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Quincy City Council votes in 'Fix or Flatten' changes

3 years, 4 months ago by Jamie Busen, QuincyJournal.com and WTAD News

Aldermen will receive a resolution to vote on prior to the new fiscal year with a list of the proposed properties

The Quincy City Council Monday night voted to make a change to the city's Fix or Flatten Program.

After a 15 minute discussion, the Council voted 10-3 to amend a code dealing with unsafe property. The ordinance means Aldermen will receive a resolution to vote on prior to the new fiscal year with a list of the proposed properties. There will be an estimate of the costs associated with the properties - something the Council wasn't given in the past.

"The resolution will be used by the department as our benchmark for addressing the problems," said City Planner Chuck Bevelheimer. "If there are changes or additions to that resolution we will take it back to the Council to show them the changes in the funding, or to add properties to that list."

Alderman Kyle Moore (R-3) asked Bevelheimer about language being put in the ordinance relating to the Council having the right to refuse a bid if deemed too high. In June, the Council voted down a $73,000 bid to repair the Paper Box building, which prompted Mayor John Spring to suspend the program indefinitely.

Alderman Paul Havermale (R-3) called a meeting in September to discuss possible changes to the program. Out of that meeting came some suggestions that the program wouldn't be allowed to be pulled again without Council consent.

When Moore asked where that language was, Bevelheimer said: "It's not in there. You are going to be given the opportunity to look at the list up front and that's when you are going to get the opportunity to say either you like it or you don't."

Bevelheimer said the situation with the Paper Box building was unique, and hadn't happened before in the 15 years the program has been running.

"If we end up with a big project, we will put it on your radar ahead of time," Bevelheimer said.

Havermale said the idea of showing the Council an estimate on the front end was a way for all parties involved to be aware of what they were getting into.

Moore asked what the problem was with including language that the Council had the right to reject a bid.

"Once we give consent to start down the Fix or Flatten route and we are using taxpayer money to pay an attorney and get a court order, you've already let the cows out of the barn," Bevelheimer said. "Either we should be going after this property or we should not."

Spring added he pulled the program because "We didn't follow the court order, which we had always followed."

Alderman Steve Duesterhaus (D-2) said he didn't feel informed enough about the changes in Fix or Flatten and voted no on the ordinance. Also voting no were Mike Rein (R-5) and Terri Heinecke (R-7). Virgil Goehl (D-1) was absent.

After the meeting, Heinecke said she voted no because she wanted to see something in writing that "what happened at Paper Box never happened again."

"If we vote against a higher bid than what the estimate is, I want to make sure the Fix or Flatten program isn't in jeopardy again. And that was not put in black and white."

The Council also had a 20 minute discussion about truancy.

Aldermen heard from Regional Superintendent Debbie Niederhauser and voted down a motion to adopt an amendment to a miscellaneous offenses ordinance on its first reading. The ordinance is up for a second reading next Monday, however. Aldermen suggested they needed more time to study the proposal. They did, however, vote to change the language in the ordinance, lowering the maximum fine for truant students.

The ordinance would give the Quincy Police Department the right to issue tickets to truant students 13 years and older. If a truant student is younger, the ticket would be issued to their parent(s). This is something that's already written into the County ordinance.

Niederhauser said over the summer the state definition of truancy changed from 10 percent to 5 percent. That means that now, a student is considered to be chronically truant if they have nine unexcused absences a year.

"We looked at this issue very carefully," said Niederhauser, who met with City Attorney Bruce Alford and Police Chief Rob Copley before the ordinance was drafted. "There are many reasons we don't want our students to be truant ... if those kids are not at school, we may not know where they are. Chances are, they are getting an education but it's not the education that we want."

Alderman Rein voted to change the language regarding minimum and maximum fines. He asked Niederhauser for an economic profile of the families who have the most truant children.

"It seems like this is going to be a financial burden to the families," he said. "It does no good to take these poverty parents and just keep fining them. It makes it worse, not better."

His language change passed 7-6, with Aldermen Dan Brink (R-6), Havermale, LeXze Mann (R-1), Duesterhaus, Jim Musolino (R-6) and Heinecke voting no.

Brink wanted the ordinance passed Monday night, as did Havermale, Musolino and Heinecke. His motion failed.

In other business the Council received the July sales tax and home rule sales tax reports. Sales tax figures were $724,108.45, compared to $711,878 last year. Home rule was $720,462.91, compared to $699,338 in 2010.

Aldermen also approved resolutions adopting federal codes for IKE grant funding and adopted an ordinance that adds an equal employment policy into the City code.


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