The Collinsville City Council on Monday night discussed the future of the Miner's Theater now that the Collinsville Area Recreation District has decided to return it to the Miner's Institute Foundation.
Now that CARD no longer wants the building and the expenses that come with improving and repairing it, City Council members have to decide how to handle the TIF funds the district has already received: Should CARD be required to pay those funds back, and if so, at what percentage?
"The City Council can require CARD to give back some of that improvement money," said city manager Scott Williams. "They don't have to, but they can require repayment of those funds. The question the City Council has to decide is are we going to essentially forgive that debt or are we going to hold them responsible for that debt?"
Williams reminded the council members that everything CARD said it was going to do with the money at the Miner's Theater, it did.
"I think it's a question we all have to look at and determine what is the right thing to do here," said Mayor John Miller.
The district bought the theater for $1 in 2009 and part of the terms of the agreement was that if the district ever decided it didn't want the theater any more it had to offer the building back to the foundation.
When CARD first proposed renovating and re-opening the century-old Main Street theater, the city agreed to support the project with up to $100,000 a year from the Main Street tax increment financing fund. Each year, CARD would present last year's improvements and those eligible for the TIF funds would receive partial reimbursement from the city.
Part of the agreement was that CARD look for additional funding and grants to offset the costs of improvements to the building. The district has not been successful in obtaining enough additional funding to keep up the renovations.
"We did this in good faith and we have to abide by the ordinance," said councilwoman Nancy Moss. "I think to give CARD a pass on this is not fair to the taxpayers. CARD brought us this grand scheme and now they want to give it back to the original owners because they couldn't come up with the funds. I don't think we should forgive these monies and I am a bit disturbed that as we were giving them that last payment they were already negotiating with the original owners to give it back. I think we need to abide by the ordinance and get that money back."
Councilman Michael Tognarelli agreed.
"I don't know that we can do anything different without amending the ordinance," he said.
In other city business, the council approved an ordinance rezoning at 1700 Vandalia so a developer can raze and build a new KFC building and approved using TIF funds to reimburse 40 percent of $27,240 TheBank of Edwardsville intends to invest in a new pavement parking lot. The city will reimburse TheBank $10,896 for the improved parking lot.