The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

More Changes For La Harpe City Council

by Deb Olson, The Quill

Alderman Foster Resigns. Dan Gillett Appointed Third Ward Alderman.

Alderman Kenny Foster resigned his position as 1st Ward Alderman effective immediately at the Monday night, November 28th La Harpe City Council meeting, citing stress over recent events and frustration with the process.

Foster promised to provide a full statement of his reasons for resignation to the press later in the week.

This action left the council with two vacancies, Foster's position as 1st Ward Alderman and the vacant Third Ward spot created when former Alderman Dave Mershon moved out of his 3rd ward home, thereby making him ineligible to serve.

In Mayor Kienast's absence, the council appointed Alderman Daryl Kraft Mayor Pro Tem.

The council vacancies, along with the continued absence of Mayor Ryan Kienast from meetings (Kienast has not attended the past three meetings) barely gave the council the necessary quorum to conduct business.

In order to fill Mershon's seat, the council went in to Executive Session.

Upon their return, the council appointed third ward resident Dan Gillett to fill Dave Mershon's vacant seat.

The council took time to honor two retiring employees. Officer Dean Spangler retires December 1st after 7 years with the city. The council named December 1st as Officer Dean Spangler Day in La Harpe and presented him with a watch for his service.

Wayne Humphrey will retire on December 6th after working for the city since 1978. The city has declared December 6th to be Wayne Humphrey Day. Sadly, Mr. Humphrey was not able to attend the meeting.

During committee reports, Tim Graves requested that the issue of the water department's petty cash be clarified. There is a conflict between Graves and the mayor.

Kienast has refused to sign checks for the water department's petty cash account. Graves needs $25 on a regular basis to mail water testing results and reports.

The council told treasurer Jennifer Ewing to issue the necessary checks since Graves has provided receipts documenting the expense.

Graves also noted that a valve he ordered has not been received. It was noted in this exchange that as a result of a previous ruling the city only has one credit card, with Kienast name associated with the card. Alderman Bennett noted that the card needs to be used for the valve payment.

City Attornery Diane Diestler, stated that she had confirmed that the Illinois Constitution states that public property must be used for public purposes only. Violation of this rule is considered public misconduct.

She noted that the La Harpe current manual codifies many long standing practices which are in conflict with the state code. This means that the incident of the mayor's use of the bulldozer for work done on his personal property is not an isolated incident.

This being the case, she felt all previous use by city employees of city property for personal reasons needed to be investigated.

The council is also in the process of updating the city code which was last updated in 1992. This is being done in order to align the city code with the state code.

It will require a major rewrite of the code. Police Chief Livingston and the attorney are working with a codification company to accomplish this.

City Clerk Lucretia McPeak was contacted by Megan Crooks of McClure Engineering who requested a pre-construction meeting with council members. That meeting is set for Thursday, December 1st at 9 a.m.

McPeck also stated that nomination papers for the April 4, 2017 election are due no sooner than December 12th and no later than December 19th. There are 3 unexpired 2 year terms for Alderman to be filled and 3 four-year terms.

Terry Pope, Executive Director of The Hancock County Development Corporation addressed the council on a 5 pillar strategy for economic growth. First is business retention and expansion.

He hopes to keep local business in the county as well as encouraging the development of new businesses.

Second is entrepreneurship and development. Pope cited the case of two young men from Ferris who have opened a steel business.

He also discussed the CEO program in which high school juniors and seniors learn about creating jobs.

He mentioned two La Harpe students, Kaitlin Pole and Austin Torrance who have both excelled in the program. This class was started with funds from the Hancock County Economic Development.

Third is workforce development. Pope noted that the unemployment rate in Hancock County is 6%. His group will work toward increasing jobs in the county.

Fourth is community assets which includes available properties, railroad lines and good Internet connections. He complemented the La Harpe Telephone Company on their excellent Internet service.

The fifth pillar is open communications. Mr. Pope promised to keep the council informed. He mentioned weekly talks on the radio and left council members with a copy of the group's most recent quarterly newsletter.

Pope also asked for all council member's e-mail addresses in order to keep them all up-to-date on the corporations progress.

City Clerk Lucretia McPeak promised to provide the addresses to Mr. Pope. Mayor Pro Tem Daryl Kraft cited several programs that have resulted from the city's association with the development group including the mapping project and formation of the Love La Harpe group.

During public comments, Dave Clover suggested that since Mayor Kienast was not present at the meeting he should not be paid for it or for the two previous meetings he has missed.

Clover asked that Jake Snelson be allowed to stay at the campground with no charge due to his previous service to the community as city deputy.

The council noted it has no objection but wishes to check on insurance issues.

Clover stated that Mayor Kienast has way too much power for a mayor and that power should be vested in the full council. He also stated that Kienast had never been in charge of the Love La Harpe organization's money.

He noted that he continues to feel that the City Attorney is paid too much and commented that she is the city's attorney not Mayor Kienast's.

At this point Attorney Diestler stated that she was not the mayor's personal attorney.

This developed into a back and forth discussion between the two, in which, despite Clover's assertions, Diestler vehemently denied that she worked for Kienast personally but instead did her best to represent the interests of La Harpe.

Clover ended his comments by submitting another FOIA request for the expenses submitted by the attorney to the council.

Also, in public comments, Carl Hainline spoke to the council regarding the $150 water deposit. He objected to his daughter having to pay another deposit because she had moved from one La Harpe residence to another. In other business the council:

The meeting adjourned at 10:08 p.m. .

There were approximately 25 people present at the meeting.

The next regular meeting will be on Monday, December 12th at 7:00 p.m.