Mount Carroll City Council Passes Video Poker Ordinance
By MICK PARSONS | For The Prairie Advocate News
MOUNT CARROLL – Recoiling after a meeting that nearly broke down into a mass of she said / he said / I never said accusations, denials, and the sort of behavior that makes for good ink and bad politics, the September 11th city council meeting was short, sweet, productive, and polite – albeit on the tense side. The council unanimously passed an ordinance that will allow certain local establishments to put in video poker machines, and also discussed updates to the upcoming bid announcement for the city’s garbage collection contract. There was also some discussion about whether two aldermen can meet outside of council chambers without contradicting the Open Meetings Act.
Ordinance No. 2012-9-3, An Ordinance Permitting Gaming Devices, will allow bars, VFW and American Legion Halls, and truck stops – all of which are defined under Section 65 of the Illinois Video Gaming Act – to install video poker machines. The city will be able to collect an annual license fee of $25 per machine. According to the State statute, there can be no more than five machines at any one premises at a time. At present there are five establishments in town that will be able to install video poker machines: Kallemezoo’s, Charlie’s Bar and Grill, Bella Food and Spirits, Seiverts, and the Mount Carroll Bowling Center; none of the owners have stated publicly whether they intend to install or not.
The council also discussed what was covered at the previous night’s Solid Waste Committee meeting. With the current Moring contract about to end in December, the city has decided to put the contract out to bid. Moring Disposal, Inc. and Allied Waste Services have both expressed an interest in bidding for the contract. The committee is asking any companies interesting in bidding for the contract to provide proposals that include providing toters or carts as well as bids without them.
Alderman Bob Sisler, who is on the Solid Waste Committee, made mention of a remark he made during the committee meeting, that, according to him, was not well received. Sisler said he had heard that Carroll County makes money on recyclables. “I suggested that we should solicit some revenue for the recyclables,” Sisler said, “which was not well received.”
He went on to say that the county receives payment from Moring Disposal Inc, for all the recyclables taken to the transfer station east of Lanark and asserted that whatever is good enough for the county is good enough for the city. “The recyclables do generate revenue for the county,” Sisler said. “And it could generate revenue for the city, too.”
Mayor Carl Bates tried to explain that the fee Moring pays is not the same as collecting revenue off the city’s recyclables. Sisler maintained that if it’s a “potential revenue source for the city,” it ought to be considered.
“So you volunteer to investigate?” the Mayor asked.
“I shall investigate,” Sisler said. He added that the paper collected by the Senior Citizens is worth as much as $95 a ton.
“If it’s clean and pretty and sorted and volunteered,” said the Mayor, adding that representatives from Moring and Allied both said that was the case.
As it turns out, some money does come into the county as a result of Moring Disposal; but the only way the city could see any money from it would be to have someone go around and collect all the bottles and cans and turn them in, or for the city to allow a transfer station within city limits.
According to County Administrator Mike Doty, however, the only thing resembling revenue that the county sees from Moring Disposal on recyclables is the $2 per ton tipping fee paid by Moring, which dumps recyclables at the transfer station in order to be picked up and taken elsewhere. In an approximately 3.6 million dollar budget, the county sees around $7,000. In the budget year that ended November 30th, 2011, the county saw a whopping $7,123 – approximately .19% of the total budget.
Moring pays this to the county as per the 1993 agreement – listed in Chapter 611 of the Carroll County Code – and is, in reality, more like rent than revenue. Moring Disposal petitioned the county to allow the Regional Pollution Control Facility – the transfer station – and in return for using the real estate pays $2 a ton.
Frank Nester stood during the General Audience segment of the meeting and publicly apologized to Alderman Bork for accusing her of calling the reporter from Sterling that resulted in two articles reiterating accusations that had long been investigated and dismissed by two local newspapers, the State’s Attorney, and the Attorney General’s office. Nester apologized, stating that he spoke to the Sterling reporter – who told him it was, in fact, Nina Cooper who called and invited him to what he characterized as “an illegal meeting.”
Nina Cooper then stood up and announced that she wanted it known – for the record – that the meeting was not illegal. Nester then asked City Attorney Ron Coplan whether a meeting of two aldermen – in this case, Aldermen Sisler and Alderman Bork – constituted an illegal meeting. Coplan responded that while it may not be advisable, it’s not illegal. In order to qualify as a violation of the Open Meetings Act, Coplan said, there must be a majority of a quorum present. For Mount Carroll’s City Council, a quorum is four. A majority of a quorum is three. That means that while Aldermen Bork and Sisler met, along with former Alderman Nina Cooper, met with a reporter to discuss city business, it wasn’t illegal.
Nester then apologized again.
Mount Carroll resident Jeff Woodside also apologized to Alderman Bork for raising his voice to her at the last meeting. He added that he attends council meetings – which are open to the public – because he cares about his home and he sits at the empty council table because he is hard of hearing – not out of any intent to intimidate or harass anyone. Woodside asserted, however, that since Alderman Bork records every meeting, that maybe she ought to go back and listen to her recordings in order to hear herself raising her voice and interrupting Mr. Nester during the last meeting. He added that she might decide she owes Mr. Nester an apology.
Alderman Bork did not respond except to thank Mr. Woodside for his apology.
In other business, Finance Committee Chairman Tom Charles also informed the committee that he researched whether it was legal for the city to borrow money from the Debt Service Fund. This was in response to Alderman Doris Bork’s question two weeks ago as to the legality of the city borrowing money from itself in order to cover operating expenses. Charles said he talked to one of the auditors who was in town a few weeks ago for the city’s annual audit. The auditor confirmed that, except for the Motor Fuel Fund, the city is able to borrow money from one line item to cover a temporary shortfall in another.