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Collinsville Township Electors Vote To Purchase Empty Lot

By Stephanie Malench

The Collinsville Township held its first annual town meeting in three years on April 12. The first order of business was for the electors (residents of the Collinsville Township who are registered to vote) to elect a moderator for the evening since the town meeting is a meeting of the people, not the board. The electors selected Paul Nicolussi was nominated by Rob Bohne to fulfill the role.

The minutes from the April 2019 and October 2021 town meeting were approved without discussion.

Some discussion was held on the approval of the township financial statement prior to approving it. Jeanne Lomax expressed concern that the town IMRF fund only has $552 in it with no taxes levied in 2021to be collected in 2022, even thought the fund started at -$31,964. Clerk Jim Achenbach replied that “if we could do that over again we probably would have levied some”. Achenbach added that Collinsville Township has some of the lowest IMRF rates in the area and they went down again this year and the deficit at the end of this year will be “substantially less” than last year.

Phil Astauskus expressed concern that the township spent much more than it brought in this past year. Achenbach explained that was how the excess reserves that had been built up over the years were being built up.

As part of the customary comments by the elected officials, Supervisor Derrick Cox gave a “state of the township” address and highlighted the board’s cutting of the town budget from 2021 to 2022 by 23% and that he hoped to reduce it by another 20% in the coming years without cutting services. Cox also said that any program or idea that is implemented in the Senior Center is put before the Senior Council first.

Three of the trustees made comments. Clint Ball said that the engagement we have seen since the election a year ago has rised extremely and become more positive”.

Ashley Stewart added that everything we have been able to do is because of getting along with each other we have gotten more done”.

Brad Sewell addressed the uniqueness of the meeting and said “we just have to manage that decision and the finances and the future of it [the lot] and I think we’ll get it right”.

Senior Council President Mike Fisher explained that the board meets at least once a month to make plans, including special events for the seniors to participate in.

The primary agenda item for the evening was a presentation by Michelle Spillers of Oates and Associates followed by a discussion about purchasing the land next to the senior center and how the lot would look. The conceptual plan includes 29 parking spots 20 feet long by 10 feet wide (an increase of 24 spots), three of which are ADA compliant (the city only requires 2). Other features of the new lot include a new ADA accessible entrance with canopy, a dumpster enclosure, permeable pavers to help control water runoff issues, decorative fencing on the Main St. side as required by the city and a vinyl fend on the west property line.

The estimate to complete the parking lot using historical values for similar projects over the past six years based on historic bids and escalated to meet inflation came to $185,000.

Spillers said a copy of the plan has been shared with the city, but nothing has been formally approved yet. The Township will have to solicit multiple bids before anything is finalized.

Many of the electors in attendance were upset that they were being presented with a description of the parking lot and estimated price and they were not going to be able to vote on it. Cox stressed that the purpose of the meeting was only to approve whether or not to purchase the parking lot and once the electors approved the purchase, the board would handle all of the details from there.

Cox then went into detail about the price to buy the lot and where the money would come from. For the past five years, the owner of the vacant lot next to the senior center has been asking for $125,000, but recently came down to $110,000. Cox shared that an appraisal was conducted on the property by DJ Howard & Associates, Inc. from Highland and the “as is” market alue of the property as of January 15, 2022 was $65,000. The report also gave the additional fees that would be charged if the township decided to take the condemnation route (imminent domain). There would be an additional $2,500 appraisal cost, a $30,000 fee for review by a Review Appraiser, and possible $3,500-$4,000 fee if 3rd party negotiations were needed. This would bring the cost up to around $100,000, and the process could take several years.

Cox said the township has the cash on hand to purchase the land outright and complete the lot, but hoped to get grants to cover much of the cost, including $125,000 in PEP grant funding from Madison County in a lump sum instead of applying for $25,000 each year when there is nothing else the senior center needs.

With no other questions, a motion was made to take the vote. 51 electors present voted yes to purchase the property and 15 voted no.

The next town meeting was set for April 11, 2023 and the meeting was adjourned to move into the monthly township meeting.

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