Farm City Days 2019 may look very different than this year's celebration, held this past weekend.
Business owners voiced displeasure over having access to their businesses blocked early in the morning, citizens are disgruntled that handicap parking places close to the square were not available due to a car show, and city officials have indicated the event displayed "poor organization," promising at Monday's council meeting those "mistakes" will not be repeated.
During the public portion of the meeting, Mary Pollock complained that someone told her if she parked in a handicap spot on the north side of the square her vehicle would be towed. She could not identify the person giving the order, but believed it was someone affiliated with the car show.
"They shouldn't have told you that you would be towed away. The guy that told you that had no authority. The only person that had that authority was a police officer," said Councilman Don Storey.
The city marked off 20 parking places for the car show, although Mayor Fred Kondritz said the handicap spots are "sacred," and should not have been included in the marked-off spots.
After meeting with Chief of Police Kyle Melvin, Pollock and her cane-walking husband were afforded a spot in the city lot behind a bank.
Meanwhile, business owners found tape in front of their businesses at 6:30 a.m., although many of them did not open until 9 or 10.
"There was more than one merchant that took down those stripes in front of the businesses," said merchant Ken Burzynski. "No one expected it to be blocked off at 6:30 in the morning. It was our understanding that nothing was going to happen until 4 o'clock. Everyone knew the square would be closed for the parade. There was no problem with that. When folks got to town to open their businesses and found that it would be blocked off for hours that became a major issue."
Burzynski seemed puzzled that state roadways would be closed for a parade that included just four tractors. He suggested the park be used in the future.
"As the mayor of Benton, I'm sorry that happened. We'll take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again," Kondritz said.
"There were a lot of mistakes and a lot of things done during this whole thing. My phone blowed up all day Saturday," added Storey.
The event was not city-sponsored; it was organized and conducted by a Farm City Days committee.
In other action, the council approved installing "No loitering/littering" signs in municipal parking lots; retained Crawford and Associates to assist the street department in preparing plan for the completion of the East Main Street parking lot; and approved authorized city officials to attend the 2018 Illinois Muncipal League annual conference.