The Streator City Council reached a consensus Tuesday to close the restrooms in city parks during the winter months.
City Manager Scot Wrighton said the bathrooms can always be opened for winter events, such as Light Up Streator, on an as-needed basis.
The idea is to prevent potential vandalism or illegal activity that can occur when fewer people are using the restrooms.
Council members also considered if a fee should be charged for non-Streator residents to use Plumb Pavilion, something that may come up with wedding parties from Silver Fox. A $100 fee was discussed, but Councilman Ed Brozak said the council should not set fees high enough to dissuade wedding parties from using the pavilion, considering they will spend money in the community.
Brozak also said language in the city's park policy should be more specific to what is prohibited in the southwest quadrant of City Park. Heavy equipment is what the council wants to keep off the grassy areas.
Wrighton said he would take the council's discussion and modify park policies for council members to vote on.
Commenting on pension costs
Streator businessman Steve Broadus told City Council members he figured the average Streator household is paying roughly $1,876 in property taxes toward firefighter pensions.
He set up the discussion by saying the population of Streator is 13,163 with a per capita of 2.47 people per household, according to the 2018 census. He used $10 million as the figure for the pension liability, though Councilman Joe Scarbeary, who also is a firefighter, said it was closer to $9 million. Using $9 million in Broadus' math, the average household is paying roughly $1,688 toward firefighter pensions.
Broadus said past councils and state policies have been generous and the firefighters union received a much lower return on their investments.
"Unfortunately, that falls on our wall," Broadus said, referring to taxpayers.
He opposed one proposal, suggested by Scarbeary, to raise sales tax 1 percent to cover the pension costs, but was unable to finish his comment due to the three-minute restriction on public comments during city meetings.
Pension costs were not on the council's agenda, so no further discussion took place.
Council chooses Streator broker
The City Council voted 4-1 in favor of using Streator Insurance Center as its insurance broker. Stumm Insurance, of Yorkville, was the other broker considered Tuesday during a special council meeting. Brozak was the dissenting vote.
There are no costs to compare between the two because the commission and fees are the same regardless of who is selected. A key factor in the decision was developing a customized wellness program that will spark greater participation and reduce claims.
Plan Commission as interim ZBA
The city has received a request that a property should be taken before the zoning board of appeals. That panel has not met since 2012, and its membership has dwindled past the point of being able to establish a quorum.
Until Mayor Jimmie Lansford can appoint new members to the zoning board, the council approved the Plan Commission to serve in that capacity, which is allowed by local ordinance.
The zoning board of appeals is different than a plan commission, in that the zoning board of appeals hears appeals to the building code, and determines when exceptions or alternative methods should be allowed outside the bounds of city codes. The Plan Commission, on the other hand, deals with changes in land use and large planning policies regarding land use.