City Council Discusses Land Swap w/Park District

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Published on May 15 2012 7:36 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 12:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Effingham city council members Tuesday heard the details of a land swap between the City and the Effingham Park District.

City Administrator Jim Arndt said that when he heard the Park District was hopeful of acquiring additional land, he checked with Park District officials about the swap.  Arndt said the swap would provide the Park District with additional acreage and would save the City some money.

Under the scenario, the City would deed over a little more than 21 acres along North Maple Street that had once been eyed as the site of a Sports Center.  The City would also convey ownership of a five-acre tract that the City purchased from Helen Matthes Library to get the library out from under the tract so it could focus on a downtown library location.

In exchange for the land, the Park District would dedicate right of way along the north boundary of the 21-acre tract.  The right of way would be the route for a long-discussed east-west roadway from Maple to near 4th Street.  The City envisions the roadway eventually running west to Charlotte Street.  Arndt said another provision of the exchange is that it would take the place of annual allocations of Tax Increment Financing district funds to the Park District.

Arndt said of the Park District, "They do parks, they do recreation, they do it well."  He also likes the idea of two public bodies working together.  He did note that the Park District must use the five-acre tract for parks and recreation, or ownership would revert to the City.

The Council agreed to allocate $50,000 in hotel/motel tax dollars to the Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum Association if the Association receives a grant to help pay for conversion of the old Courthouse into a Cultural Center and Museum.  The money would serve as the local match for the grant.

Mayor Merv Gillenwater stipulated that, if the Association does not get the grant, they will not get the $50,000 from the City.

The Council also agreed that the City would serve as the pass-thru agency for a grant being sought by Trail Recreation Effingham County.  TREC has agreed to raise the money on their own needed as the local match for the grant.  Commissioner Brian Milleville voted No on the item.

The Council voted 3-2 in favor of amending the rules and regulations for getting delinquent water bills paid.  Commissioners Milleville and Matt Hirtzel voted No on the item.  Hirtzel maintained his opposition to using the landlords as a fallback for getting the bills paid if the tenants don't pay.  The ordinance also raises the water deposit to $100 instead of $75.

Council members concurred in the award of a contract by IDOT to Feutz Contractors of Paris.  The project would enhance the downtown streetscape in Effingham.  Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program funds totaling $603,600 would be matched by City TIF dollars to cover the $918,000 project cost.

Also Tuesday, the Council reappointed Charlie Bovard, Rachael Fearday and Rod Wiethop to the Helen Matthes Library Board of Directors; approved the purchase of two dump trucks and a utility truck for the sewer department for about $130,000; established the rates for infant grave openings and infant grave spaces in the infant row of Oakridge Cemetery; agreed to contribute another $17,000 toward the work on West Evergreen in the area of the north TREC trail area since the height of the roadway is being changed; and authorized Fire Chief Joe Holomy to sell off some old air packs since grant funds were obtained to buy new packs.

Arndt reported that he has contacted state officials and local legislators in opposition to legislation that would take State funding now received by the City used for pensions and instead apply it to cover teacher pensions; heard that the City will add an anti-bullying policy to the City personnel policy; and sought input from Council members on how to more effectively utilize the City's entertainment tax.