Council votes to re-open lake campgrounds May 29

Council votes to re-open lake campgrounds May 29

Posted May 19, 2020

By: CHRISTOPHER BEST

Enquirer~Democrat contributor

The Carlinville City Council voted to re-open Carlinville Lake campgrounds on May 29 during Monday night’s meeting and teleconference.

Campers will not be allowed to leave their own campsites, must follow social distancing guidelines and will not be allowed to gather in groups of 10 or more when the campgrounds re-open.

Following the guidelines set forth by Governor J. B. Pritzker, Illinois’ West-Central Region, in which Macoupin County resides, is on track to enter the third phase of the Governor’s plan to re-open by May 29. In phase three, outdoor recreations are permitted to open with restrictions.

Although the motion to open the lake was passed 5-2, it was a topic of debate amongst the council members. Aldermen Doug Downey, Todd Koller, Bill Link, Dick McClain and Randy Ober voted in favor of the measure while aldermen John Howard and Sarah Oswald voted against. Ward 2 Alderman Elaine Brockmeier was not on the line when the vote was made, though she had been earlier in the meeting.

The argument against choosing to re-open now was that it risks going against the governor’s order for the state lockdown, which could potentially result in fines to the city, among other potential ramifications. Pritzker has had a history of extending the dates he initially laid out for the quarantine and has given no official order designating May 29 as the first day of phase three.

City Attorney Dan O’Brien advised against making a decision until official permission from the governor had been given: “I would strongly recommend that the council not take this action because I think it could be construed as going against the emergency order, which we do not have authority to do.”

Mayor Deanna Demuzio expressed her own concerns with re-opening. “I checked with the governor’s office, and they’re saying that unless that camper is their primary residence, they cannot be out and open on a campground,” she said.

Although Howard would eventually vote against the measure, he initially argued strongly in its favor. “Individuals have to make risk assessments on their own,” he said. “If I choose to go to a campground, that’s my decision. If I choose to obey the rules, that’s my risk tolerance. But to say we cannot go outside, we cannot go to the beach, we cannot go on the square, that’s overreach in my opinion.” These sentiments were echoed by McClain who called the governor’s order “unconstitutional.”

The city had asked for comments and questions to the City Council be submitted via email prior to the meeting. All five of the emails submitted related to Carlinville Lake. Messages from Leslie Brown, Mary Button, Walter and Marsha Smith and Mary Compton all urged the city to reopen the campgrounds as soon as possible, while the message from Josh Menge only asked that boats be allowed on the lake again.

Other aspects of the governor’s “stay at home” order not related to the lake were also discussed during the meeting. During the time for public comment, Jeff Brown addressed the council via teleconference call, describing himself as “not a resident within city limits” but someone that “spends most of [his] time and money in the community.” In his speech to the mayor and members of the City Council, Brown urged that the city take legal action against the shelter-in-place orders enacted by Governor J. B. Pritzker and allow businesses in the community to re-open.

“We have an overreaching tyrant of a governor that’s attempting to control his kingdom with scare tactics,” said Brown. “It’s time for you to let your community know what you will support and what you will not.”

Brown went on to suggest that if the city did not take action and the order continued, that there could be mass civil disobedience.

“If Carlinville schools taught me correctly, there was a time when people did get tired of a tyrant king and did take matters into their own hands,” Brown said. “I figure that time is coming near to us in Illinois.”

Other business

An ordinance adopting the 2020-2021 budget was passed. The budget was unchanged since the last council meeting, although the ordinance contains the necessary formal notice to Macoupin County Clerk Pete Duncan.

Former alderman Norm Semrock, who was the Finance Committee chairman from 2004-2009, spoke over the conference call during the time for public comment, initially questioning the need for an ordinance before stating, “In addition to the budget not being adopted before the statutory date of April 30, there are some other problems with this budget that I plan to bring to the next meeting of the Finance Committee.”

An ordinance which will officially change the City Council meeting time from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the City Code was passed during the meeting. This change in meeting time was originally passed back in March, but an official change to City Code was still necessary to be enacted.

There was some discussion regarding the properties at 214 and 224 West First South Street. The property at 224 is a vacant property, which the council had previously voted to have demolished. The property has fallen into possession of Macoupin County, and O’Brien indicated he would be in contact with the county in order to determine how to proceed.

Police Chief David Haley found that the property at 216 needs to be cleaned up and is in disrepair but does not meet the qualifications for a forced demolition.

Two lake cabin transfers were approved. The property at 16900 Briarwood Lane was transferred from June Birdsell to Mike and Chrissy Bates and the property at 15372 Lake Shore Drive was transferred from Matt and Terry Bumgartner to Elizabeth Radcliff. The taxes on both properties are paid.

The rezone of 428 North Plum Street and the replat of 831 E Second South Street were both approved. These both passed through the Zoning Committee and had been previously discussed by City Council in the past.

Next meeting

The City Council next meets on June 1 at 6 p.m.