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Highland Council Discusses Potential Video Gaming Terminal Fee Hike

By Jake Leonard

Highland Mayor Kevin Hemann and the Highland City Council acknowledged the Highland High School varsity co-ed cheer team, which won the 2022 IHSA Co-Ed Cheerleading State Championship at the start of the council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 22. Members of the team were introduced to the council by coach Angie Fears.

Josh Shepherd from the Highland John Wildi Masonic Lodge #583 submitted a special event application for a sausage supper to be held at the lodge on Sunday, Feb. 27. The event will be a drive-thru supper, with no physical presence in the building on the event date. The application was approved.

Legislation signed into law in December 2021 by Gov. JB Pritzker making changes to the Video Gaming Act allows non-home rule units of government to charge terminal fees of up to $250 per machine. The council discussed potential changes to their existing terminal fees.

In a report from City Manager Chris Conrad, it detailed 16 establishments with a total of 91 gaming terminals in the city, which brought in net terminal income of roughly $4.1 million in 2021. 30 percent is paid out in taxes to the state, with five percent of the collected tax going to the city. The City of Highland received $204,535.67 in the same calendar year in their share from this tax. The overall net terminal has a 50/50 revenue share split between the licensed establishments and the terminal operators.

If the city set the terminal fee at $250 for the current 85 terminals in the city, it would generate an additional $21,250. That fee would be split between the terminal operators and the establishments. Utilizing an example of an establishment with six machines will pay their share of the $750 maximum fee.

Like the liquor licenses, the council could be open to establishments paying toward their annual fee on a quarterly basis. This could help alleviate some concerns from establishment owners who might have struggles coming up with their share of the $750 terminal maximum fee plus the $500 liquor license. The council did not take any action on the matter.

The following appointments and re-appointments were nominated and confirmed: Ben Eberwein (Cemetery Board of Managers), Ronald Wagner, David Frey, and Steven Pfetscher (Silver Lake Advisory Commission), and Jeffrey Hebrank and William Sloan (Liquor Control Commission).

The council will have to act next month to make a re-appointment for Pfetscher’s seat, as the term ends in March.

Laverne Bohnak filed a petition to the city to donate two burial plots to the city. Bohnak stated the plots were purchased in June 2002 and maintained that upkeep charges have been paid.

A resolution authorizing allocation of hotel/motel tax funding to the Highland Parks and Recreation department for inclusion in the February issue of the Madison County Park Guide was approved in the amount of $502. The intent was to encourage people to use the Korte Recreation Center, the city’s parks, and to attend events occurring this summer.

A resolution to authorize entering agreement for ambulance services with the Grantfork Fire Protection District was approved. It is a two-year agreement, with the first year cost paid to the city in the amount of $33,787, with the second year costs dependent on the levy rate for 2023.

An ordinance to declare a 2008 F-550 bucket truck utilized for Highland Communication Services as surplus inventory. The truck currently has 102,553 miles on it, with the cost of repairs and failure downtime currently exceeding its current value. The vehicle has been replaced with council approval, with the truck going to auction for sale to the highest bidder. Conrad stated that it could bring in roughly $10,000 at auction. The ordinance was approved.

Resolutions relating to HCS and carrier agreements were also approved. The first was an item of previous discussion for carriage of Bloomberg Television. The other was an agreement for carriage of several broadcast properties owned by the Walt Disney Company. Those properties within the Disney organization in the agreement include International Family Entertainment (Freeform, Soapnet, Disney Junior, most other Disney channels), ABC Cable Networks Group (ESPN and sister ESPN channels, A&E), and Walt Disney Television (FX, FXX, FX Movie Channel, National Geographic Networks).

The actual lineup for the Disney properties agreement is still to be determined until after the agreement is signed and returned to Vivicast Media.

An ordinance to designate depositories for funds and money of the city was approved. FCB Bank – Highland, Regions Bank, and the Illinois Funds are the designated fund depositories and money in the ordinance. It also further sets policies for the designations.

Expenditures in the among of $1,720,957.01 were approved for the period of February 5, 2022 to February 18, 2022.

The council entered executive session at 7:56 p.m. to discuss an ordinance authorizing the purchase of real estate from the living trusts of Earl and Rita Gaffner, with the intent for future expansion of the Weinheimer Community Center, parking for the center and city service buildings, and/or other public purpose. The property specified in the ordinance is located at 1110 Main Street. The purchase price, if agreed by the council, would be in the amount of $100,000.

Requests to Highland City Hall regarding actions taken in executive session were not responded to as of press time.

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