Skunk abatement expensive

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CHRISMAN – A $500 expenditure barely made a dent in the nuisance skunk problem at Chrisman.

Resident Jim Woodyard attended the Monday, Oct. 1, city council meeting and thanked the commissioners for hiring a state licensed trapper to capture the animals, while saying the effort has not made a difference in the varmint population.

Commissioner Rick Jenness agreed, adding it is apparent the city’s expenditure of $500 was insufficient to address the problem.

“At 20-bucks a pop, he went through the $500 in a few days,” said Jenness.

It was suggested spending another $500 but Jenness said that wasn’t enough and his motion to pay the trapper $1,000 to capture skunks was approved.

Commissioner Rodney Wolfe agreed it is necessary to get rid of the animals but that does not address the real problem.

“This is going to be ongoing until we do something with the buildings where they are living,” said Wolfe.

Woodyard listed several buildings in disrepair around town where he has spotted skunks. As is common with derelict structures everywhere, ownership is not always clear and when owners can be found the person often lives elsewhere and has little interest in maintaining the structure or addressing problems.

City Clerk Sierra Dicken told commissioners she found the address of a Chicago resident listed as one of the property owners and sent that person a copy of the city ordinance regarding dangerous buildings with instructions the property must be repaired. So far, there has been no response from Chicago.

The process of condemnation was also discussed. According to council members, Jenness, as the health commissioner, has authority to condemn a building for health reasons. Police Chief Jordan Hale and Fire Chief Mike Marvin can also condemn for safety reasons.

Mayor Dan Owen said after a building is condemned, the owner has 90 days to make repairs before the city can act.

“What it comes down to is you guys have to pay to demolish the building,” said Matt Johnson of Fehr Graham, the city’s engineer. “You can put a demolition lien on the property and if it sells, you have a claim to get your money back.”

Owen said he wants the city attorney present for the Oct. 15 meeting so the council can make some progress addressing this problem.

The continuing issue of water was back before the council. Water superintendent Matt Shelato reported chlorine is being added once again before the raw water goes through the filters in an effort to reduce the iron and arsenic levels in the water. The goal is to get the suspended particles of iron to drop out early in the treatment process and take the arsenic that is bound to the iron with them.

It is having mixed results.

“Our iron is still a little bit high,” said Shelato.

He has talked with a chemical company about adding yet another chemical as the raw water comes from the well. The new chemical acts as a coagulant and is supposed to do a better job at removing iron than the early introduction of chlorine. The city is still required to chlorinate the water although at lower levels elsewhere in the treatment process for health reasons.

Chrisman is under an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency order to get the arsenic levels down to an acceptable level. The order was issued some time ago and the city now has less than a year to fix the problem.

Wolfe told the commissioners he and Shelato met with Paris officials about the possibility of constructing a pipeline and Paris selling water to Chrisman. He described the meeting as fact finding and non-binding.

“We’ve got to get this under control, otherwise we’ve got to go somewhere else,” said Wolfe.

Chrisman’s two wells were drilled in 1905 and continue to produce a steady supply of water. Shelato said the water level in the wells remains consistent even during periods of heavy use.

Jenness agreed, noting during a drought in 2012 the well level only dropped one or two inches from normal.

The quantity is not the problem, but the quality is. The arsenic, which is naturally occurring and not a result of pollution, continues at the same level it has been for several decades. A change in the EPA guidelines lowering the acceptable level for arsenic is creating the problem for the city,

“We have challenging water – that’s what every engineer we’ve had in there tell us,” said Shelato.