From time-to-time members of the news staff will be visiting local government meetings not necessarily used to media coverage to tell readers the experience they can expect. With 6,693 taxing bodies in Illinois, the idea of this new feature is to bring awareness about numerous local governments.
I’ve been a resident of Ottawa Township for 15 years, but never had the occasion to visit the little gray house that serves as the township office.
Tuesday there was a meeting doubleheader: The regular board meeting and the annual meeting townships everywhere in Illinois must conduct.
On the office steps, Highway Commissioner Tim Aussem said hello and we went through the door. Inside you step into Township Clerk Jackie Timm’s office, which connects to the supervisor’s office.
The supervisor is Tom Neurohr and the commissioners are Robert Piercy, Ryan Battistelli, Ryan Burke and Michael Curtin.
The clerk’s office, a small room with pale green walls and white trim, is dominated by Timm’s desk and file cabinets.
It also serves as the meeting room. As township officials arrived they bantered and pulled chairs up to Timm’s desk. I sat in a corner chair to observe.
The Regular Town Meeting
The meeting was called to order by Timm and started with the "Pledge of Allegiance" and then her reading aloud the meetings of the previous meeting, which were approved.
Timm suggested Neurohr be appointed chairman of the meeting, which was approved by a voice vote. But, actually, Timm continued to conduct the meeting.
For 20-some minutes the board members examined bills and other documents, virtually without comment, signing them as they were circulated and giving voice votes to pay two groups of bills.
There was discussion about contributing to the Naplate Volunteer Fire Department’s fund drive and Wallace Firefighters’ Association’s golf outing. The board approved a $300 donation for Naplate and $500 for Wallace as a lunch sponsor.
The final business was to approve pay for trustees, after which white envelopes were distributed to the officials.
The Annual Town Meeting
This is a meeting for all township residents, so I signed in.
Again, Timm took charge, calling for the "Pledge of Allegiance."
Burke was elected meeting moderator and Timm read the previous year’s minutes, which were approved.
At Timm’s direction, there were votes on the fiscal year, monthly meetings and the time of the 2019 annual town meeting.
At this point, Township Attorney Tim Creedon, laughing, asked if there was another agenda so the moderator could lead the meeting.
“There’s not much left here,” Timm said.
But an agenda was given to Burke and he took over.
First National Bank of Ottawa, the First Federal Savings Bank and Ottawa Savings Bank were named as the township’s official depositories, which were approved by voice vote.
The supervisor’s report was circulated among the township officials. There were no comments and it was approved.
“In the past you had to read each and every line,” Creedon pointed out.
The highway commissioner’s request to sell a road grader to Waltham Township for $40,000 — something not on the agenda — was approved by a voice vote.
Aussem also moved that up to $75,000 be authorized for transfer from the town fund to the road fund — if necessary.
“It could be nothing,” Aussem said. The possible transfer was seconded and approved by voice vote.
Following approval of $100 to Burke for serving as moderator, the meeting adjourned.
The chairs were returned to their former locations and officials departed.
Outside I joked with Aussem that I was disappointed not to have been elected moderator.
I should have spoke up, he replied with laugh.
“You could have made a hundred bucks.”
Observations: The Ottawa Township Board’s meeting is not a social event. If you attend, be prepared to feel awkward. Visitors feel unwelcomed and the agenda does not provide for citizen comments. The agenda, by the way, is posted in the window, but there are none for distribution — not even to the board members, which is unusual. However, let me say, as a long-time professional meeting-attender, it is not unusual for local governments to settle into routines that work for them — even if they are not exactly as proper procedures call for. For instance, at the annual meeting, selling the road grader may have been a good idea, but it needed to be on the agenda. Probably the possible fund transfer should have been on the agenda as well. It certainly would not have hurt.