By Angela Simmons
LEBANON – The Lebanon City Council members voted to adopt an amended eligibility study and TIF plan that could expand the Lebanon TIF property area by more than double the original projection. Economic Development Resources Project Manager Daniel Schmidt presented the amended study to the council at their first regular July meeting.
“152 acres either already in the city or anticipated to be annexed to the city. Fifty of those acres are improved, 84.5 acres have been determined to be vacant, and the remaining 17 acres have been determined to be right of way,” Schmidt explained, as he pointed to the new, larger area on a map he presented to the council.
The established TIF district is a fraction of the size and sits in one corner corner of the suggested boundaries. The only new businesses included in the new boundaries that Schmidt mentioned by name were the Lebanon Flea Market and Casey’s General Store.
Schmidt said that EDR was asked to figure whether or not the area qualified for TIF redevelopment funds, and found that they qualified based on a few factors, including deterioration of buildings, fences, parking lots, fences and more; Inadequate utilities such as asbestos cement pipe carrying potable water, clay pipe used for sewage, and poor storm drainage; And a lack of growth and equalized assessed value. In fact, the area had a decrease in EAV for three of the five calendar years from 2012-2017 according to Schmidt. All of these factors qualified the improved area for conservation status.
In the vacant area, he noted that there was obsolete platting, deterioration of neighboring structures in the improved areas, and again, decreases in EAV, which qualified the area as “blighted.”
After the council voted to approve the initial TIF district in April 2018, Mayor Rich Wilken said efforts would begin to pursue a larger eligibility study. He hopes to lure some large businesses to the area South of Highway 50 on Route 4, including what he referred to as “light manufacturing and warehouse and distribution” that he said the city has been in the hunt for, but will now be more enticing.
He added that including the area along McAllister is important in case the railroad ever shuts down the line so that the city can expand their industrial and commercial area since they would own the property.
This was only the initial presentation by Schmidt. With the council’s approval, he will now formally begin looking at annexing the properties in what would be the new TIF zone, and City Attorney John Long suggested coordinating efforts to see if there would be any issues with water establishment with customers switching from SLM or Tri-Township Water due to federal statutes that make it necessary to get permission before annexation.
Schmidt and Long will return to the council with any issues, and barring none, EDR will make a final boundary recommendation in August, and the council would vote to adopt a permanent TIF expansion in October.
The council members voted unanimously to move the project forward.
In Other News…
• The council members also unanimously voted to award the new Lebanon Water and Sewer Plant project to Haier Plumbing, pending approval of the EPA grant. Haier made a bid for the project in the amount of $12,132,000. The plant would house not only water and sewer, but all of the city’s public works employees and equipment. The plan is for ground to break this fall.
• A unanimous vote allowed for $209.85 to be spent in addition to $18,000 already allocated for two cameras for Lebanon Police cruisers, as well as better microphones and other equipment. Police Chief David Roth has applied for and secured a grant that will reimburse all of the city’s costs for the equipment itself, but he cautioned the council that the $18,209.85 does not include installation, and he was not sure yet what that amount would be.
• Six of the eight council members returned comments to Personnel Committee Head, Alderman Rick Gale, regarding the AFSCME contract. Gale will compile the comments and then contact AFSCME Representative Ed LaPorte to set a meeting and see what can be done regarding finalizing the contract with the city workers.
Further investigations into the back pay, as well as the continued pay raise, brought to light by Treasurer Paul Grob at the meeting, are ongoing.
Regarding what to do about the back pay payments, Gale said “We have asked for recommendations for resolutions from the Illinois Municipal League regarding the best procedure to handle that, and best procedures to follow, but that is information only at this point.”
In her report, Clerk Luanne Holper said that she and Accountant Barb Cioni would be requiring written requests before processing financial transactions moving forward to prevent further confusion, a move that Alderman Bart Bartholemew said was “Very smart.”