Council Moves Northwest Business District Ahead in Final Meeting


Published on April 21 2015 8:35 pm
Last Updated on April 21 2015 8:42 pm
Written by Greg Sapp


The Effingham City Council Tuesday moved a plan for a Northwest Business District ahead in the final meeting for the current group of Council members.

The district is an effort by the City to develop the area around and south of the intersection of Keller Drive, Ford Avenue and Outer Belt West. A representative of Economic Development Resources, which is steering the project ahead for the City, said the district would be similar to the Ford Avenue Business District that was created to land the Kohl's store and the businesses in front of Kohl's. The businesses within the district generated $135,000 each year for the City through an additional 1% sales tax, with the money to be used to develop the district.

The Northwest Business District would involve 31 parcels of property and 157 acres of land. The district has a proposed 23-year lifespan.

Action by the Council Tuesday included proposing the approval of a business district plan and designation of a business district, scheduling a public hearing on June 2 on the preliminary draft of the district, and establishing a business district tax allocation fund for the area. A final plan will be completed following the public hearing.

From now on, the project will be under the purview of the Council elected on April 7. At the next Council meeting on May 5, Jeff Bloemker will take over as Mayor, Merv Gillenwater will move over to one of the commissioner seats, and Kevin Esker and Kevin Willis will take seats as first-time commissioners. The only current Council member that will remain in his same position is Don Althoff.

Tuesday was the final Council meeting for commissioners Matt Hirtzel, Brian Milleville and Alan Harris. Hirtzel and Milleville each served one four-year term, while Harris completed 16 years on the Council.

Also Tuesday, the Council adopted the annual operating budget for the fiscal year beginning May 1, an $82 million measure that is balanced; approved an amended personnel policy regarding vacation time for those leaving the service of the City; granted 2% pay raises for all non-union represented employees; amended the City Code to raise the fee to test a meter to $50 rather than $25 to help cover costs; and approved a five-year capital improvements plan.

Council members agreed to close certain downtown streets for the Mid America Motorworks VW Welcome Fest in June; adopted a redevelopment plan in the Downtown/Southtown Business Area where the City will split the $44,000 cost of a redevelopment project with Ted and Lisa Rhodes at 3rd and Fayette; approved a joint agreement with the State for water line relocation and replacement work along Fayette Avenue from Henrietta to Walnut; approved a rezoning of land at 707 South Cherry from single family residential to multi-family dwelling district so Kevin Koester can develop a four-unit apartment building on the site; and approved rezoning property along East Route 33 at Landfill 33 from non-urban to light industrial district so a warehouse can be built to house paper at the landfill, opening up the site of a current warehouse to be used as additional landfill space.

Each Council member took time at the end of the meeting to thank the City staff for their work and their fellow Council members for their service. Harris said, "It's been a hasn't always been fun, but it's always been interesting." Harris thanked longtime civic leader Frank Kabbes for his help in mentoring Harris through his years on the Council. Milleville thanked the voters who elected him four years ago for giving him "the best job I've ever had." Hirtzel said, "It's been a privilege and honor to serve with you and serve this community." Mayor Gillenwater, soon to be Commissioner Gillenwater again, thanked everyone for their work and teased that he'll miss Harris who he thought of as an "older brother", which brought a mock retort from Harris, a noted quipster.