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Princeton to refinance loans

PRINCETON — The Princeton City Council hopes to save $865,000 in interest during the next 17 years by refinancing four bond/loan instrument series.

At this week's meeting, the Princeton City Council heard from John Vezzetti, assistant vice president of Bernardi Securities Inc. of Chicago, the municipal underwriting firm which has been working with the city council on the refinancing proposal for several months. Vezzetti briefly reviewed the refinancing benefits with the council, projecting the city will save $865,000 by the refinancing.

The four bond/loan instrument series are $1.75 million in outstanding water revenue bonds, $3 million for the wastewater treatment facility, $3.85 million for the 133-acre logistics park purchase, and $3 million for capital projects for the electrical plant and system.

After hearing Vezzetti's recommendation, the council unanimously approved the four ordinances to refinance the bond/loan instrument series. Commissioner Ray Swanson was absent.

In other business at Monday's meeting, Commissioner Joel Quiram suggested the city council change its way of approving ordinances from having just one reading to having two readings at two separate meetings. The change would help promote transparency and trust with city residents, he said.

In his conversations with residents, Quiram said he is finding a lot of mistrust of the city government. The two readings would show transparency and help build trust between residents and the council, he said.

In the rare case of an emergency, the city council could have an emergency exemption in place which would allow both readings to be done at the same meeting, Quiram said.

In his experience, Princeton City Manager Jeff Clawson said he used to work in Aledo, where the council has done two readings of an ordinance for more than 40 years. In Iowa, the state requires municipalities to have three readings of an ordinance before approval. In Illinois, the state law is silent, he said.

Commissioner Bob Warren questioned Quiram on his "transparency" comment. Meeting agendas are posted 48 hours before each meeting, so the public has time to look at any ordinances and contact commissioners if they have questions or concerns. Requiring the two readings would just slow down the process of government, he said.

"It's certainly going to clog up the process. The one thing we don't need is a slower reacting government," Warren said. "We need the government to act on the issues and to act in a timely fashion, and this is going to slow it down."

In his experience, most people just aren't that interested, or they would come to the council meetings or at least call their commissioners, Warren said.  

The council's most important ordinance passed each year is the tax levy, but no one attends even those meetings, Warren said. In his 12 years on the council, the issue getting the most response from the public was when Princeton had a bunch of cats running loose, he said.

In his opinion, Quiram was hearing from a vocal minority of Princeton residents, not the majority, Warren added.

After further discussion, Mayor Keith Cain asked Clawson to do some more research into the ordinance reading issue, so the council could continue its discussion at a future meeting.

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