Thursday, April 26, 2012

Council mulls fire alarms, sprinklers, utility tax, incentives

Updated: April 26, 2012 2:34AM

ELGIN — In an effort to give staff direction on potential ordinances and to provide updates on items already under way, the city council met for nearly three hours Wednesday afternoon in the The Centre downtown.
In all, 10 items were discussed. Here are some highlights from that session:
The consensus was to move forward with conducting a study about what to do regarding the high number of false fire alarms. Fire Chief John Fahy said last year there were about 1,000 of such calls.
Late last year, city staff members had been researching options for creating a city-operated firealarm monitoring network but had made no formal proposal. The council then tabled the matter after hearing complaints for some in the business community who felt the measure was headed toward the city requiring all businesses to get such service from the city.
The city already works with more than 200 companies on providing alarm service, but Mayor Dave Kaptain said any solution under consideration would not make getting fire alarm service from the city mandatory. Rather, Kaptain noted that without any incentives or disincentives in place, some places are using the fire department “to make poor systems acceptable.”
On another fire department issue, Fahy and Community Development Director Marc Mylott are working out details of a residential sprinkler system ordinance brought up to International Residential Code.
New home and townhome construction already in various stages of development would have to have either a basement sprinkler system or use dimensional lumber in construction, adding $1,000 to $4,000 to the cost of building. Developments not yet brought forward would be required to be in full compliance with having sprinklers, which adds about $8,000 to building costs.
Staff also is working on a draft ordinance establishing a stormwater utility tax. City Manager Sean Stegall said the process would include putting out to bid in the next month or so a request for proposal for an engineering analysis to measure the amount of impervious surfaces (concrete, asphalt, rooftops) to be found on lots in the city; that process would take a year.
According to Corporate Counsel William Cogley, about 600 municipalities across the nation have such a tax in place, including 15 in Illinois, along with another 12 in this state considering one. Cogley said such taxes sometimes give credits or incentives for environmentally friendly moves such as adding rain barrels to a home.
Giving an update on the city’s economy, Assistant Manager Rick Kozal noted that signs are still mixed. The city’s retail sales tax revenues are up to pre-recession levels. While doing better, retail and auto sales are not as improved as in a good deal of the rest of the Chicago area. And the Central Business District TIF (tax increment financing) district has taken in about $500,000 less than anticipated.
Kozal also noted that the council next month will discuss formalizing an economic development agreement, a last-of-its-kind arrangement that had been in the works before the council decided not to offer any more such arrangements.
That is, the proposal would grant business consultants Mueller & Co. up to $40,000 in cashincentives for relocating to the Sanfilippo & Son Inc. campus off Randall Road. The company intends to consolidate Elgin and St. Charles offices at this site. The package is set to include giving the firm $1,000 for every new employee or for anyone moving from the St. Charles office and $1,500 for anyone who lives in Elgin for any job paying $40,000 or more per year.
The company has 55 employees currently working in Elgin and another 22 in St. Charles. It has told the city it hopes to have a staff of about 80 at the new office and would keep the office open for at least five years if granted the package.
Councilman John Prigge said he would not support any such plan in part because he doesn’t think there needs to be any incentive to bring workers coming from an office in a town so close to Elgin.
With council members Robert Gilliam and Tish Powell both absent and attending to family matters, discussions were tabled concerning allotting $250,000 to 14 nonprofits and $28,000 to four arts groups from the city’s take of casino revenues. The matter is to come before the council at its first session in May.

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