MACOMB — Aldermen voted Monday to place the $64,143 purchase of a hydro excavator on next week's city council consent agenda. This means it could get final approval without further discussion.
City Administrator Dean Torreson told aldermen that the machine would be purchased from.  Vermeer of Pella, Iowa, the lowest of three bidders. He said the bid came in $16,000 under budget.
Public Works Director Scott Coker said, in a memo to aldermen, that there are an increasing number of underground utilities that street crews have to deal with. He said this includes fiber, natural gas lines, and electrical conduit.
Torreson said street crews can no longer use a backhoe because of the utilities that could be underground. He said the hydro excavator liquifies soil and draws it away from utilities and pipes underground.
Brad Whitford. street operations manager, said that, without such a machine, crews would need to carefully dig around utilities with a spade. Mayor Mike Inman added that the new equipment would make work much safer for city employees. "It prevents us from opening a gas line, for example." he said.
In other business, Torreson briefed aldermen on plans for downtown revitalization in 2020. He said Macomb will match a $1.2 million Illinois Department of Transportation grant with $1 million from city sales tax revenue. The grant money and a $300,000 match from the city would pay for removal and replacement of downtown sidewalks and the curbing and guttering. It would also provide handicapped accessible entrances to downtown businesses and fix up and add to the street lighting.
"New benches and bicycle racks will be added," Torreson said. In-ground planting areas would be added at the intersections. "Clara Carrigan, a master gardener, spends at least 12 hours a week on our downtown landscaping," he said.
The city would spend $250,000 of its own money on construction engineering, Torreson said.
He said another $120,000 would be spent for fire suppression water services. "Any property owner could tap into that to add overhead sprinkling systems to second-floor apartments," he said. "We need to have that capability in our downtown."
The 2020 plan also calls for $25,000 to replace light bases. "These electrical costs are a worst-case scenario," said Mayor Inman, "so we may not spend that much." Torreson said the second phase of downtown revitalization would be a seven to eight month project.
The mayor concluded Monday's city council committee of the whole meeting by thanking some "highly visible" people who worked on Macomb Heritage Days. He mentioned Jock Hedblade and Jan Armstrong from the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Heritage Days Committee co-chairs Rachel Lenz and John Armstrong, Downtown Development Director Kristin Terry, and the Macomb Public Works staff. "There are a lot of other people to thank," he said, "but the ones mentioned were very visible."

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