By Ulysses Arn -
In April of last year the long-time comptroller for the city of Dixon, Rita Crundwell was arrested for stealing $54 million from the city over the course of 20 years. She is currently serving nearly 20 years in a federal prison after having plead guilty in the case.
In recent weeks the city of Dixon announced that it had reached an out of court settlement with its bank and auditors over their role in having not detected Crundwell's theft. Thursday evening at the Loveland community building more than 150 residents gathered at a town hall to discuss what should be done with approximately $40 million the city will be receiving from the sale of Crundwell's assets and from the settlement.
Dixon Mayor Jim Burke opened the town hall by saying that, "This has been a traumatic event for everyone in the community, the taxpayers, the citizens at large, the employees, the city council. Its really been something to deal with."
Dixon Police chief Danny Langloss who has been serving as a special assistant to the city council until a city administrator can be hired added that, "We have all been punched in the gut...All of us share the same scar. While that scar will never go away it will heal in time...I promise you we have taken and will continue to take every step to ensure this can never happen again."
Dixon Finance Director Paula Meyer told the audience that the city would be receiving $29,700,000 from the civil settlement with the cities bank and auditors and $9,245,000 from the sale by the US Marshal Service of Rita Crundwell's assets. Meyer's also explained that the city had $8,677,755 in internal debt the city owed to other city funds and $12,316,000 in external debt owed to its lenders for a general operating fund that is $18.7 million in the red.
Meyer's also explained that the city had several capital improvement projects that after having been put off for a number of years will need to be done soon including a sewer main repair that could cost up to $4 million.
As the cities Finance Director Meyer's recommended that the city use the $40 million it will be receiving to pay off the internal debt, put $5 million into an emergency fund that is currently empty, and put more than $14 million into investments as must do She also recommended putting $6 million towards needed sewer projects.
When city residents got the chance to make their suggestions two different people recommended putting some of the money towards making recreational improvements along the Rock River.
One woman suggested using the money to fix the cities memorial pool, which has ties to President Ronald Reagan, since it is in disrepair. Another woman added that if the pool could be repaired then a new one should be built. Both received a heavy round of applause from the audience.
Several people suggested that city residents see some tax relief including from their property taxes, sewer and water fees, and sales tax.
A woman who has recently moved to the city and suffers from MS suggested that the city put some of the money towards helping local property owners and landmark operators make their buildings more handicap accessible.
Dixon business owner Li Arellano added that city leaders should plan things 5, 10, 20, 50 years out so that money would be available to do some of the things residents want. First and foremost he wanted the city to make sure that it took care of its debt and that it managed its money so that the people are not saddled with high property taxes, high sewer and waters fees, or high sales taxes.