CHRISMAN – The new city attorney for Chrisman is jumping in with both feet.
Robert Morris, an associate with the Asher & Smith Law Firm in Paris, attended the Chrisman City Council meeting Monday, Dec. 17, to report on the progress of a water purchase agreement between Chrisman and Paris.
After meeting with Paris Mayor Craig Smith, Morris is working on the developmental agreement contract between the two cities as well as the water purchase agreement. He plans to have both documents to the Chrisman council for review by the end of January.
“The mayor did tell me Paris plans to apply for loan forgiveness with the EPA (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency), which will include both Paris and Chrisman,” said Morris.
Paris plans to build a water line north along state Route 1 to the intersection with U.S. Route 36 at Chrisman and is pursuing an EPA loan to finance the project. Paris can obtain a better interest rate for the project than Chrisman can and Paris is also eligible to seek loan forgiveness after a period of time which will reduce the overall payback costs for both communities.
After being welcomed into the job, Morris was then greeted with the famous, “We don’t want to overload you at the start, but…”
Mayor Dan Owen wants Morris to pursue a matter in which the city was overbilled by $10,000 for chemicals at the water plant and has not been successful in getting the company to refund the money. The other issue high on Owen’s priorities is finding a way to demolish derelict buildings in town.
“We need a legal road to force property owners to cleanup,” said Owen. “The city doesn’t want to own those properties.”
One tactic some communities use is to purchase abandoned and neglected properties through the county tax sale. It is a multi-year process that results in the problem sites continuing to deteriorate, but it establishes clear legal ownership and authority for local government to raze old buildings.
Commissioner Rick Jenness noted a serious problem with that approach, beyond the length of time it takes to get something done. He said the city is then stuck with a lot that cannot be sold for enough to recover the cost of demolishing and removing the old building.
In a water related matter, Commissioner Rodney Wolfe reported slowing the pumps down lets water stay in the filters longer and that has lowered the iron content in the water going out to consumers.
“The water at my house is clearer than it’s been for a long time,” said Commissioner Jerry Hoult, acknowledging the change.
Wolfe also discussed a meeting with a chemical consultant trying to help the city address other water problems.
According to Wolfe, the consultant said something has changed about the water structure that supplies the city’s water. One concerning feature was the sudden appearance of nitrites in the well water. The source has not been identified but the numbers have dropped.
The consultant was unable to say if the nitrite levels will continue declining, disappear or spike again.
“He said the best option is to drill a new well. I told him we couldn’t afford that so this reinforces the decision to buy water from Paris,” said Wolfe.