City Council renews contracts with Durham School Services

Steven Barnum , Assistant News Editor

The city of Macomb has agreed to renew its contract with Durham School Services.

City Administrator Dean Torreson informed the public that Macomb was offered a 5-year contract to continue using Durham School Services for the “Go West” bus system; however, that contract was quickly rejected.

“When costing that out, we came to the conclusion that it was unaffordable,” Torreson said. “After talking to the mayor and city council members about this, we decided to approach Durham about revising its bid.”

In the second offer, Macomb still didn’t feel like the deal would be a wise financial decision. The transportation committee met on Sept. 20 and concluded that the agreement would cut too far into Macomb’s cash reserve fund. Torreson said the estimated loss for that fund over the 5-year period would be $450,000. Part of that expense stems from Durham’s plans to raise driver wages in each of the next few years.

The two sides eventually came to an agreement to extend their partnership. The new contract will last less than one year, with contract talks re-opening after the deal expires on July 1, 2019. The short contract was recommended by the committee, who says this deal would show more mercy on the cash reserve fund. The deal will total $599,593.

Mayor Mike Inman pointed out that the deal is federally funded through grants, so the city will be reimbursed in the future. He emphasized that city dollars are in no way involved in the transaction. Inman also stated the agreement is about fiscal responsibility.

“This allows us the most flexibility going forward to find a sustainable, long-term contract,” Inman said. Nathan Cobb is the Mc- Donough County Transportation Director and he shared an encouraging announcement at the podium.

Cobb revealed that the U.S. Department of Transportation would be giving $366 million in grants in order to improve the bus systems in college towns across the state of Illinois. Macomb will be one of the recipients of the grant money, along with Bloomington-Normal, Decatur, Galesburg and Quincy.

“I thought that was pretty exciting news,” Cobb said. More than $2.2 million will be spread around to the Macomb, Galesburg and Quincy communities. The money could go toward new buses, which Cobb estimates will cost in the neighborhood of $400,000 apiece. It is likely the city will purchase buses that run on diesel as opposed to electric buses, which are much more costly.

Since Macomb isn’t a large city, they are often passed up for federal grants. Cobb explained who went to bat for the community.

“Macomb is a rural entity so it was not able to apply on its own,” Cobb said.“IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) did that on its behalf.”

The council decided to agree to the contract with a vote of 5-to-1. Alderman Tim Koch voted no and Alderman John Vigezzi was absent.

Macomb will also be vying for a community development block grant.

If approved, Macomb would use the money to continue water improvements in the city’s Northwest quadrant. The improvements, which include water mane replacements, have been ongoing since the spring. The grant would total $500,000, which Inman believes is an appropriate figure. The motion was adopted by Alderman at Large Dennis Moon and Alderman Don Wynn. Members of the Sigma Chi fraternity will have a new home.

Leading off for the unfinished business column was a second reading for an ordinance that would allow members of Sigma Chi to live at 830 North Avery St. in Macomb. As previously discussed, no changes to the building are needed since it has been used as a fraternity house in the past. A public hearing for the consideration was held on Sept. 12, where members of the planning commission voted in favor of the fraternity getting the house.

Property owners within 250 feet of the soon-to-be fraternity house were notified and there were no objections. Moved by Moon and seconded by Alderman Annette Carper, the ordinance was adopted.

During last week’s meeting, then-Community Development Coordinator Ray Heitner discussed the proposal to shakeup the Macomb Historical Preservation Commission. Fewer meetings, a quicker process and increased efficiency were some of the suggested benefits that would come with the changes. The changes would mean expanding the voting members of the commission from seven to nine, while allowing the two new members to approve changes to downtown structures that are minor or insignificant.

The council must amend “Section 17-294 of Chapter17, Article VIII, Historical Preservation” of Macomb’s Municipal Code in order to add members to the commission. The commission is designed to maintain Macomb’s downtown historical image. According to the municipal code, members are appointed to three-year terms and they must live in Macomb.