Zion-Benton News

Two different views from Zion citizens

By Mona Shannon
Zion-Benton News staff

Citizens comments at the Zion City Council meeting Tuesday brought two diverse views of how the city relates to its residents and particularly minorities.

Tracey Johnson had several complaints about how city employees interact with residents beginning with himself. He said he was fined $100 a month for wood he stores on his property and uses to heat his home. He said he was not treated respectfully. “I have been doing this for 12 years; the wood is public knowledge,” he said. He said the directors of the Building and Public Works Departments drive past his home regularly and never voiced concern.

Johnson asked when the city’s elected and appointed officials last received diversity and sensitivity training. Mayor Hill said he did not know.

Johnson also raised an incident where a woman was hit by a car and was talking to Clyde McLemore, whom she knew, when he said a police officer pushed McLemore out of the way. Mayor Hill said there is videotape of the incident and it does not show anyone being pushed. He said he and Johnson could view the tape together.

Johnson exceeded the three-minute limit to make other allegations of racially charged comments being made by city employees.

During departmental comments, Commissioner of Building and Public Property Billy McKinney addressed Johnson’s comments about the wood on his property. He said Johnson was asked six months ago to stack the wood neatly next to a fence. He said there has been an ongoing discussion and when Johnson did not comply, he was fined. “When there are issues we always try to work with residents.”

“We are trying to improve the neighborhood. I take it very personally, I live in that neighborhood. People who lived there like my mother and your mother would not have approved,” McKinney told Johnson.

Unlike Johnson, Al Rogers came with praise for city officials and especially Police Chief Steve Dumyahn. “I thank the chief of police for how he handled the situation at Dairy Queen. On behalf of the people I speak for, I say to the mayor and chief how grateful we are that you handled this. This had the potential to divide the city. I praise and thank you.”

Mayor Hill said he received a call from the local chapter of the NAACP and was complimented on how the police and the city handled the situation as well as how Dairy Queen corporate responded.

Mayor Hill reiterated the statement he made to the press regarding race relations in Zion. He said the city is very diverse, one-third African American, one-third Hispanic and one-third white and that we all choose to live here. “We will have bumps and it’s how you handle them and admit when things are wrong.’

The mayor commended the police chief and his staff and he thanked the whole communityfor how it responded.

ESDA recognition
On a positive note, the city council approved resolutions of commendation for nine ESDA (Emergency Services & Disaster Agency) volunteers with decades of service. The resolution recognized the countless hours volunteers gave to prevent, minimize and alleviate damage and injury and preserve the public health and safety of the citizens.

“I thank everyone at ESDA for what you do for our community,” said Mayor Hill. “You are often overlooked and taken for granted. I don’t know what the city would do without you.”

Those recognized are: Henry Sahler, 40 years; Bill Kramsky, 39 years; Nate Williams, 33 years; Barb Williams, 33 years; Mary Lou Hiltibran, 32 years; Ray Voglesberg, 24 years; James Rissell, 23 years; Rob Rissell, 21 years; Lynessa Rissell, 20 years

Joint Emergency Telephone System Board
Fire Chief John Lewis asked the council to approve appointments to the new Joint Emergency Telephone System Board. Chief Lewis said they need to get the board in place to make budget decisions as they move toward merging the emergency dispatch call center with Gurnee. The nine member board will have three members from Zion.

The council approved the appointment of Police Chief Steve Dumyahn, Fire Chief John Lewis and Battallion Chief Eric Troy.

Owner Occupied Rehabilitation Program
At the request of Finance Director David Knabel the council approved a letter in support of the Lake County Housing and Community Development Commission's application for a $100,000 grant to develop a rehabilitation program to address distressed and unsafe owner-occupied homes in Zion.

Knabel said Zion will be used as a pilot program. The city has been identified by the county as "concentrated area of greatest need for revitalization,” and is categorized as a high-priority area.

Knabel said this is an important strategy to stabilize homeownership rates, revitalize distressed neighborhoods and improve the safety of the county's housing stock. The progam’s goal is to address five homes with this grant.

Typical problems include inoperable plumbing, potentially dangerous electrical problems, leaking roofs and non-functioning mechanicals.

Other business:
The council also approved Knabel’s request to distribute Requests for Proposals to developers to develop city-owned property at 34th Street and Sheridan Road (former Dunes Theater and Touhy Lumber) and the northeast corner of Route 173 and Green Bay Road (former baseball park.)

Mayor Hill commented the city has been unsuccessful in selling the lights at the ballpark. He said the lights must come down. He will ask the park district if it can use them as it has the same taxpayers as the city. If not, he will ask the high school, as it includes the local taxpayers who paid for the lights.

A request from Clear Capital LLC for a variance for two additional tandem parking spaces at 1712 Joppa Ave. was approved by the council. Clear Capital recently purchased the five-unit, multi-family apartment building and discovered it does not meet city requirements for off street parking. Planning & Zoning recommended approval with the condition that they be assigned parking spaces.

The council approved the mayor’s appointments to CUBZ (Citizens United for a Better Zion): William Keys, Mary Bailey, James Staples, Thomas French, John Idleburg, Rick Keffer, Chris Szymanksi, Arne Paulson and Jan Albrecht.

Budget meetings are scheduled for Feb. 27, 5:30 p.m.; March 7 6 p.m.; March 21, 5:30 p.m.

The next regular city council meeting is Feb. 7 at 7 p.m.