By Leigh Morris
For the Star-Gazette
After just one month, a sharply divided Virginia City Council has decided to give up on voluntary public cooperation in favor of mandatory compliancy on the matter of grass.
With Mayor Steve Sudbrink casting the tie breaking vote, the council approved on first reading an ordinance that limits grass height to six inches. Residents also will be given two hours to remove grass and leaves they blow into the street with their mowers.
Public Works Director Randy McClure had previously explained that yard debris blown into streets can clog storm sewer lines. This may lead to localized flooding.
In July, Alderman Susan Carson (1st Ward) suggested the city conduct a public awareness campaign before considering an ordinance. Council members concurred. Monday evening’s turnabout irked Alderman David Petefish (3rd Ward), who declared, “I don’t agree with this.”
“There’s ordinances we’re not enforcing and now we’re going to have another ordinance,” an obviously frustrated Petefish said.
The alderman made it clear the city first should make certain all storm sewers are working properly before an ordinance is even considered. He said there are sewers that are not functioning.
Carson iterated her belief the city should first address the problem through a public awareness campaign. “I don’t know a law makes it better,” she said.
Joining Petefish and Carson in voting against the ordinance was Alderman Chris Behrends (2nd Ward), Aldermen Steve Clark (1st Ward), Dale Bell (2nd Ward) and Rickey Cox (3rd Ward) all voted in favor with Sudbrink breaking the tie.
The ordinance will be considered a second time at the Sept. 16 City Council meeting.
In other business, the council unanimously agreed that Sudbrink should direct the Farnsworth Group engineering firm to complete essential engineering work on the city’s planned water transmission line. This work is necessary to secure Illinois Environmental Protection Agency permitting.
The two-mile line will be built outside the western border of the city to supply the water tower. Sudbrink explained that the line also could run down Morgan Street, but this would be more costly and problematic. The Morgan Street route would encounter considerable underground utility infrastructure such as natural gas, telephone, water and sewer lines.
Sudbrink said the city has secured verbal agreements for the five easements needed for the new line. Because the new line will cross some fields used for cash crops, actual construction will not begin until the corn and soybean harvest is completed.
By moving ahead with the engineering work, the city will save 30 days when construction begins. It is expected the construction work will be completed in 45 days. The project will not require any borrowing.
With unanimous council consent, Sudbrink appointed Jessica Stock to fill a vacancy on the Economic Development Board. Stock and her husband Adam are the owners of Dr. Ugs Drugstore Cafe.
Police Chief Tom Osmer said the investigation into a rash of home and vehicle break-ins is now awaiting evidence analysis by the Illinois State Crime Lab.