Residents of the Riverview Estates subdivision attended the Desloge Board of Aldermen meeting Monday night to voice their concern about the lack of streetlights in the neighborhood and the subsequent safety issues that have arisen because of it.
Speaking on behalf of the group of about 15 homeowners in attendance was Chelley Odle who approached the podium to address the board during the public comment portion of the meeting.
"The neighborhood has been around for about 20 years now," she said. "There are other neighborhoods that have been built later than ours that have curbing, lighting and different things — and, so, the major concern we have as a neighborhood is all the crime that seems to be happening and is progressing as time goes by."
After Odle asked the board if it had any plans to add lighting and curbing to the subdivision, Mayor David Kater — a Riverview Estates resident himself — replied, "That neighborhood was turned over years ago into the city. There was an alderman on the board at that time that went ahead with [accepting] the subdivision as it is.
"Nothing was up to par. Our cul-de-sacs are just dead-end streets, I'm sorry. You can't turn a fire truck in there. If you go to our new neighborhoods in town, our new subdivisions, you'll notice you can turn around four-cars-wide in there. The [Riverview Estates cul-de-sacs] don't meet code."
"We don't do any subdivisions in town anymore without lighting, curbing, cul-de-sacs that actually are up to code. And so the city — if you look at even Laplante — they aren't either. Those subdivisions were taken into the city limits afterwards and approved by some means — why, I have no idea — but they should have been brought up to code before they were turned in."
Kater suggested the possibility of seeking a neighborhood improvement grant that would assess the properties of homeowners living in Riverview Estates for the purpose of installing lighting. He added that he would have City Administrator Dan Bryan to investigate what grants of this type might be currently available.
"It really falls on the developer at the time," said Alderman Chris Gremminger. "Like he said, for some reason it fell through the cracks and got accepted by the city without the lighting and the curbing."
Alderman Alvin Sutton added that the city could possibly make the situation worse for surrounding homeowners if it were to put curbing in the old subdivision.
"Depending on what length they went to, we could put curbs in and somebody that's not being flooded now could have a flood. So, I think we have to be cautious if we do that, because once we create the problem, then it's on us to fix it. I would hate to put in a bunch of curbs and then flood somebody's basement."
One of the homeowners, a Black River Electric Cooperative employee, suggested that Ameren might be able to install lighting in the subdivision, albeit at a cost of undetermined amount. The board agreed that might be a possibility, but made clear the expense would fall squarely on the homeowners' shoulders and not the city.
After additional discussion, board members came to the consensus that, while they understood and sympathized with the homeowners' plight, the best they could do is help them in the search for grant monies available to pay for the project.
Updating the board on the closing of the railroad crossing at Cedar Street and construction of a new railroad crossing at Walnut Street, Bryan said, "Great news! We met with Union Pacific (UP) today. Construction is going to start [Tuesday] and they will be finished by noon on Thursday with their portion — so, it's going to be in and out. Jokerst was also here today. They're going to start destruction next Monday."
Bryan also informed the board that concerns that the city might have to pay up to $40,000 to have a UP railroad flagman on the project site until its completion is no longer an issue.
"I talked to Jerrod, one of the bosses from UP today, and we talked about the flagman and that cost. He assured us if we stayed outside of eight feet from their rail, they would not send a flagman down and they would only charge us for the time that we are within 8 feet of the rail for the use of the flagman."
The board also learned from Bryan that four people came in and $350 was collected from the city's recent Court Amnesty Program held Sept. 18-22.
"Moving forward, what I think we'd like to do is have these amnesty weeks three times a year," he said. "I talked to [Court Administrator] Linda Simino. The more routine this becomes, maybe people will come more often. So, we're thinking February, May and September next year."
Bryan also announced a public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at city hall regarding the Desloge Drive (Highway 8) Project.
In other action, the board approved the eighth payment to Jokerst, Inc. for the Trailwood/Chestnut project and the purchase of a dump truck for the Water Works Department at a cost of $77,000 plus delivery charges. The aldermen further approved that the purchase of the dump truck and a pickup truck for the Water Works Department, along with three additional pickup trucks for the Public Works Department, will be made through two separate four-year lease purchase plans through First State Community Bank at 2.5 percent interest .
Board members also accepted two requests made by the city administrator at the conclusion of the meeting. First, that a committee be formed to examine and review city permits and fees to make sure they're inline with surrounding cities; and second, the instituting next year of an "Employee of the Quarter" recognition to be presented to an outstanding employee from various departments.