With finishing touches still being completed on one Quarry Road roundabout, members of the Columbia City Council were somewhat surprised at the announcement the city had been awarded nearly $1.2 million for another roundabout to be constructed less than a half mile to the west.
The award through the Illinois Department of Transportation Highway Safety Improvement Program will create a roundabout at the intersection of Ghent Road/Old Route 3 and Quarry and Palmer roads near the entrance and exit ramps for northbound Route 3.
There have been several vehicle crashes in that area in recent years, as traffic flows in many different directions.
“I was shocked when I got the letter” stating the grant was awarded, Columbia Mayor Bob Hill said.
Ward II Alderman Mark Roessler said he thought it would take “years” for the project to receive funding, noting grant approval for the latest roundabout took only two months.
Columbia City Engineer Chris Smith explained the amount awarded is “a little inflated because this grant allows you to do a contingency, so we maxed it out.”
As the latest roundabout grant was awarded within the past week, there is no current timetable for this project.
One project which does have an end date is resurfacing of the Admiral Trost Trail, Bolm-Schuhkraft Loop Trail and miscellaneous improvements to the GM&O Heritage Trail.
The council awarded the project to the low bidder, Christ Brothers Asphalt, in the amount of $176,404.80.
The resurfacing is expected to be completed Nov. 30.
The council also approved resolutions of support for Smith to apply for two other grants, one for the Quarry Road Trail Connector project. The other is for development of Creekside Park, a project which had been scrapped in 2021 due to COVID-related construction delays that would have violated terms of the original funding grant.
Another project which was given a tentative green light was approval of a special use permit for a youth sports complex near the intersection of DD and Bluff roads.
The council was given the option of referring the matter back to the Columbia Planning Commission for revision or to vote on a motion to draft an ordinance allowing the special use permit.
Jason Glover, representing the investment group behind the sports complex proposal, explained, “If we did go back to the planning commission, we would show the same exact slide with the same drawing that they already approved 5-0.”
After a lengthy discussion of a range of topics including traffic, lighting, safety, drainage, construction, materials project phases and other issues, it was determined those issues could be addressed only after special use permit was granted.
“The concerns here don’t necessarily attach to ‘can a youth sports facility be built on this property,’” Glover continued. “Until this happens, and there’s some sort of movement … we would not be able to get any resolution” to potential issues moving forward.
Alderman Jeff Huch moved to approve drafting an ordinance for the special use permit, saying, “at this point, it is a sound and good use for the property and I look forward to the discussion further on” about specific issues and concerns.
The council approved the motion unanimously and will vote on the permit ordinance at its Oct. 3 meeting.
Another project moving forward is Columbia’s leaf and limb collection program.
The program was a source of contention in 2022 when the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued a “notice of violation” – which the city disputed – regarding a leaf collection site on Bremser Road.
Columbia City Administrator Doug Brimm reported “no concerns” from representatives of both the IEPA Bureau of Land and the Bureau of Water after regarding the proposed collection sites for this year’s leaf program.
While the city is waiting for official IEPA findings, Brimm said one proposed site near the Bottoms area in the north part of the city was described by one IEPA official as “about a good a property as we could find” and “5,000 percent better” than the Bremser Road location.
During public comment, Jeff Ludy addressed the council with a request the city consider allowing “low-speed vehicles” to operate within Columbia city limits.
Hill advised Ludy to research municipalities similar in size to Columbia and submit his findings to the council.
At the beginning of the meeting, two groups were officially recognized.
The first group included a delegation which has been visiting Columbia as part of a Sister Cities of Columbia and Gedern, Germany.
Gedern Mayor Guido Kempel called the meeting to order and was recognized as Honorary Mayor of Columbia for Sept. 16-24, 2022.
Read more about the Gedern citizens’ visit in an upcoming issue of the Republic-Times.
The other group recognized was the Columbia Woman’s Club. The city officially recognized the group in celebration of its 100th anniversary.
The Columbia Woman’s Club played an important role in forming the first Girl Scouts troop in the city as well as establishment of Columbia Public Library.