Ingold appointed to Columbia Plan Commission

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Amid public comments, a failed motion and questions of parliamentary procedure, Peter Ingold, owner of the Sunset Overlook, was appointed to the Columbia Plan Commission.

The initial motion to approve the members of various city boards, commissions and committees was amended to strike Ingold from the commission. 

Ward IV alderman Steve Holtkamp made the motion as amended citing the recent controversy surrounding Sunset Overlook as a reason to keep Ingold off of the commission.

Prior to the discussion of Ingold’s appointment, Natalie Lorenz, attorney for residents near Sunset Overlook establishment, spoke out against Ingold’s potential involvement in the commission during the public comments part of the meeting.

In a statement released after Ingold’s appointment, Lorenz stated that “this decision reeks of foul play, particularly considering that Mr. Ingold currently illegally operates Sunset Overlook, a bar, within a C-1 Neighborhood Business district, where bars are not permitted.”

Columbia’s council voted in April to deny a change of Sunset Overlook’s zoning district from a C-1 Neighborhood Business to a C-2 General Business in response to noise complaints and other issues from an ongoing lawsuit from nearby residents, represented by Lorenz.

Holtkamp and Ward II alderman Mark Roessler expressed concern over Ingrid’s appointment in light of existing litigation against Sunset Overlook, but Ward IV alderman Mary Ellen Niemeitz claimed that Ingold would be a valuable member of the commission.

“The [Sunset Overlook] is not the only issue and not the entire focus” of the commission, Niemeitz said, adding that “insight is insight” regarding Ingold’s value as a member of the Plan Commission. She also explained that Ingold would not be allowed to vote or participate in discussion for anything that would present a conflict of interest with his business.

The initial motion to approve members, excluding Ingold, failed 5-3. The subsequent motion to approve members as presented, including Ingold, passed 5-3.   

After the vote, Lorenz’ statement claimed that she and her clients “will continue to fight for the enforcement of the city’s ordinances through the judicial system, as it is abundantly clear that the city is unwilling to do so and cannot remain neutral in these matters.”

In other business, the council approved the purchase of a sign package that will replace the existing sign for the Columbia Department of Public Works at the corner of Route 3 and  W. Sand Bank Road near the northernmost traffic lights in Columbia.

The sign will be a lighted, electronic board that will display upcoming events and city alerts.

Ward I alderman James Agne was wary of the new sign’s programming, which will display messages for 8-10 seconds, citing the potential for distraction to drivers.

Scott Dunakey, Director of Community Development for Columbia, stated that the sign will be safe, as its display rate and design conform to Federal Highway Administration guidelines.

Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul said that Columbia officers are ready if needed for flood-related matters. Paul stated that it would be easier to receive money for any necessary action once federal emergency funds are released. 

Interim City Administrator Al Hudsik stated that extra police funds should be “worked into the budget” regardless of federal funds due to the “very important” work involved with keeping citizens and property safe in the event of a potential flood.

Per the monthly mayor’s report, bids on the Ghent Road Water Main Replacement Project will be opened June 20. Construction should start in early August. The project consists of replacing a 10-inch cast iron water main (constructed in 1933) with a 16-inch ductile iron water main. The project should take approximately three months to complete. 

Before the meeting took place, aldermen Niemeitz and Holtkamp presented the inaugural “Yard of the Month” recognition to fellow Ward IV residents Michael and Vivian Budde.

“It’s nice to recognize people who make this community beautiful instead of issuing [lawn] citations,” Neimeitz said.

Ameren Illinois has recently released its new residential and small business account electric supply rates for customers in the City of Columbia, effective June 2019. 

The Ameren Illinoissummer rate (June through September 2019) is 4.56 cents/kilowatt hour and the non-summer rate (October 2019 through May 2020) is 4.83 cents/kilowatt hour. 

These rates are lower than the city’s current municipal electricity aggregation contract rate with Homefield Energy, which is 5.596 cents/kilowatt hour of electricity usage throughout the year.

This information is being provided to the city’s residents and small businesses to help them decide whether to continue in the city’s electricity aggregation program (if they are currently in it) or choose another electricity provider.

Columbia electricity aggregation program customers may choose to opt-out of the program by contacting Homefield Energy by phone at 866-694-1262 7  a.m. to 7 p.m. or by email at HomefieldCustCare@Dynegy.com.

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