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Sycamore gambling will hit or bust today

SYCAMORE – Final decisions on video gambling in Sycamore and an increase to the mayor’s salary are expected at today’s City Council meeting.

After months of discussion and a public hearing two weeks ago, council members likely will vote on whether gambling should be legal in city bars and fraternal organizations – potentially adding tens of thousands of dollars to Sycamore’s annual revenue.

While the city stands to make roughly $99,000 a year if bar participation is great enough and the state holds true to its revenue-sharing formula, the majority of residents at a Sept. 17 public hearing spoke against the expansion.

The majority of council members expressed support for video gaming before the public hearing, but 2nd Ward Alderman Chuck Stowe said he senses the council could go either way.

“I know everybody has been thinking about it, and that’s why we have the public hearings ... so we don’t walk in with our minds made up,” he said. “I’m still keeping my mind open yet.”

Under the proposal, restaurants are excluded, and only bars and fraternal organizations qualify.

The council also will vote on whether to give the mayor a $5,000 increase starting next year after the election. The mayor makes $18,000 for that position and an additional $2,000 for liquor commissioner duties. The proposal would increase the $20,000 total to $25,000.

It would be the first increase for the position since 1996.

Also on the agenda is an ordinance change that could save the city $9,000 on a proposed sidewalk maintenance contract.

Local contractor Rick Ericson recently was disqualified from contention for the sidewalk maintenance contract despite his bid coming in at $9,000 less than the second-lowest bidder because he does not have an apprentice program approved by the U.S. Labor Department – a requirement in the city code.

Not wanting to pass up on a local contractor or the best deal, council members asked staff to alter the ordinance and open the contract up for new bids. The new ordinance would strike out the apprenticeship requirement, but it would allow council members to bypass a low bidder if they had concerns about the quality of work.

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