The Collinsville City Council approved spending $423,940 to build three small, aesthetic parks in the uptown area.
The three urban parks, referred to as "pocket parks," will be built in the greenspaces next to Home Furniture, Ashmann's Pharmacy and the former Bert's Chuckwagon site. The council has been discussing the plans for the parks for about three years since the new Illinois 159 was built by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
"I was hoping it would come in less than this," said councilwoman Nancy Moss. "These are really tiny, tiny slivers of land. I'm concerned about the amount of money that will be spent on this. It's a lot of money for some really narrow strips of land."
The parks will not be parks in the traditional sense. There will be no playground equipment or ballfields. Instead, the parks will be purely aesthetic with plantings, decorative paving, a sculpture, a brick wall, a Collinsville sign, flower pots, benches and paths.
Councilman Michael Tognarelli reminded the council the original plans have been reduced from about a $1 million price tag. The parks will be funded with TIF money.
"We've scaled it down and picked it apart," he said. "This is a beautiful thing for our city. We need to be noticed. I'm totally for this project. I think it's a great thing that will enhance our city and people will notice us. That's what the TIF money is for - to enhance."
Councilwoman Karen Woolard voted against approving the contract for the parks.
The contract for the construction and a one-year maintenance contract on the parks went to C&H Grading and Excavating, Inc.
The council also unanimously approved an ordinance that would require customers of out-of-state natural gas suppliers to pay the same 1.25 percent utility tax paid by those who get their natural gas from in-state companies. The current ordinance applies only to those customers who purchase their natural gas from in Illinois. With current utility deregulation, more people are shopping around for gas and electric.
The ordinance does not create a new tax, it assures all residents are paying the same tax on their natural gas, no matter where they buy it.