BY JENNIFER BAILEY
City council members Tuesday night approved a new city budget and proceeding with Danville High School campus improvements with a few dissenters.
Council members, with Mayor Scott Eisenhauer’s vote, also removed the fees city officials had proposed to go along with video gaming licenses.
With little public comment about the budget from aldermen at the end of their three-hour meeting, council members approved the city’s new 2013-2014 budget with a 9-2 vote. Ward 7 Alderman Bill Black and Ward 1 Alderman Rickey Williams Jr. voted against the budget.
Alderwoman Lois Cooper was absent from the meeting, while aldermen Sharon McMahon and Kevin Davis left the meeting prior to the vote.
The $50 million budget, a 2.36 percent increase from this fiscal year, goes into effect May 1. Personnel costs and increased salaries are a large part of the increase.
Eisenhauer said there are “very, very few communities” that reduced property taxes by $500,000 and still have a balanced budget without reducing services.
Aldermen also approved job title changes as part of Eisenhauer’s reorganization of city departments.
Also Tuesday, the council with a 10-3 vote, approved Phase 1 work of DHS campus improvements. Aldermen Black, Williams and Jon Cooper voted against the project.
Representatives of school District 118 were present at the meeting, including Superintendent Mark Denman, in addition to Vermilion Advantage President and CEO Vicki Haugen to voice their support for the project.
City officials had presented information to aldermen about the project being suitable for Tax Increment Financing funding due to it helping in blight removal and improving infrastructure in the high school corridor.
Haugen said D118 has been a partner with the city in economic development and TIF districts.
“We have to all work together …,” Haugen said about creating an inviting community. She emphasized this is a multi-phase campus improvement project.
Denman added that what is good for the high school is good for the city, too.
He said the school district continues to work with the city on neighborhood revitalization, removing blight, safety and traffic issues, etc.
Williams is upset about the lack of planning with the project and Jackson Street improvements that just took place a few years ago.
Black also wanted to see more discussion and debate about the project.
He, too, thinks the money could have helped more elsewhere, and warned of future maintenance costs that D118 may have to incur.
“I think this is wrong. I think the school district is being short-sighted,” Black said.
“All of the issues that face us … this is the best we can come up with?”
Both resident Janis Ostiguy, who is running for Ward 5 alderman in April 9’s election, and Black said what is going on inside the high school is more important than the outside.
Ward 5 Alderman Tom Stone said he supports the project because it is bringing in 20 construction jobs for 3.5 months, local vendors are being used to buy supplies and it’s addressing economic development and has sustainable infrastructure with it.
“I think it’s a wonderful project. I think it will be great for Danville,” Stone said.
McMahon also said, “I think it’s a viable project.”
“If we’re going to protect our environment, this is one way to do it,” she said.
Aldermen approved a $986,487 contract with Midwest Asphalt, the lowest of three bidders, for the DHS campus improvement project.
Council members also approved an intergovernmental agreement with school District 118 for the improvements.
The city received an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency grant, to spend up to $750,000 on eligible items, for the DHS campus parking lot and multi-use field improvements. It also will use about $355,000 in Midtown Tax Increment Financing funding on the DHS campus storm water improvements.
The reconstruction of the southern high school parking lot includes a green overflow parking area along Hazel Street that can be used as a practice field for marching band or other activities when not needed for parking.
Also as part of the improvement project, aldermen approved a settlement agreement regarding 707 N. Hazel St.
Robert and Patricia Miller will be paid $7,500 and a condemnation suit will be dismissed as settlement of any claims the Millers have against the city for wrongful demolition on the property.
Danville District 118 authorized the purchase of the property from the city for the same cost.
In other business, the city council approved:
Aldermen removed the fees primarily due to duplicative state regulations/fees.
Eisenhauer provided the eighth majority vote needed for the fees removal saying that the fees would have covered some of the city’s expenses (police time, sticker fees, etc.), but he realized most aldermen were against the fees.
Meeting set on dams
A public meeting to hear a presentation by Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials on the Vermilion River and Ellsworth Park dams will begin at 6 p.m. April 30. The location has yet to be determined. The city likely will look at the David S. Palmer Arena or another larger location than city hall.