Hillcrest board: Appropriation of funds for water tower work approved

At its monthly meeting Wednesday, the Hillcrest Village Board unanimously approved the appropriation of funds not to exceed $337,000 for future repairs/maintenance to its water tower that will take place as needed in the future.

No action taken on solar ordinance

HILLCREST — At its monthly meeting Wednesday, the Hillcrest Village Board unanimously approved the appropriation of funds not to exceed $337,000 for future repairs/maintenance to its water tower that will take place as needed in the future.

Hillcrest recently had a report done on its water tower by Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group that yielded recommendations. The report recommended work on critical deficiencies, non-critical deficiencies, possible OSHA violations and small issues that can be fixed by village maintenance with little expense.

"What I'd like to do is allot this amount of funds for the project and do it piecemeal as we need to," Village Trustee Dan Potter said. "Which is to say get the critical stuff out of the way and get the things that can be done locally and by our maintenance department out of the way. There are other preventative maintenance things, some that should be done right away and some that should not. I'm proposing we do it from most critical to least critical."

Potter said he anticipates the final amount spent will "come in well under" the $337,000 amount. 

Village President Randy Salsbury said during the meeting that he met with representatives from Rochelle Municipal Utilities and discussed the water tower's needs and he talked about the possibility of hiring Pittsburg Tank & Tower to do the entirety of the work. 

Potter, the village water trustee, took issue with Salsbury not including him in the meeting with RMU, and questioned what else was discussed at the meeting. 

"If you're trying to get information and withhold it from the board, that's a problem," Potter said. "If nobody else was invited, you were trying to withhold it from us. I would've had many questions to ask them. Did you talk about turning it all over to them? About hooking them up on an emergency basis? Buying wholesale or have them take care of the whole thing? We all voted no on all those options. So what the heck were you talking about?"

Salsbury said all of those topics were discussed and he wanted to meet with RMU to learn more about the village's water situation. 

"Was it wrong for me to learn something?" Salsbury said. "It was just a professional person coming for a meeting. It happens all the time. I talk to people all the time about our situation here."

Village Attorney Paul Chadwick said Salsbury's meeting was not a violation of any open meetings requirements. 

"This wasn't an open meeting," Chadwick said. "Is it illegal for Randy to meet with people for the village to get information? No. Should Randy also relay information to the pertinent trustees? Yes. But nothing can be transacted unless we're in an open meeting with a full board.”

Former Village President Steve Dodson spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and took issue with Potter's claims that the water tower has not been looked at in many years, and said that it was cleaned in 2018. He also spoke on the board’s earlier conversation.

"That tower was cleaned from top to bottom in 2018," Dodson said. "The board knew the ladder needed to be done and platforms needed to be put up there and signs needed to be put around it, but that didn't get done. And I was told the board runs the village, not the village president. So straighten [Salsbury] out."


The board took no action on a potential new zoning ordinance for residential and commercial solar panels in the village. 

In December, Village Building Inspector Casper Manheim presented the village with information on solar permit fee structures used by other municipalities in the region. A fee structure would allow the village to charge permit fees for residents that install solar along with a large commercial solar development planned for the future within village limits. 

A first reading was held last month and the village has worked off of fee structures used by other municipalities that Manheim has worked with. Chadwick asked for more time Wednesday to review recent state legislation concerning local authority on solar and wind farm projects. 

"It's not ready yet," Chadwick said. "It's kind of an evolving issue and I want to make sure I have a better handle on that."

Trustees will revisit the issue at next month’s meeting.


Village Trustee Rick Rhoads presented his monthly streets and grounds report during the meeting. He said the village is still searching for a maintenance employee. Rhoads also said that he hopes to improve the condition of Hillcrest Avenue this year through sealcoating, similarly to how the stretch of Hemstock Road near the village has been improved by the practice. Rhoads said he hopes to bring a proposal to next month's meeting.

"They use a practice of putting down pea gravel to fill in the cracks," Rhoads said. "It's unbelievable how well it held up throughout this winter. I'd like to get some bids on what that would cost. There's not one crack in that entire road now. I think that might be our best, least expensive way to fix Hillcrest Avenue, because that's one of the biggest complaints I get."

The village is also currently looking at its approach to speed bumps after the winter and how to slow speeding drivers down. 

"Some people don't like them and some want more," Rhoads said. "We need to look at that coming up. We get a lot of speeders around here and we don't have somebody who can police this area, so we need to do something. Speed tables have been mentioned as well, which can be a little bit costly."


Village Trustee Renee Kerwin said the village plans to host its annual Easter Egg Hunt on April 8 (day before Easter) at 2 p.m. The village is currently looking for candy donations for the event.