O’FALLON – The City Council approved a plan put forth to develop the Downtown area and add multiple new soccer and baseball fields to the O’Fallon Sports Park at Monday night’s meeting.
The council voted 12-2 to approve the plan, which pays for the development through a four percent increase in the city’s hotel/motel tax. Aldermen Herb Roach and Robert Kueker both voted against the proposal.
The development plan, as presented in a preliminary stage, would include a new area downtown with an all-weather pavilion where events could take place. Additionally, new additions at the Sports Park would include nine or ten all weather turf fields equipped with lights, two collegiate sized baseball diamonds which can be converted to small field soccer fields, as well as the construction of new pavilion structures and parking lots.
The city hopes the development at the Sports Park will attract many more soccer tournaments and events, leading to an increase of revenue and growth.
City Administrator Walter Denton said now that the project has been given a green light by the council, work can begin on establishing hard details and firming the ideas up.
“Right now, the plans presented were just concepts. We couldn’t go any father without a commitment from the council one way or the other to proceed. We’ll be hiring design firms to start the process and designing the downtown plaza and the park. We’ll be getting feedback, particularly about the downtown plaza, from the community on what they want to see there,” Denton said.
The timeline on the project is swift and the city hopes to have most of the work completed in time for the opening of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in late 2017.
Mayor Gary Graham did take a moment to expressly say that the development plans will only be paid for by hotel/motel tax revenue and will not involve TIF’s that will impact schools.
“There are no TIF’s being used that will impact schools. This is purely funded by hotel/motel tax, paid by people that come to stay in O’Fallon. That’s what will pay for this and that’s what has paid for the Sports Park out there today. I’ve repeated this for the past ten years or so that the Sports Park costs our average resident about $70 per year. No one has come forward to refute that,” Graham said. “This is a wonderful project. And I’ll tell you, whether I’m the mayor or not the mayor, this will more than pay for itself.“
In other business…
- The Council unanimously approved a change to the Code of Ordinances regarding raffle licenses. Under the change, raffle licenses will still cost $10 but the City Administrator will be allowed to waive bonding requirements and approve the licenses administratively.
This change became necessary when video gaming was approved in the city. It triggered a state requirement that all raffles occurring in establishments with video gaming must be approved by the city. This led to a significant increase of raffle license requests to be included on council agendas. According to city staff, the requests have been routine in nature and have caused hardships by some charitable groups that have had to wait for their raffle licenses to be approved by the council.
Staff determined that since there have not been issues with any previous raffle license requests, it would be easier on the applicants and staff to approve them administratively and leave them off of the City Council meeting agenda.
- During the Clerk’s Report, the council unanimously approved a request from the East St. Louis Class of 1983 to conduct a raffle at St. Clair Bowl for a television on December 10, 2016.