Originally Posted Online: Sept. 03, 2013, 10:50 pm
Last Updated: Sept. 04, 2013, 12:32 am

Klute begins term by responding to open meeting question

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By Sarah Hayden, shaydenqconline@gmail.com

PORT BYRON -- Kevin Klute was officially sworn in as mayor Tuesday night, replacing Lawrence Bay, who resigned last week after serving less than five months.

Mayor Klute began his term by reading a response to a Saturday editorial in The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus questioning if the village board violated the Illinois Open Meeting Act by discussing mayoral candidates in a closed session. Following those discussions, the board voted on Mayor Klute's selection in open session.

Mayor Klute's letter stated the board complied with Illinois law, and Mayor Klute said he encourages full transparency.

Village officials did not find that transparency in a Tuesday night report on Tug Fest. Tammy Knapp, Tug Fest president, reported the event made a little less money than last year but had more entertainment. When asked for financial records, her father, Tug Fest founder Chas. "Boots" Knapp, declined to provide the information, saying profits are given to the American Legion.

Trustee Scott Sidor said village officials want to find out where the money goes from the three-day event. He suggested future Tug Fests be run by the village instead of an independent committee.

Mr. Sidor said the village sanctions Tug Fest by donating $3,000 to it each year. He said only beer sale profits are given to the American Legion with no accounting of the rest of the money.

"As a city, I want to see what we're spending the money on," he said. "The pubs are upset we have beer tents; it's costing them money. Now it's causing us problems in the community."

Mr. Knapp said volunteers started the event 28 years ago.

"We had no money," he said. "We borrowed $5,000 from Port Byron Bank and it took three years to repay it.

"I haven't seen any of you (trustees) volunteer," he said. "We're pulling across a major water body; no one else in the world does this."

He left the meeting telling Mr. Sidor, "I don't like bullies".

"I am not a bully," Mr. Sidor responded. "I've been here six years. As a community, we have no say."

Also on Tuesday, trustees discussed buying the former high school, also known as the Old Academy building, on Illinois 84.The River Valley District Library wants the village to buy the property and hold it for five years, giving the library the first right of refusal and time to raise money to buy it from the village.

Trustee Gerry Meade said the building, as is, was appraised at $98,000; if the building and its asbestos is removed, he said, the lot is valued at $220,000.

"If the city holds on to this property, there's obviously going to be some upkeep," said tax increment financing district chairman Todd Wiebenga. "The building's in bad shape. The lawn needs to be mowed. The city, in my mind, shouldn't be in the rental property business -- but it could be the shining star of the community."

Trustees referred purchase of the building to the Planning and Zoning Committee for further discussion.