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City approves lifeline for Lincoln Home

Thomas Clatterbuck

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picture from Lincoln Home site Facebook page

The Lincoln Home site received a new lifeline from the City of Springfield tonight. The City Council unanimously approved funding for the site if there was another government shutdown. This $50,000 fund will ensure the home stays open with nine employees, even if the government is closed.

The Shutdown’s local impact

Earlier this year, the government was shut down for several weeks. Most nonessential personnel were furloughed; including the National Park staff at the Lincoln Home site. January is not a peak time for tourism, so the impact was modest. But city officials worried what would happen if there was another shutdown during the busy April to July season.

Lincoln is one of the main tourism draws for the city. Scott Dahl, Executive Director of the Tourism and Visitors Bureau, puts the economic impact of just the Lincoln sites at easily $250,000 per year. Although the home is not the only Lincoln site, it is one of the biggest draws. It is also the only Federally managed site.

Dahl said state control of the other sites is something of a mixed blessing. Although the other Lincoln sites like the library were open, many people incorrectly believed that they were closed as well. Even in the dead of winter, this had a noticeable impact on tourism.

Springfield is open for business

In order to keep the Home open all summer, the council approved a potential bailout for the site. If another shutdown does occur, the Mayor can transfer up to $50,000 to the site to keep it open with minimal staff. The transfer is a donation, rather than a loan; the city will not be reimbursed by the federal government. The council stressed that this would still have to be initiated by the city, and would not automatically activate in the event of a shutdown. Dahl said the decision to spend the money would be driven by visitor data, and be saved for the busiest months.

While Alderman Hanauer did say the city giving the feds money is really the opposite of what they want, the council fully supported the plan. Alderman Redpath said that the $50,000 was a “drop in the bucket” compared with the goodwill and revenue generated by keeping the home open. No one at the city wants there to be another shutdown, but now they know Lincoln tourism has a new safeguard.

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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.

Local

Jacksonville City Council approves cost savings in Clerk’s office

Thomas Clatterbuck

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The City Clerk’s office in Jacksonville is about to get a little smaller. Come April, the payroll functions of the office will be outsourced to Kerber, Eck & Braeckel. This firm will be taking over the role that will be left vacant when a longtime payroll clerk retires.

By outsourcing, the city should save between $10,000 and $20,000 per year. While the salary will be the same, hidden costs such as pensions and insurance will not have to be paid. Hiring an expert also saves training costs, which are especially high with the numerous payroll contracts the city handles.  Kerber, Eck & Braeckel are based in Springfield, and the city would have preferred to hire a Jacksonville. However, the only firm in Jacksonville that could perform the function also handles the city audits, making them ineligible for this contract.

Downtown TIF

The Council also approved a $37,000 TIF application for the downtown Amvets Club. The owners plan significant renovations to the inside of the facility, including plumbing, electrical, and flooring upgrades. TIF funds will account for 50 percent of the project costs.

Fire Department Promotions

The Jacksonville Fire Department also welcomed three new firemen onto the force. They had their swearing in ceremony during the chamber session, which can be seen in the player above.

You can also watch the workshop session in the player below.

During the public comment section, the speaker inadvertently turned off the podium microphone, which is why the sound cuts out during his remarks.

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Announcements

Boil Order issued for parts of Deerfield Subdivision

Staff Contributor

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Press Release | City Water, Light and Power is issuing a boil order for parts of Deerfield subdivision, where a water service was repaired recently. Customers affected who are receiving notices today include these duplexes in Deerfield subdivision:

5300 thru 5411 Biltmore Dr.
2300 thru 2414 Asheville Dr.
2300 thru 2411 Knoxville Dr.
2204 & 2205 Thrasher Dr. & 5304 & 5305 Murre Dr.

Customers affected should boil all tap water used for drinking or cooking before use until this order is lifted. Water should be brought to a “rolling” boil for five minutes and then cooled before use when appropriate.

This boil order follows repair work to a water service on Asheville Drive. Per regulations, the main was flushed and multiple water samples were taken. One set of the samples did not fully meet CWLP water quality standards. Additional water quality sampling is being done to confirm that the water meets all standards and at such time, this boil order would be lifted.

When the boil order is lifted, which at the earliest would be this Friday afternoon, March 22, it will be announced by door to door notifications to customers affected and on CWLP’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/4CWLP and Twitter page, www.twitter.com/cwlp_. Customers affected wanting more information on their service may also call the Water Communications Desk at 789-2323 ext. 2.

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Business

Washington Street redevelopment gets TIF support

Thomas Clatterbuck

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A new downtown hotel development took a big step forward at the Springfield City Council Meeting. DK Collection SPI received $7.65 million in TIF funding to incentivize their $56 million project. These funds will offset property taxes once the project is completed. Unlike some TIF projects, the hotel will only get the TIF benefit after the construction is completed and it starts to owe taxes. However, the developers said that this support was key to making the project a viable investment.

The development will be more than just a hotel, and will include both luxury apartments and various entertainment venues. During construction, it should create between 400 to 600 jobs, including 15 to 30 summer jobs for local youths. The site itself will employ 130 to 150 full and part time positions.

The council was very supportive of the new development. In addition to the initial jobs and investment, there are hopes that it will draw more conventions and visitors to Springfield. Although there were some concerns about adding competition, the extended-stay style of the new hotel was seen as filling a different niche in the tourism scene.

Parking was the only serious concern for the development. Springfield may have more downtown parking than many cities, but adding several hundred new jobs and visitors creates a logistical challenge. Existing parking companies downtown expressed their concerns about the potential displacement of people who currently park in the areas that will be redeveloped. Alderman Joe McMenamin echoed these concerns, and suggested that the council was moving too quickly to approve the project. McMenamin referenced the Hy-Vee TIF project, where he said taking more time led to better outcomes for both the developer and the city.

Other aldermen disagreed. Alderman Andrew Proctor said that he had received no complains or messages about the potential parking issue. Mayor Langfelder said that parking patterns shift over the course of the day, and that lots that are under-utilized at night could be looked at to alleviate any shortage. The developer also said that since the last meeting, they had negotiated with other property owners downtown and changed some of their designed, and had added a significant amount of parking to their plan.

After calling the question to end debate, the Council voted 9-1 in favor of approving the TIF funds. Despite voting against the measure tonight, McMenamin later said that he was fully in favor of the project, but not how the council had moved the issue forward.

You can watch the final discussion in the player above, or the developer’s initial presentation in the player below.

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