DANVILLE – Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. made his first casino public comments at Tuesday night’s city council meeting two days after the Illinois Senate approved a gambling expansion bill that includes a Danville casino.
Williams said the question of the last few days that he continues to be bombarded with is how the city will move forward once Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the bill into law.
“I don’t know a lot of things,” Williams said.
He did acknowledge he had some concerns about the casino when personally seeing an aunt struggle with gambling addiction.
“I am very excited about the economic opportunities it will provide the community,” he said.
The hundreds of jobs will be welcomed, he said, but he also pointed out how the area needs to do a better job of filling the jobs already here.
Williams said the additional revenue from a casino also will provide funds the city won’t have to receive from taxes and fees. He said he’s promised to be a good steward with taxpayer money.
Williams said about casino location questions he’s being asked, “I am not sure, people. That will be driven by the developer.”
He said the site must fit zoning and infrastructure requirements.
He said he also doesn’t know a timeline for procuring the license, finding a site and construction time.
There remains language in the bill for an interim casino prior to the permanent one being built. But Williams said he doesn’t know if that will happen as it will be up to the developer.
Williams also said he has concerns about other passed legislative items such as regarding the progressive income tax and the legalization of recreational use of marijuana, which he said too “that is coming whether we wish for it or not.”
“There are still a lot of things up in the air,” he again reiterated about a casino.
Vermilion Advantage President and CEO Vicki Haugen also said “nobody is going to turn down quality job opportunities for the city.”
Resident Linda Jones said “I don’t think we need a casino in Danville.” She said it will end up like the off-track betting parlor that didn’t do any good for the city.
In other business Tuesday, the council heard from Aqua Illinois Area Manager Bob Ervin who asked the council to reconsider its vote against a solar energy project at Aqua Illinois’ water treatment plant at 1300 W. Fairchild St., on behalf of water company customers.
He talked about all they’ve done to work with the nearby residents which include: moving the project more south and west to the river to provide a bigger buffer area and almost 200 feet of setback; earth tone color slats in fencing; and plant more evergreens and trees.
“We’re not trying to take advantage of anyone,” Ervin said, but added they wanted to find a balance and work with neighbors. Sol Systems also has made a payment to extend the time period for the project and state tax credits, he added. "It is still pending," Ervin said.
Ward 7 Alderman Steve Foster, who was among the seven aldermen who voted against the special-use permit for the project, said he wants to talk more with neighbors again, but agreed to bring the permit back for a re-vote at the June 18 city council meeting. It failed by a 5-7 vote last month.