Live Updates from Fairfield Mayor Mike Dreith
November 23, 2021 Mayors Report
This is tonight’s Mayor’s Report:
The meeting I called with the Illinois Department of Transportation was very disappointing. They described a “Perfect Storm” which will keep them from resurfacing work on Main and Delaware until at least 2023. Curb and ramp work will be bid in June, 2022 for construction in late next summer. I called Senator Darren Bailey to register my extreme disappointment.
Libby and I were a part of the FCHS College and Career Day and heard students complain they did not have a “gathering spot” in town. They also said they wanted places to play pickleball. We signed up 50 students to comprise a youth advisory council which will have its first meeting in January.
This morning I hosted the first meeting of a Business District Committee which discussed potential projects should the city choose to create such a district. It was a very positive meeting and we agreed to the committee working on a project list for discussion at our next gathering on December 14th.
We are in the middle of a good year at our Municipal Airport. According to Travis, our net profit from sales is at $44,502 for six months. The airport also collected $11,535 in hangar rent, $25,800 in crop sales, and $998 in oil income. Local operations for October totaled 39. Travis also reports we have an opportunity for a $750,000 grant by combining an airfield drainage project with ramp expansion. Our local match will only be $12,000.
I have collaborated with Daryl Donjon of Wayne White Co-op to author a letter which will be sent to all city residents concerning the handoff of the operation and maintenance of our electric grid starting on January 1st. That letter should be sent next week. The letter will include a number for residents to call in case of an outage and the separation of the electric bill from the city’s gas, water, sewer and trash bill. Residents will also get a letter from Wayne-White Electric in January explaining payment options. We are all trying to anticipate glitches in the process.
November 9, 2021 Mayors Report
Here’s tonight’s Mayor’s Report:
Last week I contacted the corporate headquarters of Casey’s General Stores in Iowa to discuss the property the company owns between West Main and Delaware. Almost two years ago the company purchased the land to build a new Fairfield facility. A spokesperson said there were no active plans to build such a facility in our near future. They also do not want to sell the land.
We have asked for a meeting with the Illinois Department of Transportation to discuss the resurfacing of Route 15 through Fairfield. I have invited our engineers and asked for the IDOT contingent to do likewise. IDOT’s last correspondence with the city noted labor shortages and new legislation concerning the mandate of ADA sidewalk compliance. I want a commitment on a start date.
Time is expiring on several properties which have been condemned by the city. One of those buildings is the former Vaughn’s Food Store on the city’s east highway (712 E. Main). The owners have gone to the court seeking to draw down money from the estate for renovations. They haven’t started work.
Claire is doing the research to develop and launch a phone app for the city which will allow us to “push” our important announcements and activities. Several other cities in Southeastern Illinois already possess this form of communication. Also, there were 1600 views on our various platforms of our video coverage of the Veteran’s Day parade. And today the site topped 10,000 views since its launch at the end of August.
Police report 16 arrests including three felonies. FPD logged some overtime for the homecoming parade and a presence on South 1st street during Trick or Treating. There were 83 traffic stops with 8 citations written.
The fire department had 53 total calls, 45 of which were EMS Assists. There was also a structure and a vehicle fire in October. Besides a high level of activity, the department sold 180 gallons of chili and raised $4500 which helps offset equipment costs.
October 26, 2021 Mayors Report
Here’s tonight’s Mayor’s Report:
I’m meeting with Steve Bryant, the Regional Manager of Energy and Government Affairs of Good Energy, LP on Thursday. Good Energy is a national leader in government energy-aggregation strategies. I believe we are facing a challenging natural gas market in the immediate days ahead and Steve advises many of the communities in Southern Illinois including Olney, Salem, Edwardsville and Alton. If I believe Bryant is a good fit, I will bring him to the Gas committee.
IDOT says the price of doing Route 15 through Fairfield has gone up since it bid the project last year. Now the city’s original $645,000 bill for finishing the connecting roads between Main and Delaware will cost $787,000. They say the price of asphalt has gone up. IDOT is also offering to stretch the project on to Commerce Drive. Originally, the resurfacing ended at Airport Road. We have until the end of the year to answer.
The U.S. Census says Fairfield officially now has 4,883 residents. That is down from 5,154 in 2010 and 5,421 in 2000. So we have dropped 538 citizens in 20 years. One analysis from the George Washington Institute of Public Policy revealed that the median loss for each person missed in the census could cost local government $1,000 annually. Such an analysis might be low in a city like ours where we control all utilities. There is no doubt this will have a negative impact on future city budgets.
Alderman Reever and Libby Lingafelter will travel with me to Carmi on Wednesday to visit Burrell Woods RV Park which is owned and operated by the city. It features 30 easily accessible RV pads, electric hook-ups and a sanitary sewer. We will also look at the city’s adjoining dog park. The Carmi community raised $20,000 to build their dog park.
“Coffee With The Mayor” is set for 7:00-9:00 AM next Monday at McDonald’s.
October 12, 2021 Mayors Report
Here’s tonight’s Mayor’s Report:
We have scuttled plans for Connor & Connor to design a project to repair the roads at Maple Hill Cemetery. After last meeting, Street and Bridge Lead man Robert Kamp volunteered his crew to repair the roads. The materials will cost around $15,000 in asphalt.
Alderman Lampley will join me and representatives of the county board in meeting with the Wayne County Humane Society to study the organization’s space and staff issues. Our police department has reported recent problems in getting service when contacting the pound during business hours.
In round numbers, our police have talked to nearly a hundred residents about the condition of their properties or non-operational vehicles. At this time those initial contacts have resulted in around 25 citations since May. There have been small victories, but I am not satisfied with the tools in place to affect change. I will be working with the legislative committee when I have proposals to offer.
A meeting with Sunrise Sanitation set for last week was cancelled by the company. We have rescheduled for tomorrow morning. There are several outstanding issues to be addressed by the city.
The Fairfield Fire Department reports one structure fire, one cooking fire and one vehicle fire in September. They were involved in 55 EMS assists, a gas leak and one unauthorized burning call. The Police Department was active in September with 15 warrants, seven misdemeanors and a felony. Officers also wrote 15 warnings for local ordinance violations and dealt with 12 vehicle crashes. There were also 65 traffic stops resulting in 29 citations.
Our city webpage has seen an increase in views of 54% since our hiring of RJ Marketing and the merger with the chamber. New pages are being added weekly including the local business directory and local historical sites. Claire, Libby and I meet weekly to discuss strategy.
September 28, 2021 Mayors Report
Tonight’s Mayor’s Report:
Last week we had a meeting to discuss the roads at the Maple Hill cemetery. Attending were our engineer, Alderman McGill, Sexton Dugger and myself. We are looking at using MFT funds to potentially fund one of three different plans. One would tackle the entire road system, one would restore the outer circle and designated deteriorating roads within…and the third would merely fix the worst roads. I expect the plan to be available to discuss at our next meeting.
Until now, we’ve found the job of tracking problem properties in the city to be daunting. Asst. Police Chief Colclasure has developed a way for all of us to track them. Keith has shared a database between the mayor, the clerk, the city attorney and the police department. Council members can view the dashboard by contacting Keith. In a sidenote, five vehicles were towed from NW 5th Street yesterday after extensive municipal court action.
Libby Lingafelter and Claire Vaughan are collaborating in identifying available business properties to post on the city and chamber websites. The posting will include a picture, key stats about the property and the contact person in charge of its lease or sale. This is a new collaboration between the chamber, the city and our new social media/web coordinator. It comes as we turn our attention to downtown redevelopment.
Libby is also working to submit a grant to get consideration for the Governor’s $50-million-dollar Rebuild Downtown and Main Streets Capital Grant. She is working with Connor & Connor to update our TIF infrastructure project for Main and Delaware. If we can get state funding, the TIF money being held in escrow can be freed for other projects. It was a $1.4-million project when it was priced in 2019.
“Coffee With the Mayor” is scheduled for 7:00-9:00 am Monday at 5 Brothers Restaurant on the city’s west side.
The chamber’s annual dinner is set for Monday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Elks.
September 14, 2021 Mayors Report
Here is tonight’s Mayor’s Report:
The Historical Society Cemetery Tour was once again a huge success. In part it was because the city’s workers pitched in to make Maple Hill look good. It is our goal to make it that presentable year-round. In that vein, I am asking the Cemetery Committee to call a meeting to examine some of the roads inside the property.
The owner of the Briarwood Hotel has paid a total of $7,735.70–but did not totally satisfy payment of owed hotel-motel taxes. They have not paid for all of 2021.
Today was Libby Lingafelter’s first day in her role as our Economic Development Coordinator and in charge of the Chamber. She will be included in a weekly meeting concerning social media and our web page with Claire Vaughan. She will also be included in a monthly meeting concerning derelict properties in town. Her first challenge will be organizing our efforts to write and submit a state grant announced last week by the Governor. We will submit to be included in the $50-million dollar Rebuild Illinois Main Street and Downtown Capital Program. We will work with merchants to develop a plan.
Fairfield firefighters had 51 total calls in August, 39 of which for EMS Assists. There were two structure fires, a cooking fire and a couple of assists to other agencies. Our firefighters trained on fire behavior and forcible entry at a burn site.
Police report five felony arrests in August with seven misdemeanors and seven warrants served. There were 11 motor vehicle crashes with 74 traffic stops and 26 traffic citations written.
With the retirement notice from Denny Mitchell in the Street and Bridge department, I decided to move quickly to post his position so bidding inside the union can run its course and Robert Kamp can start training his new team member. There are currently four members of Kamp’s department. They face a daunting task daily in keeping up with the city’s streets and bridges.
August 24, 2021 Mayors Report
The city has pitched in to mow the area formerly known as Lakeside Lake this summer to help the Park District and prevent an eyesore. When the dam was breached several years ago, the area was designated as a “wetlands” area. I have contacted Congresswoman Mary Miller for an appointment to discuss Lakeside. It is the first step in getting the Army Corps of Engineers to change the designation so we can eventually restore the lake.
Our environmental legal counsel Peter Trimarchi has recommended an environmental consulting engineering firm to the city for the continuing clean-up of Airtex Plant 1. It is vital to keep the pressure on the owners and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Very little has occurred in 2021 at the site.
I’ve asked our garage staff to study how we might be able to utilize thousands of gallons of diesel fuel currently being stored next to the abandoned city power plant. The fuel was intended for the diesel turbines inside the facility which are no longer operable.
I showed representatives of Rides Mass Transit properties in town last week as they prepare to construct a new area headquarters for their operations in Wayne County. The proposed building will be an operations/garage facility funded by a Rebuild Illinois grant.
Additional personnel have been assigned to the Maple Hill Cemetery for the rest of the summer and fall to keep up with grass mowing/trimming. In the meantime, I have told workers not to use weed control products around tombstones. We, of course, want the cemetery to be in great shape for the upcoming Historic Society cemetery tour on September 10-11.
We will be breaking ground for the new T-Mobile building near Wal-Mart on Friday at 11:00 a.m.
August 10, 2021 Mayors Report
Claire Vaughan will premiere our new website at the August 24th city council meeting. She would have been ready tonight, but I threw another level of complexity at her when I decided to combine the city and chamber home pages into one site.
The IMEA will meet with the Gas Committee on Monday, August 30th at 10:00 AM. The topic will be whether the city is interested in fixing (or hedging) a price on our natural gas volume. The city historically has not hedged. The legislative committee has announced it will meet on Wednesday night at 6.
The air conditioning unit at our police department literally exploded this week. While the 9-1-1 dispatching area is on a separate unit, the suggested solution could exceed $15,000.
I am exploring grant opportunities for an idea forwarded by Alderman Reever to build a limited number of camper slots on city property in Southwest Park. Each spot would have electric and water hook-ups for visitors to the city. The airport sold 35,349 gallons of jet fuel since July 1st for a net profit of $12,372.
The fire department responded to fires in three structures in July. There was also a vehicle fire and one prompted by cooking. Chief reports 31 EMS assists and coverage for the fireworks and county fair events like the demo derby and motocross. The police department made five felony arrests and issued 10 warrants. There were 11 motor vehicle crashes and the department made 76 traffic stops with 17 citations written. The department also alerted technicians to repair storm sirens at FCC and on Mill Street. Both are now back in service.
We have 8 applicants for the new Coordinator of Economic Development position which will be a city employee with Chamber of Commerce responsibilities. Tyler and two member of the chamber’s executive board will help me interview.
July 27, 2021 Mayors Report
There are some fascinating things happening in the real estate business in Fairfield and Wayne County. A check with the Supervisor of Assessments’ office last week revealed there were 56 transfer declarations (property sales) in the county for June, the most in ten years. Further, the 309 sales that have been filed so far this year puts the county on a record pace.
The Fairfield Police Department has purchased an electronic data collector for analyzing traffic patterns in the City of Fairfield. The device monitors traffic volume and speed, which will allow more effective traffic enforcement by officers. Recently, a 24-hour monitor of the 400 block of East Main Street indicated a 75% compliance rate. The software analyzes data and provides suggested time periods for directed traffic enforcement. The Police Department will be using the device for both citizen complaints and improving traffic safety.
I have instructed legal counsel to notify several landlords of former businesses that the city will be pursuing condemnation of their properties. The buildings are eyesores, and their restoration would cost more than the current value of the building. Once they are notified, we will be bringing each to the council for condemnation action.
My examination of city ordinances finds we do not have one specifically dealing with conflict of interest. That is a problem since almost every federal and state grant application requires such an ordinance. I have asked legal counsel to research this issue, so the city does not miss out on current and future grant opportunities. I also will be asking the Gas Committee to meet with me and representatives of the IMEA to discuss fixing (or hedging) a price on our volume. Historically, the city has not hedged. It is my belief we should strongly consider this practice to protect ourselves from upward swings in the market price for natural gas. We are currently “unhedged” with zero volumes covered by “fixed prices.”
And…This afternoon’s Municipal Court proceedings resulted in $2450 in fines for inoperable motor vehicles, weeds, dogs running at large and nuisances on private properties. It was the highest amount of levied fines in the brief existence of the city court.
July 14, 2021 Mayors Report
I am meeting with Tina Carpenter, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois on Tuesday afternoon, July 20th to discuss Fairfield and future expansion of the Carbondale-based organization. This is a very preliminary discussion to see if Fairfield could position itself for a future center.
Police Chief Richie Fulkerson was sworn in yesterday (Monday) morning by City Clerk Tina Hutchcraft. The Fairfield Police Department had three felony, seven misdemeanor and seven warrant arrests in June. There were 29 warning tickets handed out for local ordinance violations with 12 citations. The department was particularly active in traffic enforcement with 59 stops netting 26 citations.
Fairfield firefighters made 51 runs in June, 41 of which being Emergency Medical Service assists. FFD also toured the Fairfield Memorial Hospital expansion and did training with the ladder truck at the site.
The owner of the Briarwood Inn of Fairfield has been ordered to appear at city hall tomorrow (Wednesday) with records of every occupancy dating back to April 2020. The hotel owed $6194 in previous hotel/motel taxes.
We have received 600+ surveys here at city hall from Fairfield residents asked about the need for a high speed fiberoptic network in the city. The deadline has been extended until tomorrow (Wednesday). There will be a drawing next week for the 55-inch television set donated to help response.
I am disturbed to learn that Crimestoppers of Fairfield and Wayne County did not have one useable tip in the last 12 months. This program was formed in 2002 and could be a force in helping our law enforcement officers develop leads to capture and prosecute criminals. I am asking our local media to help with news stories about the program and its value. The fund balance has now swelled to $54,000.
June 8, 2021 Mayors Report
Aldermen Eckleberry and Lisenbee joined me to tour the city-owned “Garment Factory” or Airtex Plant 3 yesterday, meeting with tenants. The roof of the facility is in disrepair. Cost estimates are north of $100,000 and were last gathered five years ago. The facility costs the city nearly $20,000 annually in property taxes, insurance and mowing. We need to determine an exit strategy.
There was a meeting concerning Atkinson Forest hosted here at City Hall on May 26th. The meeting ended without any agreement between the parties. Members of the Atkinson Forest Task Force and the Park District attended the meeting.
The city is in the process of asking for clarification concerning land near the water pumping station and the side channel reservoir which would be used for brush and timber harvested by commercial companies in the city. If the plan is approved, contractors would pay a one-time annual fee of $2000 to gain access.
The Fairfield Police Department reported 77 traffic stops during May with 32 citations written (a 100-percent increase over April numbers). Officers also gave property owners seven warnings and eight citations for local ordinance violations. Work on the ADA grant continued at the police department with 85-to-90% of it complete including the automatic lobby doors, bathroom alterations and parking lot drop box. The box will allow citizens to deposit their utility bill payments instead of climbing the city hall steps.
Fairfield Firefighters responded 48 times in May with 43 being EMS assists.
We are planning to renegotiate the agreement between the Wayne County Humane Society and the city tomorrow (Wednesday June 9th) at 2:00 p.m.
I will join City Clerk Tina Hutchcraft and some downtown businesspeople will be meeting at 7:30 this Saturday morning to pull weeds from around businesses on the public right-of-way. We will meet at Freedom Park. Everyone is welcome.
“Coffee With the Mayor” went well Monday morning at Five Brothers Café. I’m planning on being at Barbwire Grill on Monday July 5th.
May 26, 2021 Mayors Report
The city received word late last week from the Illinois Department of Transportation that the resurfacing of Route 15 through Fairfield will not occur as planned this summer. The engineer in charge of the project said additional design work and acquisition issues forced the delay. The project is now tentatively scheduled for a November bid letting with work starting in 2022.
I am working on a plan which would once again give commercial tree services a place to take their logs and brush. The city council stopped the practice at the city dump near the street and bridge department on the southeast side of town. The plan, which would come to the council for its approval, would require the tree services to pay for the ability to dump on another site east of town.
With the help of Dr. David Mills and Alderman Coale, we will restart talks about Atkinson Forest. The plan would not require city funds. Our first meeting is set for tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon at 3:00 p.m.
Aldermen have been asked by the Mayor’s office to submit five properties in town in violation of city ordinances for junk, abandoned cars or inadequate care. Today in Municipal Court, six cases were heard involving dogs and fighting. Fines were assessed in each case.
Street and Bridge Lead Man Robert Kamp had successful surgery last week for dog bites he suffered in April. He will require another surgery for his hand. The dog attack was addressed yesterday in Wayne County Circuit court. Judge Mike Molt ordered the three dogs involved in Kamp’s attack to be euthanized which occurred late yesterday afternoon. The owner of the dogs was fined $2000 in Municipal Court today plus court costs. In a sidenote, I have asked legal counsel to draft an ordinance which would prevent dog ownership for those convicted of allowing vicious dogs to roam our streets.
In a related matter, we will be discussing the continuation of our annual contract with the Wayne County Humane Society very soon. The dog attack exposed the need for some finetuning of the contract.
The Fairfield Municipal Airport reports 210 operations over the last six weeks with the majority coming from our ag operator. The airport manager says he even had one couple fly in just to eat lunch at Jovalou Cuisine in downtown. While they were here, they purchased $210 worth of fuel for their plane.
And finally, I will be hosting my first “Coffee With The Mayor” on Monday, June 7th at Five Brothers Cafe from 7:00-9:00 am. Each first Monday of the month I will be at a local restaurant so citizens can meet with me and discuss their ideas and concerns.