Calls for service continue to rise for Decatur Fire Department
On Monday, the city council will have its regularly scheduled meeting to vote on spending $1.4 million on annual watermain projects, creating a master plan for the transit campus, and rezoning property to neighborhood shopping district. What may receive less attention is the monthly reports from each of the city’s major departments including fire and economic and community development. These reports provide a snapshot of how the city is doing in meeting the needs of its citizens.
IN THE LAST 50 YEARS THE CALL VOLUME OF THE DECATUR FIRE DEPARTMENT HAS DOUBLED
Year to date thru October, the Decatur Fire Department has responded to 10,668 alarms. This is 388 more alarms than YTD thru Oct. 2021, a year that set a record for number of alarms. In fact, “the department has the least amount of fire apparatus and firefighters it has had in over 50 years, and the call volume has more than doubled.” Moreover, the city’s population has declined substantially in recent decades indicating a greater per capita need for assistance. Thank you Decatur firefighters for the work you do every day to protect the lives, safety, and property of our citizens.
IS THE CITY OF DECATUR KEEPING PACE WITH THE RATE OF BLIGHT?
The City of Decatur may surpass 100 demolitions in 2022. Removing these delipidated properties is sorely needed and is one of the pillars of the city’s neighborhood revitalization strategy. However, the city may need far more than 100 demolitions annually to keep pace with the rate of blight as the number of houses declared unfit for human habitation and that are boarded up continues to increase. For example, YTD thru October 2019, there were 258 properties declared unfit for human habitation and 142 properties boarded up. YTD thru October 2022, there were 407 properties declared unfit for human habitation (+58%) and 287 properties boarded up (+102%). With thousands of vacant housing units in Decatur, it is now estimated that the city needs to demolish 250-300 delipidated properties per year. At $15,000 per property this is an annual expense of $3.75 - $4.5 million.
CITY SHOULD PRIORITIZE SPENDING ON NEEDS NOT WANTS
The proposed $1.4 million in watermain spending to be considered at tonight’s meeting consists of a variety of projects that the city wants to accomplish, some of which are needed (i.e., improved fire flows) and some of which are wanted (i.e., shortening the distance between the city’s watermain and the property owner’s residence. Given that Decatur is one of the poorest cities in Illinois with many current priorities not receiving enough funding, it will be important for the city to spend money on projects that best meet the NEEDS of our city and its citizens.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL MEETING
The next meeting of Decatur City Council will be Monday, November 21. Meetings take place at 5:30 PM in the council chambers located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss city issues with a council member, phone numbers and email addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.