Most of the Naperville City Council was unamused by amendments to the city's amusement municipal code.
The code, which was first passed in 1964, allows Naperville to collect fees on bowling alleys, pool halls and mechanical amusement devices. The city does an initial inspection of these items, but collects yearly fees.
The city said it collected $24,100 in fees last year. But city staff said Naperville was the third lowest out of 12 cities it examined in terms of fees for this type of amusement.
The amendments to the current code would raise pool hall fees to $50 from $25 per table; bowling alleys to $20 from $10 per lane; and simplify mechanical amusement devices to a flat fee of $100 per device.
The amendments also would allow the city to collect fees from kiosks, like Redbox, and collect delinquent larger fees. It was estimated that $43,000 a year could be collected through the changes.
Many council members, however, suggested not only blocking the changes but removing the ordinance all together.
“Why do we even do this? It’s one of these cat leash laws to me,” Councilman Kenn Miller said. “Why are we spinning our wheels when we have reduced staff?”
Councilman Steve Chirico said he agreed with Miller’s point. Chirico questioned the necessity of the code. He suggested removing the tax and stopping the service of inspection.
Some council members asked if the code was necessary for law enforcement. Councilmen Bob Fieseler and Grant Wehrli asked if the code allows the Naperville Police Department to inspect machines to prevent gambling devices in establishments.
Naperville Police Chief David Dial said other laws beyond this code allow the police to crack down on illegal gambling devices.
“I think Councilman Miller was exactly correct when he said that police can go in to bars, restaurants and taverns and look for these devices,” Dial said. “I don’t see this ordinance having any bearing on the police one way or another.”
Councilman Doug Krause was the only vocal supporter for changing the code, explaining the fees as a user tax. He reminded the council about the budget issues facing the city and warned against removing a revenue source.
Budget concerns were a major part of the discussion concerning an agenda item authorizing the city manager to execute documents to enroll the Sportsman’s Park property in the state of Illinois’ voluntary Site Remediation Program.
The agenda item would allow the city to meet with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to discuss enrolling in the Site Remediation Program.
If Naperville enters the voluntary program it could dictate a plan to test the soil at the park for pollution and a plan to clean up the park. If the city does not join the program the IEPA could dictate a plan to Naperville.
Attorney Derek Price said the agenda item would not induce any cost at this point. Instead, it would allow him to begin a discussion with the state. When asked to estimate how much the project could cost, Price suggested it could be somewhere near $2 million.
Councilwoman Judy Brodhead said one of the reasons the city has yet to act on this issue is because of the location of the park.
“I’m just going to speak my opinion; if this property backed up to incorporated Naperville property, this would have been done in some fashion long ago,” Brodhead said. “It backs up to unincorporated property, and it’s been a concern of those residents for a long time.”
At the end of the discussion, the City Council decided, by a 6-3 vote, to table the item to its meeting in two weeks. Price said the two-week delay won’t hurt Naperville, but reminded the City Council that action should be taken soon.
“The EPA is here in Naperville; Sportsman’s Park has had the attention of the district bosses in Springfield,” Price said. “This is on the EPA's radar.”