At its July 20 meeting, the council voted to authorize city government to tear down a privately owned building in a downtown neighborhood.
Kay Roland began building a house at 108 East Third Street about four years ago. Neighbors and city officials are frustrated that the building has never been completed, the property is littered with construction material and is often overgrown.
"She (Roland) came here. She stood right here and said she would have it torn down," Mayor Nina Thornton reminded the council as it discussed the problem property. "She apologized and said she knew it was a mess."
In June, the Mayor posted a condemnation notice on the building and mailed the notice to Roland, giving her one last chance to clean up the property and either finish the house or remove it.
"That was six to eight weeks ago," said the Mayor. "Nothing's happened."
Council members then voted to advertise for bids to have the building removed. That strong action is allowed under a never used city ordinance which gives the council the power to advertise for demolition bids after notice is given to remove a "nuisance." Under the law, a lein can be placed on the property to try recover costs from the owner.
In other business, a resolution was introduced which would, eventually, end a controversial benefit extended to the city council.
The city has been criticized by some citizens for providing free health insurance to city council members and their families.
The proposed resolution states that "because of budget constraints" city paid health insurance will no longer be available to elected officials. However, if the resolution passes, council members who currently receive the insurance would continue to receive it through the current budget year.
While three council members have "opted out" and do not accept city health insurance, Mayor Thornton told the council the city cannot, legally, take a budgeted benefit away from the three members who do receive it.
If passed in it's current form, the resolution would also take away health insurance benefits for the Mayor and Recorder-Treasurer.
Discussion of the resolution was tabled when Councilman Raymond Hicks pointed out, "The three council members who get the insurance aren't here."
Council members were also informed of a proposal by the Sharp County Hospital Foundation for a one cent sales tax to help fund a new hospital.
"I'd like you to ask your neighborhoods and wards to see how they feel about it," said Thornton. "A one cent sales tax for 33 years to pay the loan."
After the meeting, the Mayor told The Villager Journal she had not taken a position on the proposed one cent tax.
Thornton added, however, city and county officials have worked for more than three years on another proposal.
It would create a short term three-quarter cent sales tax which would be used to turn the Urgent Care Center at Highland into a full-time emergency room with as few as one hospital bed.
According to Thornton, that would allow the clinic to bill Medicaid for services. It would also help the financially troubled ambulance service which currently has to drive patients long distances to area hospitals, a service for which it is often not paid.
The city council meeting was held even though three of the six council members were absent, creating a lack of a quorum. Citing state law, Mayor Thornton informed the council she has the right to sit as a fourth voting member when three of six council members are present for a meeting.