Council receives quarterly river report

Marianne Gillespie

The city’s riverfront development consultant, Tom Tincher, gave a quarterly update on the status of plans for the riverfront at Monday night’s Chillicothe City Council meeting.

During the last three months, Tincher said he and his staff are pursuing development opportunities for the area, continuing with the coordinated marketing of “Rivertowns USA,” and exploring Peoria Lake restoration and potential economic development opportunities relating to Senachwine Creek and partnering with Galena Road Gravel.

He talked about continuing conversations with all the interested parties about opportunities, such as developing Three Sisters Park into an agri-tourism center.

He referred to a phase one redevelopment map designed for a minimal cost amount and property consolidation.

Short of the Bananas property, most of the area is owned by the city.

Tincher said he met with Dick Bush, owner of Bananas, recently, and said he was “extremely interested in looking at the possibility of a developer coming in and working in concert with the city to acquire that property and incorporate it into a master plan development for the lakefront.”

Tincher said a major amount of time has been spent in talking about the “critical” retreat center and the entities that will use it.

They include, so far, Illinois Central College, Area Agency on Aging and the Community Ministry Alliance.

Part of the retreat center would be attached to the grain elevator.

Also noted on the plan is a grassy amphitheater, which could be used for events, such as the Fourth of July, and could benefit from a portable stage like the Peoria riverfront uses, Tincher said.

The map notes the restaurant/hotel/second retreat center would be at the foot of Walnut Street.

Tincher also noted he and Mayor Gary Fyke discussed moving the restaurant/hotel to the grain elevator area to connect the entities.

Alderman Judy Cantwell asked how much money would be required to make the grain elevator area a reality.

Tincher said an elevator and some type of observation area on top would be needed and gave options of what could be done, but no dollar figures.

She also asked about those living in the future expanded park areas, designated by the map, and if those residents wish to not sell.

Tincher said the city would plan around them and adjust the plan accordingly.

Alderman Troy Childers asked if the city or the developer would fund the infrastructure changes at the grain elevator.

“We’d look at: does the city, and the developer, have the capability of funding that within the parameters of your TIF dollars?” Tincher said.

It also was pointed out that boaters would then use the Pine Street boat launch.

Childers also noted: “I also know that Havana, which we’ve touted a lot of times, is now in a $2 million stall because they can’t get the stuff done to develop what they wanted to do. How are we going to avoid doing things like that?”

“What Havana didn’t do was tie down the Illinois River Center,” Tincher said.

The hotel interest, he said, decreased due to the city’s backing off of the retreat center.

“This project, as we show it, will only work if we get the retreat center,” Tincher said about Chillicothe.

Childers asked if the city would see letters of commitment about those wanting to use the retreat center. Tincher said officials would see letters.

Tincher said his goal for the next three months is to continue networking and following up.

The city voted three months ago to contract with Tincher for a year’s worth of consulting work, but at the six-month mark, officials could stop the contract.

“A development like this, you don’t pull out of the sky,” Tincher said. “... You have to have the other amenities to go along with this, and that’s why your overall plan is so important — that the developer understands that the city of Chillicothe is committed to this broader program of the riverfront/downtown revitalization.”

Childers said the city has been working on this project for the last year-and one-half.

Tincher said a lot has been accomplished and it takes time to develop projects.

“I mean, Diane Cullinan, before she started Grand Prairie, she was working that five years before you saw anything publicly,” Tincher said. “And we’re talking about a project that is of that significance, that scope.”

Cantwell asked why these groups do not use the Gateway Building in Peoria.

Tincher said Chillicothe offers a “unique” getaway.

Alderman Mel Witte said residents mentioned to him they did not like blocking the view of the Illinois River from Walnut Street.

Alderman Jim Thornton said his concern with the project is making sure that Chillicotheans will be able to use facilities, such as children having more opportunities in town with Illinois Central College.

“I guess I’ll have to look at it long and hard before I really can say this is for Chillicothe and not for something else,” said Thornton.

Tincher said that was a good point: including new programming for education and possibly new programming for seniors through the Area Agency on Aging.

On working with conservation issues, Tincher said in conversations with Galena Road Gravel officials, the company is interested in possibly marketing Peoria lake sediment projects in the

Chicago area.

Tincher said possibilities exist for dredging, developing a sediment processing center and more.

Tincher, who also is executive director of the Heartland Water Resources Council, said two million tons of sediment need to be removed just to make the Peoria lake stay even.

Tincher said they have to prove there is a market for the sediment.

Tincher said the company, himself, Fyke and East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus and EastPort officials were meeting Tuesday to discuss a demonstration project. The project would include Galena removing the sediment and seeing if there is a market for it.

Those who need topsoil or sanitary landfill could also be customers, Tincher said.

At the end of his presentation, Tincher said he would get to the council an adjusted plan within the next three months, and also more clearly define what interested groups for the retreat center would plan to do and how it would benefit the city.

He also said that part of the next phase is to include the business district.

In money issues, the council approved, in a 7-1 vote, a tax levy of $411,977 and authorized city attorney Mike Seghetti and the office staff to prepare the necessary documents.

Alderman Carl Spencer voted against the measure.

He began by asking questions about the 6.5 increase to the tax levy.

Finance chairman Thornton said the levy is about $25,000 higher than last year.

Thornton said the city will have a Truth-in-Taxation hearing, set by city attorney Mike Seghetti.

“We are not changing any of the taxing amounts. It’s just that we think that’s the amount of money that will come in from the levy,” said Thornton.

Spencer said he understood that, but did not see why the city needed to do that.

“Whatever you have last year, cut it back to 5 percent ...” Spencer said.

By law, taxing bodies are required to have a Truth-In-Taxation hearing if the tax levy is increased at 5 percent or more.

In the past, the council traditionally votes an increase around 4.99 percent each year.

The city also held a Truth-in-Taxation hearing last year for a 7.5 percent tax levy increase.

Cantwell asked for what the additional tax money would be used.

“We’re not raising any of the rates,”  Thornton replied. “The (Equalized Assesssed Valuation) is expected to go higher.”

City office manager Denise Passage said county officials estimate a 6.5 percent increase to the EAV.

In other items, the council:

• had a first reading on an ordinance which notes a $250 purchasing authority of the economic development director, just like the other city supervisors. Thornton said the ordinance was not written with that language previously. The council drafted the change after questions at its last council meeting of how Marketing & Tourism Commission money could be spent.

• approved paying Miles Chevrolet $21,495 for a 2008 Chevrolet Impala

• approved a sidewalk application for Allan March of 1023 Manning Drive for $440

• approved an agreement with Mediacom for two years of Internet service for the public works facility. Public works chairman Denny Gould said the service is for a dedicated program to control the well system.

• approved paying River City Demolition $6,700 for settlement of claims surrounding the demolition bid for the grain elevator property, 10 W. Elm St.

• approved paying Joe Coleman $3,725 for extra costs of demolition for the grain elevator property

• approved two Project Facelift applications for Paul Khounisadar of Fedora’s, 932 N. Second St., $938, for patching stucco, caulking the building and painting the front; and for Kay Davis of Dream Illustration Tattoos, 934-938 N. Second St., $1,378.50, for changing windows and new signs

• approved an advance expenditure of $297 to Passage to attend the Illinois Municipal League Conference in Chicago Sept. 25-27