Tuesday, Nov. 18


Council weighs risks; economic development tips scale     Send a link to a friend

By Jan Youngquist

[NOV. 18, 2003]  It was an evening that began full of expectation. Everyone who passed in speaking distance spoke using expressions that intimated just that sentiment: "You ready for this? It's gonna be interesting." A clerk said as she climbed the stairs that she bought a pop to take up, as she had been forewarned, "This may long tonight."

Long it was. Not just long, but thorough. Discussion pertaining to the Diversified business plan intended to bring a Goody's and Dollar Tree to the old Kmart plaza took over two hours. The room heated up quickly, and it wasn't just the closed doors and lots of bodies filling the room. By the end it seemed that guests, development council members, city council members, an attorney for the developer and the city attorney had, as EDC Director Jeff Mayfield often said, "left no known stone unturned" in their quest to make the best decision.

The proposed ordinance addressed making an agreement with the developer, Diversified Acquisition LLC, to develop a business district and enter a redevelopment plan for the property. In the agreement the city is obligated to give the developer $510,000 to be used toward the redevelopment of the property.

The developer is obligated to reimburse the city if either of the businesses fails before the city's loan and costs have been repaid by the new retail sales tax revenues that those businesses generate. Some additional stipulations were identified during the meeting, and the agreement is subject to those changes.

Unease at the financial risk that the endeavor poses to the city factored in five "no" votes, from Aldermen Benny Huskins, David Armbrust, Patrick Madigan, Jonie Tibbs and Buzz Busby. Several said that they felt the city is not in a good enough position to take such risks at this time.

The major concern centered around sales tax revenue shortfalls: What if the stores don't generate enough? What will the city do about timing between when the first loan payment is due and where the funds will come from to cover it? The sales tax revenue that is to cover the loan has a four-month delay before it is received from the state of Illinois. The opening of the stores is scheduled for April. There will likely only be four months of accumulated revenue when the first-year loan payment comes due. It was estimated by City Treasurer Les Plotner that the city will probably need to cover about a $22,000 difference on Dec. 1, 2004.

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Several of the "yes" votes were pronounced following long pauses, possibly indicating deep thought or prayer? In all, the yeses summed five. They were from Aldermen Glenn Shelton, Verl Prather, Steve Fuhrer, Martha Neitzel and Derrick Crane.

Those favoring the step spoke of future jobs, potential to attract additional businesses, increases in sales and property tax revenues, bringing goods and services to town, in general taking a step toward new economic development opportunities.

The vote lay as a 5-5 tie, and Mayor Beth Davis quickly broke it with her solid yes.

Goody's and Dollar Tree will be coming to Lincoln.

An unrelated order of business immediately followed in regard to a compensation plan for city employees. Representatives from the Valic Co. waited more than two hours to make their two-minute proposal. Mayor Davis apologized for keeping them through the laborious discussion that had preceded them.

One of the representatives enthusiastically quipped, "I enjoyed it. It was better than the Monday night drama on CBS."

[Jan Youngquist]

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