The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 5, 2014

Re-election decision to be made mid-year

Fairchild overpass, economic development top 2014 focuses

BY JENNIFER BAILEY jbailey@dancomnews.com
The Commercial-News

---- — Mayor Scott Eisenhauer can’t believe how fast the last 12 years he’s been mayor have gone. He still says he doesn’t feel like he’s coming into work every day.

“I love it. I do love the job immensely,” he said.

Come 2014, however, he will have to make the decision again about whether he will seek re-election in 2015. His current four-year term ends with the April 2015 election.

Eisenhauer said he’s not decided yet, but some issues in 2014 still could sway his decision.

One of those is if a gambling expansion bill is approved for a casino to be located in Danville.

Eisenhauer said he’ll make a decision by late spring, early summer and after the city’s budget talks about whether he’ll seek re-election.

The two main things that will impact his decision are the thoughts and future plans of “the (city administration) team,” and if he has another four-year agenda in mind. He said each time he’s run, he’s had an agenda of items in mind that he’d like to see accomplished.

“I will follow that same format,” he said.

As long as he’s comfortable with those things, he will run again.

He also wants to make the best decision for the city, in addition to himself professionally and personally.

Eisenhauer said he doesn’t have another job lined up if he doesn’t seek re-election.

Eisenhauer said his focus during the next four to five months will be on the city’s 2014-2015 budget.

“That requires my complete attention,” he said.

Once the budget process is completed, with the new budget to go into effect May 1, “we’ll make a decision whether or not to run for re-election,” Eisenhauer said.

“I love my job,” he reiterated. “I continue to have a fierce passion for the city.”

Eisenhauer said he’s already heard of a few possible challengers.

Those possible challengers don’t affect his decision on running again, he said.

Candidates running for the four-year mayor position and other city offices in 2015 will file to run for election in December 2014.

Casino

Chicago Cubs fans can relate to those hoping to see a casino in the city — wait until next year.

“I think that is one of the top priorities (in 2014),” Eisenhauer said about the possibility of a casino in the city. “It has to be for the state of Illinois.”

Eisenhauer said any discussions about job creation and revenue growth should include the gambling expansion bill.

He expects discussions to heat up again in Springfield and possible action on a bill that would include a casino license for the city after the March 2014 primary election.

“Obviously that is a critical issue to this community,” Eisenhauer said about a casino meaning more economic development and job growth opportunities and additional revenue opportunities.

Eisenhauer said once again he’ll be camped out at the state capital after the first of the year pushing for the bill. The next legislative session begins at the end of January. But again, he doesn’t expect much action until March.

“There could and should be significant discussion, negotiations and completion on a gambling expansion bill,” Eisenhauer said.

Chicago remains an obstacle, he said, about a Chicago casino’s ownership and oversight of the license and where state revenue will go once it comes in.

“I believe the issues can be resolved,” Eisenhauer said.

Taking pension reform and individual business incentives (such as for ADM) off the table, that leaves fewer items on the table going into the next legislative session, he said.

The Illinois General Assembly has passed gaming expansion plans twice only to have them vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The proposed expansion included put-ting a land-based casino in Chicago and new riverboats in Danville, Rockford, near Waukegan and in southern Cook County.

Quinn previously has cited concerns about a lack of oversight and an inadequate share of new revenues for public education.

For Danville, officials say a casino would mean: 300 construction jobs; 600-800 permanent jobs; and about $6 million in annual revenue just from the casino facility itself. More revenue is expected from the sales tax, liquor tax, hotel/motel and food and beverage taxes.

Cost sharing of the casino revenue discussed: 50 percent to the city and 50 percent to Danville District 118, Danville Area Community College, Danville Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and municipalities throughout Vermilion County.

Development

With rumors continuing to swirl about Popeye’s Chicken, Olive Garden and other restaurants, city officials hope for another year of grand openings.

“I’m hoping in 2014 to see an increase in sit-down restaurants,” Eisenhauer said.

Anyone driving around on a Friday night in Danville, might wonder if anyone is eating at home. Restaurants are packed with people.

Eisenhauer said more developers have shown an interest in the city since Meijer, Kohl’s and other stores have opened. He wouldn’t say the names of any further developments looking at the city.

Property owners, such as along North Vermilion Street near the former Pizza Hut, are clearing off trees and their land for possible future development.

“The excitement is not just the openings we’ve experienced in 2013, but the opportunities it’s opened up…,” Eisenhauer said about retail, restaurants and small-to-medium-sized businesses.

There remains one outlot for a development near Meijer. There are other opportunities throughout the community, such as along Gilbert and East Main streets.

Also in the next year, the final phase of the East Main Street reconstruction project will wrap up. It should be completed by June 2014.

In addition, the Fairchild Street over-pass project will be open to the public by June.

Urban Services Director David Schnelle is shooting for a Memorial Day opening to the public. Eisenhauer cautiously is saying June.

After the roadway is open to the public, remaining work is expected to include some landscaping and additional street work that will continue into July and August.

Bowman Avenue reconstruction, from Crestview Avenue at Holiday Hills to Winter Avenue is expected to start in the fall.

Other city projects for 2014 include the city’s new landscape waste recycling facility on the east end of Liberty Lane, the new downtown Danville Mass Transit facility, continued talks about animal control services, continued talks about diversifying public housing in the community and expediting more demolitions of dilapidated structures throughout the community.

Eisenhauer said the city is seeing the result of the 2008 housing crisis with foreclosures and some winding up on the demo list; and there have been more burned-out structures which are a danger to the public.

“We’ve seen a great appetite from the public for the dilapidated structures (to come down more quickly),” Eisenhauer said.

Eisenhauer said 2014 will be a “tough” budget year for the city.

There will be challenges to pay for $800,000 in Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and Federal Insurance Contributions Act costs that were eliminated fully from the property tax and pay for other increasing costs and bills. Budget meetings will start in January.

“It will be a challenging budget process. We’ve got to continue to make long-term decisions,” Eisenhauer said.

Some initial decisions will be how to pay for two new fire trucks.

Eisenhauer said public safety costs and pensions remain concerns.