Champaign City Council votes to change fire safety ordinance

By Rachel Bass

Champaign City Council members voted Tuesday to destroy an ordinance that would require outdoor cafe owners to pay an annual permit fee of $100, plus $5 for approved seat occupancy.

Mayor Gerald Schweighart originally supported the ordinance, but changed his vote, saying it would punish successful business owners. The outdoor cafes help give the city of Champaign a positive appeal, he said.

Councilman Ken Pirok voted for the ordinance and said he would have supported a $10 fee for approved seat occupancy. Some outdoor cafe owners have paid out of their own pockets to maintain right-of-way walkways around the outdoor area, and the council should consider creating a program that would credit these owners, he said. Pirok said the level of care that owners put into such walkways is above and beyond what the council would do.

The council also passed an ordinance that requires automated fire sprinklers to be installed in some buildings, including some University sorority and fraternity houses. Councilwoman Kathy Ennen cautioned the city about how authorities should install the sprinklers. The city should be amendable with people working on trying to update their systems, she said.

Councilman Michael La Due also suggested that people at the Public Works office keep the schedule for neighborhood improvements by the phone so that when community members call to ask when a problem will be fixed, they will not be dissatisfied without a specific answer.

The meeting concluded with the words of Champaign resident Roxanne Heaton, who thanked members for making the flashing red lights on Mattis and John streets consistent. Heaton addressed the council two weeks ago, after her daughter Jenna Shedenhelm was in a car accident at the intersection. She asked the council to look into the problem and reported Tuesday night that within three days after appearing before the council, the problem had been fixed.