The Collinsville City Council spent most of the Monday evening meeting discussing what to do about the Miner's Theater.
The Collinsville Area Recreation District wants to give the historic building back to the Miner's Institute after investing $235,000 in TIF funds in rehabilitating the building. Under the contract involving CARD and the building, the city can either require partial repayment of the money or forgive CARD the debt.
"Staff recommends the debt be forgiven and we can move forward," city manager Scott Williams told the City Council members.
Council members Nancy Moss and Michael Tognarelli expressed concern about what will happen to the building, and the $235,000 investment of taxpayer money, if the Miner's Institute does not have the funds to maintain the building.
"This is really a tough situation," Tognarelli said. "I still haven't made up my mind. I know CARD has a new administration and I have new confidence they will go in the right direction under new leadership, but, we have a responsibility to protect taxpayers. They aren't really selling the building, they are just giving it back."
Under the agreement regarding the building, CARD would have to retain ownership of the building for at least four years before selling it. If the building is sold before four years, CARD would be required under the agreement to reimburse the city 25 percent of the TIF funds for each year or partial year before the four-year term. That amount would equal about $190,000, according to Williams.
"Given the choice of forgiving the debt and allowing something positive to happen in private hands or forcing CARD's hand and making them sit on it for four years isn't in anyone's best interest," Williams added. "It makes little sense to make the taxpayers come up with more money to pay back the taxes to pay back the debt. If the Miner's Theater is going to be a success in the future it's going to have to come from private money."
Moss explained that she is disappointed the building is not in a condition that it could be used for public events, which was the original plan behind CARD's acquisition of the landmark building, especially after investing taxpayer money in the project.
"Now, I'm afraid that if it's turned back over, it's just going to sit there and deteriorate all over again for who knows how long," Moss said. "I'm looking for a compromise where we don't end up in a situation where we have a white elephant building just sitting there. This is a mess and I would certainly not want to see the city put any more money in to it."
The City Council also approved reimbursing the Gateway Center $279,000 in TIF funds for HVAC improvements and repairs to the center.
Councilman Jeff Kypta voted against giving the Gateway Center the TIF fund reimbursement.
"I have a problem with giving them that much money," he explained.
Newly appointed councilwoman, Joyce Biegert, was sworn in at the meeting and will complete former councilwoman Liz Dalton's term. Dalton was elected to the Madison County Board in November. Her term expires in April.
The next regular City Council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14.