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Jacksonville City Council discusses major investments and ordinances

Thomas Clatterbuck

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The Jacksonville City Council had a full slate of issues to discuss at its last meeting, many of which dealt with potential investments for the city. The smallest was a proposal to add vending machines to the Community Park soccer fields. For the proposal to work, the city would need to invest $500 to run electricity to the machines, in exchange for six percent (6%) of the gross revenues.

Jacksonville Main Street also asked the city for sponsorship of the Downtown concert series. The request was for $5,000. Jacksonville Main Street created a new sponsorship tier to accommodate the level of sponsorship the city has provided in the past. The series will be held on Fridays in June and July later this year.

These proposals were small change compared with the Revolving Loans Fund application. The request was for $250,000 to assist with the purchase and renovation of the Northridge Golf Course. This request caused a great deal of discussion, and was not resolved during the meeting. The main justification for considering the proposal was to protect the property values (and property tax revenue) from the neighborhoods around the course. If the course was allowed to become overgrown, or was turned into farmland, residents fear their property values would take a serious blow.

However, the proposal had a number of risks as well. The sheer size of the proposal was an issue, as the Revolving Loans Fund does not have $250,000 to give. Although the fund is loaned out on a largely “first come, first served” basis, there were concerns about totally depleting the fund for one project. Secondly, the loan request was for 30 years at 0.5% interest. Such a long term and low interest rate was also worrisome from an investment perspective. Most of all, the project would make the city a part owner in yet another golf course. As we have previously reported, the city’s existing golf courses already lose a considerable amount of money. Some wondered about the logic of adding more competition to those courses.

The council was not fully decided on what course of action should be taken regarding this proposal, but the prevailing opinion was to invest $125,000 and go from there.

Other city business

Last meeting, the council discussed the city’s firework ordinance for shows at the speedway. After some investigation, it was discovered that current ordinance is much more restrictive regarding firework sales within the city than had previously been realized or enforced. The merchants who were selling commercial fireworks were not properly licensed and had been selling higher grade fireworks to unlicensed individuals than they ought. Resolving this issue required amending the city’s pyrotechnics ordinance. Given the near impossibility of enforcement, it is likely the change will be to simply ban the sale of certain kinds of fireworks within city limits.

Mayor Ezard also notified the council that Lynn Craig had been let go by CMS. Craig had been responsible for maintaining the facilities at the Jacksonville Developmental Center (JDC), including keeping the buildings free of water. Now there will be no one maintaining those buildings. Ezard warned that these buildings do no have “a year or two” for the state to hire a new vendor if the JDC is going to be salvaged for future use. He and the city are pushing to get the position restored as quickly as possible.

Alderman Warmowski presented plans make driving a golf cart while intoxicated a punishable offense for the Lake Jacksonville trails. It may seem obvious, but there are no rules specifically prohibiting DUIs on golf carts in that area. The rules will take effect when those trails are completed.

You can watch the full meetings below.

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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.

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