City Council discusses infrastructure improvements


Felicia Selmon/ Courier Staff

City Administrator Dean Torreson discuss making improvements to Macomb roads. For example, fixing the condition of Dudley Street.

Steven Barnum , News editor

Macomb aldermen are uncertain if the proposed infrastructure-funding plan is the best way to move forward.

The severity of the winter weather took a major toll on Macomb’s roads. One of those roads, Dudley Street, could undergo an overlay this summer. According to examiners, the worst ends of the street are the first block, the stretch from Jackson to Washington and the south end from Walker to Grant. It could cost $310,000 to make the improvements.

“Dudley Street has really unraveled this spring,” City Administrator Dean Torreson said.

The city is planning a cape sealing project to improve several major streets, but there has been some disagreement as to which roads are in the worst shape.

“Throughout the last six to eight weeks I haven’t seen a big difference in Dudley Street,” Alderman-at-large Dennis Moon said. “That argument should have been made in the beginning of this budget process.”

Moon pointed out that the budget involves spending money for street improvement projects that the city has yet to collect.

“We have anticipated funds but we’re not sure if we’ll get them in time to pay the bills,” Moon said.

Mayor Mike Inman said that the diminishing quality of Dudley Street has sparked an increase in calls from Macomb residents. The result from the winter’s freeze thaw has many wondering if the city will address their concerns.

The budget will potentially total $27.1 million with a revenue of about $26.6 million. Torreson said that the city could find the rest of the money from the general fund and from the water fund. Recently, Macomb improved the efficiency of the water plant and sand filters, which is expected to save $150,000 or more on operating costs alone.

“That’ll certainly help us for years to come,” Torreson said.

There are no plans to raise rates or fees in the proposal. Torreson said that the city is expecting less revenue with fewer students attending Western Illinois University. With the 2020 census approaching, a decline in population from the student body living off campus would result in a loss of funding.

“That’s something that the council would have to deal with,” Torreson said.

The proposal essentially delays future construction and improvement projects so that the city is able to be fiscally responsible for this budget. One of those projects is replacing the Burlington Road Bridge, which connects residents to the River Run Apartment complex.

Another project that would be delayed if the council approves the budget proposal is the improvements to Johnson Street. With the middle school expected to be completed by the fall of 2021, city officials argue that it would be best to fix the street in 2022.

Since the city’s cape sealing project will cost less than expected, the proposal plans to put additional money toward fixing Dudley Street. Torreson said that putting the bare minimum amount in the police and fire pensions and nothing in the storm sewer fund for one year is also on the table. Even if a storm sewer collapses next year, Torreson believes that it’s a risk worth taking since it would give them $50,000 to spend.

“This would leave us with a positive balance,” he said. “We’re pretty conservative on our cost estimates so we’ll probably end up better than that.”

Torreson said that expenditures are starting to outpace revenue. One way to ensure that the city can collect more money is through a utility tax, according to Torreson, which would require heavy users of electrical and natural gas to pay more. He thinks that this would be an easier and more appropriate approach than reducing the workforce.

“It’s hard to see how we can cut more employees and still operate the city government effectively,” Torreson said.

Moon said that the city won’t have a lot of money to spend on projects with this proposal, which is why he is hesitant to support it. Although the proposal appeared to have a lack of support, Inman said that aldermen can mull it over and discuss it more next week.

“Basically what we’re doing is shoving projects down the road and reducing our ending balance as far down as I would care to see it go,” Moon said. “I’m not crazy about this plan.”