Police concerns shared
Questions were raised over the handling of a situation by a Chenoa police officer during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Chenoa City Council.
Cathy Smith of Gridley indicated a family member was traveling through Chenoa on the way to a funeral in Fairbury back in May for retired Fairbury Police Officer Phil Troehler when an accident occurred with minor damage to the vehicles involved, but no injuries. Smith said the dispatcher was called with names, phone numbers and insurance information exchanged.
“After waiting for a police officer to show but running out of time before the funeral was to start, the family member left with the approval of the other driver,” Smith explained.
According to Smith, the Chenoa officer came into the Fairbury funeral home when the funeral director left the door to usher family and friends past the casket to pay their last respects. Smith explained the family member involved in the accident saw the officer and assumed he was there because of the accident, so he went over and the officer asked for a driver’s license and registration which was in the car.
“Even though Officer Hinshaw knew that by having him go out and get these papers this family member would not be able to be a pallbearer to Phil, he insisted,” said Smith. “This was a privilege that cannot be replaced.”
Smith noted many family members are still upset as it was a “very emotional and heart-wrenching day” that was made even worse as two tickets were issued, one for failure to yield to avoid an accident and the second for leaving the scene of an accident. After a July court date was assigned and a lawyer was hired, Smith said a prosecutor reviewed the charges and dropped them but the lawyer fees still had to be paid.
“(The prosecutor) decided that this situation did not meet the meaning of leaving the scene of an accident and the oddity of Officer Hinshaw entering the funeral home helped him make the decision of dropping all charges.”
Smith wants the officer to write an apology to the late Officer Phil Troehler’s only son and a second apology to the family member who was not able to be a pallbearer.
Later in the council meeting, Chenoa mayor Chris Wilder admitted it was unfortunate to hear complaints.
“I hope I never hear anything like that again as long as I’m sitting at this table,” he said. “It’s disappointing.”
While expressing sympathy for the family’s loss, Wilder told Smith he will have a talk with the chief of police, saying “we’ll see what we can do.”
Resident David Shane also had complaints at the meeting, regarding houses that have un-mowed yards.
“I just wonder why we aren’t cleaning that stuff up,” he stated.
Shane also brought up streets, gutters and drains, asking who is responsible for the drains.
“If we go by ordinance, the property owners are,” replied Streets Commissioner Dwayne Price.
Melissa Cooper of Chenoa Shop ‘n Go reminded the group about upcoming dates including the Aug. 28 car wash, Sept. 11 ninja course and power wheels show and Sept. 25 donation drive at the corner of Routes 24 and 66. The car wash will be by donation.
Sarah Michaels continued the previous discussion of revamping the old section of historic Route 66 along the railroad tracks. She said it is possible to utilize hotel tax money. Thoughts include expanding the mowing in that area along with enhancing billboards and landscaping. Michaels even suggested parking a period specific mid-century car there.
“It might become a photo opportunity, creating a parking pad area.”
Michaels revealed the Abe Lincoln corridor and Route 66 are among the top tourist destinations in the state and in four years, the Mother Road will celebrate its 100th anniversary. This is an opportunity to get motorists off the interstate for increased tourism.
“We can even create more signage,” she added.
Parks Commissioner Chad Daiker suggested getting brush cut between the old road and railroad fence. This could allow Amtrak riders to see a sign there. Finance and Insurance Commissioner Kyle Buchanan revealed they are working on grants for something connecting the parks, such as a recreational path in town.
Resident Sally Decker asked if the ordinance could be changed to raise the number of chickens allowed to eight. The mayor said the city would discuss it and that he had no problem with it.
In another matter, the council discussed Division Street water main bids and McLean County agreements. At the request of residents, the city did put the project out to bid again prior to the approval of any agreements with the county. Bid opening was two weeks ago and they only had three bids, with the low one at $596,181 from Opperman Construction.
“So, it’s not getting any cheaper,” said Wilder. “The water main needs replacement.”
Wilder indicated the city has an opportunity to accept Division Street in lieu of $225,000 from the county highway department and roughly $230,000 is available in American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds. According to Wilder, McLean County ARPA funds were given to the county itself as they made agreements with small communities and would give Chenoa $250,000.
The county highway department has reportedly made an agreement for the city to buy the material to repair drainage and they are willing to do the labor at the expense of materials.
“If you don’t do it now, you’re not going to have the money to do it,” added Wilder.
Water and Sewer Commissioner Joe Moreland pointed to the importance of the eight-inch line to the water tower, in order to keep the water fresh.
“This should have been done two years ago,” he said.
“If we don’t do this, where’s the town going to be in 30 years?” asked Commissioner Daiker.
“I say move forward,” replied Commissioner Price.
Wilder wants to ask the city attorney to look at the offers from the county. This will be brought back for a council vote.
Changes were made to the city employee handbook, adding Juneteenth as a holiday, per the government, and the dress code has been added in. The council said this “modernizes” the handbook.
A bid was accepted for the sale of a police vehicle, pending the necessary legal documents. The $9,000 bid was made for the Ford Expedition. The surplus sale of police property was also discussed as the department has old radar units with an estimated value of $300-$400. They now have upgraded units in squad cars. The mayor will have the attorney draft information for the next meeting.
During a financial update, council members learned only the swimming pool fund had a deficit while the others had a surplus, such as the general fund, fuel, TIF, sewer and business district.
A motion was authorized to increase the wage for city employee Jerold Meier by a dollar an hour for getting his sewer license.