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Highland City Council Approves Rate Hikes

By Stephanie Malench

The Highland City Council met on April 19 and had a long meeting with much participation from the public.

Nearly an hour was spent hearing residents speak out against an item on the agenda about allowing short-term rental (an Airbnb style business run by Kingdom Stays owned by Miles Maggio) of the first floor at 1320 Zschokke, owned by Marge Donnelly, which lies in the R-1-D Zoning District.

Numerous residents were upset that they had not been approached about the business opening and did not feel safe. It was after neighbors complained that Maggio had to apply for the special use permit with the Combined Planning and Zoning Board and was denied.

Maggio went into great detail defending his project during public comment and was told by the councilmen that had he been as prepared during the Combined Planning and Zoning Board Meeting, he might not have been denied the permit.

The option to let the  petitioner to make a separate statement of finding of fact and the special use permit were denied later in the meeting by the full city council.

Prior to the citizens speaking about the proposed special use permit, Mayor Kevin Hemann swore in new Highland Police Department Patrol Officer Megan Grotefendt.

A public hearing was held to answer any questions or concerns the residents had about the final adoption of the budget for the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year which runs from May 1 2021 through April 30, 2022. Revenue from all sources is expected to be $55,436,176 in addition to the previous balance of $98,993,368.  Expenses are predicted to be $59,416,496.

There were no comments and the budget was then approved during new business.

Mayor Hemann declared April 30 Arbor Day. The holiday was first observed 149 years ago with the planting of over one million trees in Nebraska.

The Highland Music School and Louis Latzer Memorial Public Library will be holding a music recital and instrument petting zoo on the Highland Square on May 27 from 5:30 p.m. Until 7:30 p.m.

The last item in the public forum was a discussion about speeding on 143 coming down the hill towards Silver Lake. According to Police Chief  Chris Conrad, little can be done by the city to slow traffic down, as stop signs cannot be placed on a state highway and the speed limit cannot be changed except by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The City approved its first increase in electric rates in five years. The power cost adjustment for all kilowatt-hours increased by $0.0001 per kilowatt-hour for each $0.0001  per kilowatt-hour the utility’s average wholesale power cost including debt service exceeds the base rate of $0.0473 per kilowatt-hour based on the average of the three months preceding the billing period. Various other equipment rental rates were also increased.

This will allow the electric department’s annual revenue to increase by $130,000 or 1.5%, allowing for increased maintenance and improvements.

The city run communications system also raised rates for the first time since 2014. Some of the increases are as follows: basic video from $33.99 to $37.99, streamers dream from $49.95 to $53.99 and voice services 5% across the board. The expanded basic tier for video will no longer be available.

In the ongoing plans to redevelop a section of Main St., an ordinance was passed authoring TJO Holding to sublet the southwest corner of the city’s property at 911 and 913 Main St. to The Saint Louis Brewery LLC. The Saint Louis Brewery LLC would also have the Right of First Option to lease the property  if the city still owns the property and TJO no longer leases the property.

Two resolutions were also passed approving the preliminary and final plats of 911 and 913 Main St for the Plaza Park.

A series of motions were approved giving TIF reimbursements not to exceed $2,418 or 20% of eligible invoices, whichever is less, to Trouw Nutrition to complete an expansion of their facility at 80 Executive Drive. The city will also make improvements to Matter Drive and Executive Drive so that they may handle heavy equipment and tractor trailer traffic.

The city will apply for an IDOT Economic Development grant for half of the $1,020,000 improvements and Rebuild Illinois funds for the matching funds.

A new program was approved by the city council allowing the city to provide up to 25% of the cost and not more than $10,000 to improve the exterior facade of eligible buildings in Business District A. The program is designed to incentivize commercial building owners to make exterior repairs and improvements to improve their buildings.

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