By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Liquor license matters dominated much of Tuesday’s Effingham City Council meeting.
The council agreed to issue a Class P-1 license to Quick Stop Package Liquor, located near the corner of U.S. Route 45 and Rickelman Avenue on the city’s north side. This will allow limited consumption sales of wine, beer and spirits in a designated area of the package liquor store. Package liquor sales do not allow any consumption of alcohol on the business property.
The council had discussed this request from Mexphil Enterprises during the January 4 meeting and some questions popped up on different concerns. Commissioner Merv Gillenwater offered an apology Tuesday night because some of his questions were based on confusion relating to the liquor store’s address. He thought it was a much larger structure than the building used by A-1 Quick Stop.
The vote on two motions to amend the city code on liquor licenses and the issue of the license had Don Althoff opposed while Gillenwater, Mayor Jeff Bloemker and Commissioners Kevin Willis and Kevin Esker supported both motions in favor of the liquor license change.
Billi Jansen, owner of Walnut Street Weddings and Austin Mansion, explained to the council why she is requesting a Class Entertainment and Event Venue License for her venue at the corner of South Fourth Street and Wabash Avenue. She said currently event customers must secure a temporary liquor license through either a caterer or themselves. The new license would offer more control on alcohol-consumption events at her venue, she said.
“There are a lot of hoops for my customers to go through to have alcohol at their events. With this license, we would have more control so we could better manage alcohol consumption,” Jansen said.
The proposal was only a discussion item Tuesday night and some council members, Gillenwater and Althoff, offered support to Jansen’s request.
Later in the meeting, the council heard from Stephen McNaughton, who lives next to the Austin Mansion, on his concerns with Jansen’s request.
McNaughton reviewed several incidences of problems with the wedding and event venue next door, including trespassing by people on smoke breaks, blocking of his driveway, lawn damage possibly from a bus used by a wedding party and intoxicated people in the roadway. He questioned whether Walnut Street Weddings had enough security personnel to maintain control for events where alcohol is served.
“I’m nervous about this license. This is mostly a residential area and there’s a park and school crosswalk nearby. The property is not enclosed enough,” he said.
Mayor Bloemker thanked McNaughton for his comments during the public comment session of the meeting. He offered to have city staff look into the issues raised by McNaughton.
In other business, the council was introduced to new Effingham Police Officer Jared Purcell. A native of the area, he has seven years of experience in law enforcement and recently worked in Mount Vernon.
Police Chief Jeff Fuesting offered an annual report for the year of 2017. He reviewed the command changes in the department and efforts on improving engagement within the community. He also talked about training efforts and work for putting officers in the right places to prevent crime in the city. It was noted by Mayor Bloemker that Fuesting’s first year as chief was January 3. Chief Fuesting thanked the council for supporting his efforts over the past year, and council members also praised his efforts and those of his officers.
Assistant Fire Chief Matt Kulesza offered his quarterly report for the fire department’s fire prevention division. He noted the number of inspections for detecting safety risks. He has visited 268 structures in recent months as part of his job, which also includes completion of advanced training as an assistant fire chief. He said most business owners are supportive of his efforts to be proactive on fire safety, while some are not happy to be on the inspection list. But he explained the goal is to provide fire safety and be prepared as more businesses locate in the city.
Local efforts to mentor children were recognized through a city proclamation on National Mentoring Month in January. Representatives from Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Effingham Unit 40 School were present to receive the proclamation from Mayor Bloemker.