MACOMB — A representative of a group called Caring Veterans asked the city council Monday to listen to the group's ideas about the veterans memorial in Chandler Park. Michael Frank said his group currently takes care of the flowerbeds bordering the memorial, cleans up trash in the park, and lays a wreath each Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
Frank said his group has ideas for the site that may differ from those expressed by the Flags of Love Committee. The Flags group has suggested replacing the holiday flags in the park with permanent commemorative bricks.
Caring Veterans would like to see current flags moved away from the memorial and have them replaced by six large American flags on poles 14 feet high. Frank said his group has raised $10,000 that could be used for improvements to the veterans memorial.
Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Moon told Frank that the city needs to develop a comprehensive plan for Chandler Park and that Caring Veterans is welcome to share its ideas.
In other business at the city council committee of the whole meeting, Downtown Development Director Kristin Terry shared two applications for downtown renovation grants. She said both the Masonic Lodge and Jackson 133, LLC are eligible for $20,000 apiece for their projects.
The lodge would like to spend $31,500 to replace 24 windows on the north side of the Masonic Temple on Randolph Street. The Masons replaced windows on the building's west and south sides in previous years.
Jackson 133, LLC would like to spend $37,625 to replace the glass in the western portion of the former Modern Home Furniture building on West Jackson Street. City Administrator Dean Torreson said this would be part of an overall $200,000 commitment by Macomb toward renovation of the building.
Terry said each applicant would receive the grant money in reimbursement from the city after their projects are completed. Torreson said the Masonic Lodge is willing to receive its money in two $10,000 increments over two years if there are other applicants for the downtown grants.
Aldermen also discussed reducing late fees from rental property registrations from $53 to $25. Community Development Coordinator John Bannon said the idea came out of a February 22 meeting with local landlords.
Bannon said the move is justified by the current "soft rental" market in Macomb.
Torreson said that the $53 penalty is too severe "especially when extenuating circumstances are involved."
Low enrollment at Western Illinois University has caused a number of rental properties to sit vacant.
City Attorney Kristen Petrie presented a proposed amendment changing the residency requirement for the city administrator from within the city boundaries to within the boundaries of McDonough County. She said this amendment would make county residency the standard for all city employees as the city administrator's city residency was the only one left on the books.
Council members also heard a report from Torreson regarding the 2019-2020 city budget. He said the new budget, which would take effect May 1, features a nearly $9.5 million general fund. The administrator said there will be a $112,000 shortfall in the fund because he would like to keep $3.35 million in reserve at the end of the next fiscal year.
Torreson said the next major street construction project would be a $3.5 to $4 million expansion of South Johnson Street next to the proposed new middle school. He said the street would be three-laned in that area with half the cost coming from state transportation funds.

Reach Patrick Stout by email at pstout@mcdonoughvoice.com