By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Effingham City Council invested again in lighting up the skies on the Fourth of July.
City Commissioners voted unanimously to donate $15,000 to the Effingham Noon Rotary fireworks display fund. Amanda McKay spoke for the Rotary group that anticipates a cost of more than $20,000 for funding the annual show. Noon Rotary members came forward two years ago to sponsor the show that draws huge crowds around the Effingham High School sports complex.
The vote for the request was unanimous with Mayor Jeff Bloemker and Commissioners Merv Gillenwater, Kevin Esker and Kevin Willis answering roll call. Commissioner Don Althoff was absent during Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The discussion turned to progress on establishing a family-oriented celebration to entertain the audience before the fireworks get started. McKay said a scheduling conflict eliminated an amusement rides contractor for this year, but the fireworks committee is working on a different idea that would appeal to families. More information on that will be announced later.
McKay said the fireworks are popular with so many people gathering around the high school campus on the Fourth. A nearby celebration at the Effingham Event Center, formerly the Knights of Columbus building, also draws interest in the show.
Commissioner Gillenwater praised the Noon Rotary and past organizers of the fireworks for keeping the event on the actual holiday. It might have been tempting to change the date with the Fourth of July falling on a Wednesday this year.
The council members also approved a re-plat of Lot 4 of Kralman’s Subdivision “E” and an adjacent tract of land on Glenwood Drive. This is considered a minor plat of the Hecht Subdivision. A vote was unanimous for approving an amended plat of the Speedway Subdivision, which involved an excepted strip of land to an adjacent owner included in the original plat.
Some Omnibus vote agenda votes Tuesday included approval of an ordinance regulating mobile food service establishments as reviewed last meeting by Effingham Assistant Fire Chief Matt Kulesza. The ordinance will emphasize safety for mobile kitchens at different community events in the city.
Water rates for wholesale water customers were also established for the next four fiscal years, starting in June. This affects customers with usage rates ranging from 112,500 gallons per month to more than 562,500 gallons each month.
An agreement with Effingham Soil and Water Conservation District was approved through the consent agenda. This will add five years to an agreement for the ESWCD to monitor the Lake Sara watershed and adjacent watersheds at a rate of $2,500 per year.
Near the close of the meeting, City Administrator Jim Arndt reviewed the third quarter financial report for Fiscal Year 2017-18. The city’s fiscal year ends on April 30.
Arndt’s snapshot report noted very satisfactory finances for the Tourism Department, which indicated that fund can finish in the black for the fiscal year. The current surplus in the sewer fund could help with upcoming wastewater treatment plant improvements, he said. Another benefit is the 25 percent increase in the police and firefighter pension funds, made possible through beneficial investments and management.
Overall, the city is doing well on fund reserves. In addition, Arndt noted, the Equalized Assessed Valuation for the city is expected to have a 15 percent increase from last year.
Local taxpayers wanting to know more about city finances can attend a budget workshop at 5 p.m. on March 20 in City Hall.
In other business, Catelyn Vail, the newly-hired tech assistant for the city engineering and public works departments, was introduced to the council by City Engineer Jeremy Heuerman. Vail, an Effingham County native, started work this week.