Council meeting includes solar areas, rental cabins, ‘lake
The Gillespie City Council meeting on Monday first opened the floor to George Link, a visiting resident expressing his concerns over the solar project being built near the water plant.
“It’s in my opinion that you are devaluing my property,” Link said. “I put over a quarter of a million dollars into my home just to have these solar panels 50 feet away from my property.”
Link stated that he was under the impression that this neighborhood was an R1, zoned for single family residences only.
Mayor John Hicks stated that this project is being built in the same R2 zone as the water plant.
City Attorney Kevin Polo stated that Gillespie does allow municipal infrastructure and buildings in residential areas, but the zoning ordinance doesn’t regulate solar projects.
Link also stated that, from his 14 years of experience as an electrical serviceman for Ameren, his concerns about cancer rates in regard to the electric and magnetic fields that may be nearby his home after the solar project is finished.
Link was also confused why this project wasn’t built in an area near the plant that wasn’t so close to the residential area. City treasurer Dan Fisher stated that the city had already looked into this, and the area they chose was the only one that wouldn’t have significant shading, which would interfere with the efficiency with which the panels would operate. Distance was also an issue, Fisher stated, as there would be degradation in power the further from the water plant it goes.
“I think this is unacceptable,” Link said. “This is a lack of consideration or respect for the landowners. There is no way to sell a house in this blighted area.”
Link left the meeting on the note that he intends to fight the project as much as he is able.
Teresa Pettit of Black Diamond Days was also among the guests to report on the success of the Labor Day Lake Bash in Gillespie. Pettit said that 28 kids signed up for the fishing events and that Saturday alone did better than Black Diamond Days did this year.
“We had several people ask if we would continue the event next year,” Pettit said. “We would like to do that.”
Alderman Dona Rauzi stated that she had heard the event did go well and was happy to hear it, but had a question over labor on city time.
“About 8:15 a.m., down in front of Casey’s there was a worker in the backhoe,” Rauzi said. “There were two in the city trucks with the flatbed, and one city employee following. They came back again at 9:45. I saw this because I was getting bids from the civic center. Five people out there made at least two trips. They delivered the stage and they set up the picnic tables.
“We did this for Black Diamond Days in June,” Rauzi said. “We put the money in for them in the parade. We did it again this time. We can’t afford to do this three times a year for one organization. If we’re going to do it, then it should be across the board for everybody.”
Hicks reminded Rauzi that the council has the right to say yes or no when they donate their time and money to an organization.
Later in the meeting, Pettit came back with a $132.33 check to cover the cost of the city workers’ labor for the lake bash.
“I don’t understand where this is coming from, but this has me beyond upset,” Pettit said. “You, Dona, have been on the Black Diamond Days committee. You know how hard it is to keep this going. We have gone above and beyond. We went into this knowing it was going to be hard. We went to Grow Gillespie to see what we could do to help them put this on. They said there was no way they could do this. We wanted this for the community, so that’s exactly what we did.”
Rauzi reminded Pettit in a previous meeting Black Diamond Days organizers claimed they would be self-sufficient, and that Fisher stated that they time was very short and that the city should be compensated for the event up-front and reinvested in the lake.
“I know that I’m catching the blame for this, and that’s fine,” Rauzi said. “But the question was asked. It’s in the minutes. I’m not making this up.”
“In its inception, I was president of Black Diamond Days from year two to probably about year 33 or 34,” Hicks said. “We always utilized the city’s equipment and men for Black Diamond Days. It was always kind of a loss for the city. As for the city donating, they spent lots of money. I for one don’t mind that, to a point. We generated revenue for the organizations. Of course, organizations today are gone. Volunteerism is going by the wayside. Back in the day, we didn’t ask for a dime. It benefited the city and the city’s organizations. You’re not going to make money on everything, but if you can keep your cost to a minimum, that’s the secret.”
In other business, Frank Barrett proposed that the city make a motion to build a rental cabin for the lake. Barrett stated that he doesn’t care how many years it will take to pay it off, as it will make the city money.
Rauzi stated that the lake is $8,000 in the hole, and that there isn’t much reason to do this when the campgrounds aren’t even full. Hicks stated that the lake workers have already done a lot to promote the lake just by cleaning it up.
“There’s never going to be a right time to do this,” Barrett said.
Fisher reminded Barrett that, while he liked the idea of a rental cabin, aldermen need to come to the council with a plan already developed to pay off this kind of project.
Rauzi also reported that she found a potential company from Indiana to work on the civic center roof. The council agreed to use them and decided on hiring an architectural engineer and leave it up to them whether the civic center needed a pitched roof or not.
The next council meeting will be held at the Gillespie Civic Center Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 6 p.m.