Lockport is working toward being able to purchase land at property tax auctions more quickly.
City council members Wednesday considered an ordinance that would allow the city administrator to purchase property below $20,000 without having to come to the city council for approval. This process normally can take a minimum of two to four weeks to get through committee discussions and final approval.
The city administrator currently can make purchases for items other than land for just under $20,000 without city council approval. This ordinance would expand that authority.
“There are situations in which there are properties the city needs to purchase quickly,” City Attorney Sonni Williams said. The city may want to purchase such low-cost properties at tax auctions for either “development reasons or nuisance reasons."
She gave an example of a property owing back taxes that may have a lift station and a generator the city would want to purchase before anyone else to ensure it is not built on.
The move comes after a conversation with Will County Treasurer Tim Brophy, who said the county, when making their auction books, would be able to come up with a specific list for city of Lockport properties that have lapsed in paying taxes, Williams said.
“This is a good opportunity, so we want to make sure that we are flexible enough to do that and it is done in the best interests of the city,” Williams said.
Both Alderman Darren Deskin and Mayor Steven Streit said the move would allow the city more control over properties that it might want to use “to change the dynamics” of the respective neighborhood, such as in downtown.
The measure will be approved as part of the city council’s consent agenda at its next meeting June 5.
Separately, the city council Wednesday night approved the use of $118,736 in Motor Fuel Tax funds for its share of costs for a project to build a bike path on Farrell Road, between 163rd and Division streets — along Lockport Township High School’s east campus.
The project was awarded to P. T. Ferro for $334,679.92. The MFT funds would pay for the city’s 20% share of the construction costs, $66,935.98, as well as the previously awarded engineering costs of $51,800.
The 8-foot bike path, along with a new signal, would provide a safer walkway for students, City Administrator Ben Benson said.
A similar project but with a larger scale was tabled in 2017 because the construction costs for the long-planned project had gone up, and the Illinois Department of Transportation grant funds previously earmarked for the project would have meant the city had to pay 50% of the total cost.
However, the city was able to secure an IDOT grant with an 80/20 split of cost between the state and the city, respectively, Benson said.
A start date has not been set for construction, but Benson said the city hopes to have it completed by the end of the summer and before the start of the next school year.
The city council also approved a $274,520 contract with V3 Companies for improvements to the city’s parking lot on Hamilton Street.