
Pledge of Allegiance was recited.
No communication from Visitors.
Approve consent agenda; approve council meeting minutes from February 22, 2021 and March 1, 2021 and the Bill List for the month of February 2021. Alderman Mask motioned seconded by Alderman Banker. No discussion to follow. Roll Call Vote, 5 yes, motion carried.
A. Approve Ordinance for the Sale of Property to Corey Council, located in the Fulton Industrial Development Area in the amount of $13,500 (1.5 Acres). Alderman King motioned, seconded by Alderman Mask. No discussion to follow. Roll Call Vote, 5 yes, motion carried.
B. Approve the Wherry Brothers Contract to lease crop land in the Fulton Industrial Development Area in the amount of $220 per acre (55.8 acres). Alderman Field motioned, seconded by Alderman Mask. City Administrator Clark stated that this was a $20 per acre increase over last year’s option for $200 per acre. Mayor Ottens asked if there were any questions. No discussion to follow. Roll Call Vote, 5 yes, motion carried.
Alderman Crosthwaite arrives at meeting.
C. Approve Letter of Engagement to Wipfli LLP, in the amount of $22,000 for the upcoming Annual Fiscal Audit. Alderman King motioned, seconded by Alderman Banker. Mayor suggests that maybe next year to look for another auditor; City Administrator Clark said that last year the City went out for bids. Several were received from local Accounting Firms and Wipfli was the lowest bid. With no further discussion. Roll Call Vote, 6 yes, motion carried.
D. Approve the MFT Resolution for the Estimated Cost of Maintenance Operations for the period of January 1 through December 31 of 2021. Alderman Field motioned, seconded by Alderman King. City Administrator Clark said that this would take care of the City’s basic yearly maintenance for repairs, seal coating, road salt, signs and striping. No other discussion to follow. Roll Call Vote, 6 yes, motion carried.
E. Approve Ordinance Amending Chapter 117, Entitled Utility Tax – Gas. Mayor Ottens asks for a motion. After an extended period of time Alderman King motioned, seconded by Alderman Banker. Mayor Ottens reminds the council that these two ordinances that are on the table tonight, deal with the City’s Utility Taxes. Passing the ordinances will give the council the option to wave the taxes in the future if there is a catastrophic occurrence that drives the cost of utilities up in price. Discussion to follow.
At this time Mayor Ottens introduced Mike Casper, CEO of Jo-Carroll Energy to fill the Council and Public in on what had occurred in the month of February, that drastically will inflate the “cost” of gas usage on upcoming bills to the citizens.
Mr. Casper stated that he has been in the industry for 30 years and he has never seen a spike in natural gas like this ever. What occurred happened over the President’s Day Holiday weekend. Gas prices spiked over 200 times the normal amount. Jo-Carroll energy receives gas through two major pipelines. During a seven day period Jo-Carroll was locked in at the high prices, due to low supply, high demand and not having enough gas in storage to support the local communities. Questions arose on why Alliant Energy and some other gas suppliers in the area did not have the problem. Mr. Casper stated that they have multiple means (gas lines) that support them, unlike Jo-Carroll which only has two pipelines.
Resident, Wendy Ottens asked about regulations on gas companies. Mr. Casper said all companies are regulated. She then asked, “Does your company purchase on a day to day basis, or were you locked in for several days”, and “who says you must purchase for days at a time?” Mr. Casper responded that they have a marketing team that purchases the gas, and since this occurred over the holiday weekend they had to purchase at least 4 days’ worth and then the market slowly fell the next several days.
City Administrator Clark asked, “ I understand that Jo-Carroll is letting people make payment plans, but what other concessions is Jo-Carroll giving their customers?” Mr. Casper said they are working with Federal Funding agencies for lower income customers and another local agency that does not have as strict income levels as the Federal program, but in general we are only offering payment plans. Mr. Casper states that Jo-Carroll is a non-for profit agency (co-op), that gives back to their customers any above money that is earned in “incentives”.
Mr. Casper said that Jo-Carroll will only have the increase on “ONE” bill instead of several month’s of increase to show the resident the actual cost. Jo-Carroll will work with every individual to get them the best help, whether it will be through Federal and Local programs or on a payment plan. However, they will still be getting paid, regardless in the long run, with no concessions.
Alderman Banker asked if Jo-Carroll could have reached out to customers in any way to warn their customers that there was going to be a shortage and please try to conserve energy. Mr. Casper said that they did but it was already too late, prices had been locked in on that Friday for the drastic increase. He told the Council the main concern for Jo-Carroll was to get the lower income residents the help they need from the Federal and State programs before the money runs out. Reiterating that this area has many individuals that need the help.
Mayor Ottens asked Mr. Casper how the pass through would work, with the Utility Taxes. Basically the City will be receiving their normal allotment on the Utility Tax. We would just not be collecting the additional tax that would be charged on the higher price gas that Jo-Carroll purchased. The savings would be directly passed on to the residents of Fulton. Each individual city, village or municipality would have to vote on their own, either to remove it or leave as is.
Mr. Casper stated that an average residence’s bill will be approximately 2.75 times higher than usual and a business could be up to 4 times higher than usual.
Alderman Mask asked if we could hold off the vote for another meeting, due to all the information that has been given tonight? With the critical information that has been presented, it should be our duty to go over all this and make a decision pending on all the facts. Mr. Casper said that it would be beneficial to bill now, than later. Mayor Ottens asks for a council count for proceeding or tabling this issue to the next meeting. All Alderman agreed to vote on the Ordinance at tonight’s meeting. It will be added that this will only be in effect for those that are billed from March 5 through March 24 of 2021 (BILL STATEMENT) from Jo-Carroll.
Roll Call Vote, 6 yes, motion carried.
F. Approve Ordinance Amending Chapter 118 – Collecting Taxes for Electricity Usage. Alderman King motioned, seconded by Alderman Banker. Discussion to follow. Mayor Ottens says this is just an amendment to waive the Utility Taxes on Electricity in case of some catastrophic event that may occur in the future. This does not mean that it has to used, it is just an option for future occurrences which gives the council the ability to change or waive the tax. Roll Call Vote, 6 yes, motion carried.
G. Approve having the Municipal Utility Taxes removed from gas bills (or not added to the gas bills) for the period of the Jo-Carroll billing cycle from March 5, 2021 through March 24, 2021 on the “pass through”. Alderman Mask motioned, seconded by Alderman Nederhoff. Roll Call Vote, 5 yes, 1 no – motion carried.
Alderman King motioned, seconded by Alderman Crosthwaite to adjourn to the Committee of the Whole at 6:26. Roll Call Vote, 6 yes, motion carried.
Adjourn the Meeting Alderman King motioned, seconded by Alderman Mask. All in favor, Yes, adjourned at 7:08 PM.
Committee of the Whole
Public Input and Presentations
1. Junior Achievement Resolution of Support will be put on the next Council Agenda to support. This is an annual Resolution that the City has always supported.
2. Interim City Administrator Contract. An extension has been requested by the Council to have Interim CA Dan Clark continue in the current position until September 30, 2021 or until a new City Administrator is found for a permanent position. Will put on next regular Council Agenda for approval.
3. UTV Ordinance. Further discussion will take place following a recommendation from the Public Safety Committee after their next meeting. Chief Neblung will reach out to IDOT to find out their take on crossing of 14th Ave. Mayor Ottens says this is “A Hot Button Issue”, so be prepared to hear from the public concerning this issue. Alderman Mask not quite in favor of it, and said she had several phone calls from residents in her ward that did not want it. It has been noted that all efforts will have to be implanted to make the public aware of a possible new ordinance allowing UTV usage. Further information and updated ordinances will be presented at next council meeting.
4. Draft Ordinance for Cannabis License. Further discussion on fees and charges. The Mayor would like to get this ordinance passed at the next meeting. This was discussed at the Committee of the Whole in August but was put on hold due to the derecho and Mr. Boonstra leaving in September. Council would like the new ordinance to state that this is an annual license fee and amount may be subject to change. Will put on next council agenda.
5. Budget Overview. CA Clark said the budget enclosed should be good to go. There were only a couple of small changes in the Enterprise Funds in Water and Sewer to include the budget truck. Dan Clark said the budget should be ready to go. CA Clark asked that we put on next agenda for approval. A “Budget” Public Hearing will be first on the agenda at the next scheduled meeting along with the vote of approval.
Committee Chair Reports
a. Budget - N/A
b. Public Property – N/A
c. Public Safety – Report Included (Suggestions to hire a 7th Officer or to send a candidate to the academy) Mayor Ottens would like to know if we send a candidate to the academy do they have to stay with the City for a certain period of time. Maybe we should get that in a contract with the individual prospect. Stop sign recommended for 10th Ave and 9th St. Their has been 5 notable accidents at that intersection in the past several years. This will also slow down traffic around the school park. CA Clark said that flashing light would be added to the stop sign to make driver’s aware of the signage.
d. Marina – N/A Alderman King asked to change meeting time from 3pm to 4 pm on the third Thursday each month.
5. Mayor’s Report – N/A
6. City Administrator’s Report – Verbal….CA Clark addresses the number of great volunteers that the City of Fulton has. He especially would like to thank Mrs. Nederhoff for the cleanup of dog debris on the bike path on the dike. Moving forward CA Clark will put signs up for dog waste removal. Mayor would also like CA Clark to explain why the City does not plow the bike path. This is because the city plows would absolutely tear up the blacktop, which would be a large cost to replace. It is actually the salt that destroys the path. Mayor Ottens says to send the issue to the Public Property Committee for further discussion.
7. Aldermen Reports – N/A
8. Public Works Report – N/A
9. Chief of Police Report – Chief Neblung reports that there has been an increase burglaries in the area. Stems back to, “lock it up, or loose it!” “See something, Say something1”. Coffee with a Cop scheduled in April at the Brunch House. Have been attending Church Services on Sundays and this program has been well received. August 6th, currently working on bringing back National Night Out, again. Will keep everyone posted. Overtime has been held at a minimum, and comp time is under control. This is the first time for many years that both have been in an adequate proportion. Finishing up mandated yearly training. Chief Neblung states the body cameras are starting to arrive, which will be very beneficial.
10. Tourism Report – N/A
11. Historical Society – Report included
12. Adjourn – Alderman King motioned, seconded by Alderman Mask to adjourn back to the Regular Council Meeting at 7:07 PM. Roll Call Vote, 6 Yes, motion carried.
Tammy L Garibay