The Sterling City Council on Monday raised concerns about the rising number of COVID-19 cases locally and what can be done to help mitigate the surge.
The city has gone from 505 total cases up through Oct. 26 to 1,124 cases as of Monday.
Mayor Skip Lee stressed to the council that he did not want to shut businesses down, but he has seen large groups as some businesses. He said that he feels the data is pushing the city to do more to stem the tide of coronavirus cases locally.
“Our hope is for compliance, not necessarily hammering anybody,” Lee told the council.
One of the mayor’s concerns was that law enforcement could step in, but business owners did not necessarily have to comply. One idea floated at the meeting was that Lee could revoke a liquor license for a short period of time if a business did not comply.
Alderman at Large John Stauter asked if this would apply to bars and not gaming facilities or restaurants. City attorney Tim Zollinger clarified that it would apply to any facility with a liquor license, which would include gaming facilities, but not include a restaurant which did not serve alcohol.
“I think the only way we’re going to get their attention is to act in a serious way about it,” Ward 2 Alderwoman Chris Wilen said. “I have lost friends. I have lost a classmate. We, as a community, we as a city council, are responsible. We have to do something.”
Ward 1 Alderwoman Retha Elston mentioned having heard complaints that mitigation measures seem to target bars and restaurants, and not a big box store or a grocery store. Lee answered that idea by saying that, during a trip to WalMart, one is not spending an extended period of time in close proximity to and breathing the same air as another person.
Under state law, there’s limited ability for a city to control the conduct of a business that doesn’t have a liquor license, Zollinger said.
“There is certainly an equity policy issue out there, the way this could or will impact the businesses that are trying to operate,” Zollinger said, “but there is an equal equity argument for the businesses that are trying to cooperate and comply with the rules and the public health standards.”
Most of the council recognized the need to do something as they continue to watch the numbers grow.
“The ICUs are full at the moment,” Elston said. “It’s getting harder to figure out who to pull out of ICU and put someone else back in ICU and get them on a ventilator. That’s how KSB is, and I know that’s how CGH is.
“A lot more beds than KSB, and they’re having trouble with their ICU being overwhelmed, and their nurses are being overwhelmed. So if the community can work together and try to keep everyone safe so we can get through this together, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
The council also approved a tax levy estimate where individual property tax rates would go down for homeowners while tax revenue for the city is actually slightly up, bringing in an additional $247,942 to the city thanks to increased property values and increased revenue from industrial property.
The council also held a public hearing on a bond issuance for CGH Medical Center. CGH is hoping to issue a bond to bring in $36 million in Series 2021A bonds and $21 million in Series 2021B bonds to fund a portion of the city’s unfunded Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund pensions and finance costs of capital improvements, upgrades, expansions and equipment.