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Thomas Clatterbuck

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The Springfield City Council signaled last night that they were pulling the plug on the Bright New Day redevelopment project. Led by Rick Lawrence, Bright New Day was trying to redevelop the properties at 518, 520, and 524 E. Monroe Street. However, after years issues and delays, the city has withdrawn its TIF funds from the project. Both the city and developers said that without the TIF funds, the project will likely collapse.

Bright New Day was a substantial undertaking in terms of scope, funding, and complexity. The plan was to renovate three downtown buildings and bring them back into productive use. Actually accomplishing this would require millions in funding. Commonly referred to at the “three legged stool,” Lawrence was relying on private financing, various state tax credits, and TIF money from the city. Corporation Council for the city frequently mentioned this project was incredibly complex.

But as is so often the case with complex projects, there were serious problems and delays. In the end, Lawrence missed several of the contractual deadlines he had with the city. By missing these deadlines and not getting extensions from the city, the project lost access to its TIF funds. These deadlines form the heart of the issue that was discussed last night.

The final debate

The discussion at last night’s city council meeting was full of sound and fury. Mayor Langfelder and Alderman McMenamin defended giving Lawrence more time, and not to rescind the TIF money yet. They were joined by several community members who spoke to Mr. Lawrence’s good character. They argued that by rescinding the money, it would send a chilling message to future development. No TIF money was actually paid out to the project so far. However, because the TIF money had been appropriated, it was not available for other projects. More practically, Langfelder pointed out that a foreclosure process would take more than the 90 days Lawrence was asking for to get a new lender.

There was plenty of opposition as well. Other aldermen said that this project was something they supported in theory. But they said that this project should be treated the same as any other project, and the city had been more than accommodating with the delays and other issues arising from the project.

Unions that had worked on the project also spoke out against it. They cited a long list of grievances including not being paid their proper benefits. According to Alderman Hanauer, this was very surprising because by canceling the city’s support, they might not get paid at all. However, the union representatives said that they were unsure any amount of money to Mr. Lawrence would ensure they got paid.

In the end, the impassioned speeches signified nothing. This ordinance is mostly symbolic. It was repeatedly noted that the agreement between the city and Bright New Day had expired and was unfulfilled on Lawrence’s part. Any outcome on this ordinance would have had a very similar practical outcome. It did pass 8-1-1.

What comes next

The future is dim for the Bright New Day redevelopment. As Alderman Theilen explained after the meeting, what this move really does is prevent there from being another extension to the original redevelopment agreement with the city. Because that agreement had already expired, Lawrence had already lost his immediate access to the TIF dollars. Although he said he was making progress with another lender, Theilen pointed out that lender would have to know Lawrence did not have the TIF dollars he thought he did.

But while things look down for the Bright New Day project, it may not be over. None of the aldermen spoke out against the project in theory, and all of them are for downtown development. If the new lender comes through, it is very likely that new a TIF deal could be reached with the city.

You can watch the full debate in the player above.

Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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Court upholds Illinois nuclear power subsidy law

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A federal appellate court ruling upheld Illinois’ law directing hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to nuclear plants and other green energy incentives.

The ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals says that Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act, a 2016 law providing Zero Emissions Credits to Exelon, the owner of several nuclear plants in the state, doesn’t unfairly manipulate the multi-state energy market that establishes rates.

The challenge was brought by the Electric Power Supply Association, a trade group for power plant owners that includes Dynegy, which has since been acquired by Vistra Energy. Vistra owns coal-fired plants in Illinois. Vistra wasn’t immediately available to respond to the ruling or say whether it will appeal the decision.

In Vistra’s lawsuit, the company claimed the subsidies allowed Exelon to submit unfairly low rates in the wholesale auction.

The panel ruled that “the Commerce Clause does not cut the states off from legislating on all subjects relating to the health, life, and safety of their citizens…”

Exelon released a statement Friday saying the company was “pleased to see that the Seventh Circuit Court affirmed dismissal of the ZEC complaint, thus supporting the continued operation of Illinois’ ZEC program and the clean, resilient and affordable electricity nuclear power provides.”

State Rep. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, who has two nuclear plants in her district, said it was good for clean and renewable energy.

“Many states are trying to figure out what to do to keep the nuclear plants online,” she said. “This opinion that just came out sounds like a step in the right direction.”

Both sides had said Illinois jobs were on the line as they looked to influence lawmakers.

Exelon warned in 2016 that it would likely have to close two Illinois plants, one near Clinton and another near the Quad Cities, and cut 1,500 jobs if the subsidies weren’t signed into law.

Dynegy said its Illinois-based plants face an uncertain future if the courts upheld the FEJA. This would mean 1,000 jobs in southern Illinois, an area facing a dearth of higher-paying jobs.

The Future Energy Jobs Act will charge utility customers an average of $2 per month over the next decade, sending $236 million to Exelon annually. In turn for the credits, ComEd, Exelon’s energy retailer, would invest in green jobs training and provide discounts to needy ratepayers.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

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Davis, LaHood Announce Four USDOT Grants Investing in Local Airport Infrastructure

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PRESS RELEASE | U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) announced today that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded four local central Illinois airports with funding to invest in various projects ranging from runway rehabilitation, the purchase for ground operation equipment, and expansion of passenger terminals. Statements from the Congressmen, as well as details of the awards are below:

“Investing in our infrastructure is a critical part of growing our economy and that’s exactly what these grants will accomplish,” said Davis. “These four regional airports are essential to bringing economic opportunity to central Illinois and these grants will allow them to make necessary upgrades to improve service and safety. As someone who frequently flies in and out of central Illinois airports, I understand how important these continued investments are and I know my constituents will benefit greatly from these improvements.”

“Today is a great day for our local airports across central Illinois. With the latest awards from the U.S. Department of Transportation, these three local airports across central Illinois will have the ability to reconstruct runways, purchase new equipment to make ground operations smoother and safer during inclement winter weather, and expand a passenger terminal to improve the flow of passengers,” stated LaHood. “Air travel is a key economic driver for our local communities and I applaud the USDOT for their continued commitment to investing in our local transportation projects to help make travel safer, as well as more effective and efficient.”

The awards:

Central Illinois Regional Airport – $991,773
This project acquires one new and one replacement high-speed runway broom to keep the airport serviceable during snow periods and aid in the efficiency and safety of operations.

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport – $1,995,173

This project expands the terminal building to approximately 6,100 square feet to meet Federal Aviation Administration design standards and enable efficient movement of passengers. Earlier this year in June, both LaHood and Davis announced that the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport received $4.6 million in terminal upgrades. This grant is being increased from $4,628,998 to $6,625,171 and will allow for the final phase of upgrades to be completed.

Logan County Airport – $1,153,190
This grant includes discretionary funding for Logan County Airport to rehabilitate Runway 3/21

Decatur Airport – $1,567,562

This grant includes discretionary funding for Decatur Airport to rehabilitate Runway 6/24

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Rauner declares harvest emergency as stopgap until higher haul limits take effect next year

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an emergency declaration Friday to allow increased weight limits for Illinois agriculture haulers on Illinois roads.

Last month Rauner signed a law allowing permanently increased haul limits for permitted vehicles during harvest season, but that doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1. He said the declaration he signed Friday in Auburn at The Ladage Farm doesn’t have as much to do with the weather as it does with making Illinois farmers more competitive.

“The right answer for the permanent competitiveness of Illinois farmers is to make sure that our truckers and our commodities haulers and our farmers can get their product to market, fast, efficient, cost effectively,” Rauner said. “And 10 percent more weight now here in the fall can be on our commodities truckers going in.”

“That means every ten loads we’d have another load to haul so that’s gonna save us time and wear and tear and makes our harvest much quicker,” Ladage farm operator Brent Ladage said. “It adds up a lot, too.”

Illinois Farm Bureau’s Mark Reichert said the order and new law means trucks won’t have to vary their weights going from Illinois to neighboring states.

“So we’ve kind of mirrored now all of the states around, so there’s kind of an equilibrium now,” Reichert said.

Asked if possible increased wear and tear on local roads is an unfunded mandate on local taxpayers who pay to maintain the roads, Rauner he didn’t see that way.

“No, this is regulatory relief,” Rauner said. “This is cutting mandates, cutting regulations, which I’m all about. Eliminate as many regulations. This is freeing it up. There’s less regulatory restrictions now on our farmers.”

Rauner said fewer trucks on the road also diminishes wear and tear to roads that local taxpayers would have to maintain.

State Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton, said increased haul limits also is about safety.

“Less vehicles on the road which is very important with school season now going and schools are back in session,” Severin said.

Starting Monday, haulers can request permits for increased limits from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Article by Greg Bishop, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org 

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