ALTAMONT — Members of the Altamont City Council voted 3-2 this week to prohibit recreational-use cannabis establishments in the city.
The decision came after the reading of a letter from a resident and discussion between commissioners and Mayor Jason Rippetoe Monday.
Altamont City Clerk and Treasurer Sarah Stephen read to the council a letter dated Jan. 8 the city received from concerned citizen Erma Sue Morris:
Dear City Council,
I am writing to you to ask you all to not let marijuana into Altamont. To stand for what is right.
We know that when people use marijuana they also do something stronger.
Think of the children’s lives that will be changed from the smoke and hopefully not given to them. You can’t stop people not to smoke around children. This applies to marijuana. The children will be there.
The law Pritzker signed in for the marijuana use is illegal. Our federal government states it is against the law or are you going to teach people and children it’s OK to break the law?
Think about the people losing jobs and can’t pay their bills because of using marijuana. We already have people who can’t pay their bills.
Are we going to have people sleeping and camping on our streets?
I pray for you every day that the city council will take a long look ahead to see what could happen and probably will happen.
Erma Sue Morris
Commissioner Todd Slingerland questioned why the proposed ordinance to ban sales of recreational marijuana was put on the agenda for the meeting.
Stephen said it’s because it was part of the Illinois Municipal League format in which, despite state legalization, each municipality has the opportunity to vote on whether to ban recreational cannabis sales within its limits.
“It would be silly for us to ban it now,” Commissioner Tayler Polk said. “Effingham is predicting $750,000 to a million dollars worth of sales.”
Effingham is allowing the retail sale of recreational marijuana and is working out zoning regulations before sales begin.
“What I would recommend is allowing a business to come to town, then voting on the license,” Polk said. “We should give a business at least the opportunity to apply for a license.”
“At this point, it’s not like we have a business knocking on the door,” he added.
Rippetoe agreed with Polk and emphasized the start-up cost of state licensing to sell recreational cannabis is expensive.
“We should look at this case by case but to say no from the very get go,” Rippetoe said.
“I’m not saying we should have one (cannabis dispensary) on every street corner,” Rippetoe said.
“I’m not saying we would have to have one on every street corner either, but if someone brings a sales pitch and says they can bring $100,000 to the City of Altamont, I could rock and chip a lot of roads that haven’t been rocked and chipped in last 15 years,” Polk said.
Rippetoe said he would hate to say no before the city has been approached by a dispensary interested in locating to Altamont.
“If someone would want to bring one to Altamont, we could say no at that time. I don’t think we should say no before someone asks the question,” he said.
“This all sounds nice, but don’t get me wrong I have just heard a lot of people say to keep this out of our community,” Commissioner Michael Walker said.
Polk was still hesitant to agree to a ban.
“Then again, I think if we don’t ban it we should definitely write an ordinance to vote upon the license rather than asking the council right now to ban something that’s not even coming our direction,” Polk said. “In six years, none of us might not be on the council.”
Slingerland said, as a bus driver, he was taking a bus tour to St. Louis when they passed by the recreational-use marijuana store that can be seen along Interstate 70 and Interstate 55 in Collinsville.
“There was easily a half-mile-long line on Sunday morning,” Slingerland said of people waiting to buy recreational cannabis.
Slingerland motioned to prohibit recreational cannabis sales, seconded by Commissioner Dan Milleville.
Polk and Rippetoe voted not to pass the ordinance while Commissioners Slingerland, Walker and Milleville voted to prohibit recreational cannabis sales in Altamont.
In other business, the council heard from Nick Burris, P.E., Milano and Grunloh Engineers LLC of Effingham the $500,000 block grant the city applied for from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was not granted to Altamont this year and said the council should be making preparations for applying again next year with modifications. The competitive block grant would have been used for a sewer replacement project.