HILLCREST — At Wednesday's monthly meeting of the Hillcrest Village Board, trustees voted 4-3 against a gaming fee increase for businesses in the village.
The only business in the village with gaming machines is Fat Cat Slots. The ordinance resolution in question would have increased the fee the village gets per machine on an annual basis. The fee will stay at $25 per machine. The 2023 annual fee would have been $150 per gaming machine. In 2024 it would have been $200 per machine and in 2025 and the years after that it would have been $250 per machine.
A recent change to state law allowed municipalities like the Village of Hillcrest to increase gaming fees per machine to $250.
The owners of Fat Cat Slots attended July’s meeting and spoke against the proposed increase before it was tabled for a month.
Voting against the increase Wednesday were Trustees Tim Ball, Jose Huerta, Pamela Pittman and Village President Randy Salsbury, who broke the tie. Voting in favor of the increase were Trustees Renee Kerwin, Dan Potter and Rick Rhoads.
"A successful business has come into Hillcrest,” Ball said. “The government of our state says we can inflict an unnecessary financial burden on them for unnecessary reasons. And we should vote that down. This is something we don't have to do."
The Rochelle City Council recently approved a gradual increase to gaming fees that will eventually reach $250. The Creston Village Board may do the same in the future, as it has a boundary agreement with Rochelle to stay in-step with certain policies.
Rhoads remarked during the meeting that fees in some areas should be raised to keep up with inflation to various village expenses.
“We have expenses in this village,” Rhoads said. “We have bills that need to be paid. It's not every time they turn the machines on. This is a one-time fee each year.”
A resident spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and inquired whether the board intends to take action on an ordinance involving UTVs (non-highway vehicles) that it postponed in April.
Salisbury said the village considered requiring and charging for a registration sticker for the vehicles and allowing them on village streets. The board decided against it months ago and it’s still currently illegal to drive UTVs on Hillcrest streets, he said.
The board had discussion regarding UTVs on Wednesday and said it will put it back on next month’s agenda and instructed Village Attorney Paul Chadwick to look at what the village has proposed in the past and what Rochelle’s ordinance is.
“They're driving on the roads anyways,” Rhoads said. “They're doing it illegally, but who is going to write them a ticket? We have no police department. If we could charge them money for a registration sticker, we could use that money to help pay for a part-time policeman. It costs money to run a village.”
The board voted 5-1 to increase the availability rate for everyone in Hillcrest with a water meter from $5 to $10 with Ball voting against it.
The increase is in conjunction with an IEPA loan the village is securing to pay for water work in Hillcrest. The proceeds from the increase are one of the funding sources necessary for qualifying for the loan. Chadwick said the village must show proof that it took action to increase the fee to get the loan.
“We're going to impose a 100-percent increase on this portion of people's water bills?” Ball said. “It’s ridiculous.”
The board unanimously approved its tax levy for fiscal year 2022.
Salsbury and Ball both remarked during the meeting that the village’s new garbage cans from Northern Illinois Disposal have been successful in decreasing loose trash around the village.
Due to a new seven-year agreement with NID, residents now have a 95-gallon cart for weekly trash service and a 65-gallon cart for bi-weekly recycling service. Each home is allowed one bulk item per week.
“This new garbage can thing is nice,” Salisbury said. “You can drive around the streets on Thursday mornings in the village and they look very nice. That was a great improvement to the village.”
Ball asked that the board discuss the possibility of hiring its own part-time police officer in the future to enforce ordinances. Salisbury said the village has had a few of its own officers in the past and asked Ball to do more research on the idea and said it would be put on next month’s agenda for discussion.
Salsbury said the village is currently hiring for a maintenance employee and asked trustees to spread the word. It has looked at outsourcing some of the work like mowing, but is “pretty heavily-invested on machinery and equipment” to go that route, he said.
“We'll do some research and see what we can come up with,” Salsbury said. “We have someone helping us now for the short-term. We're looking for someone new. There's an online application for the position on the village website.”