Belleville council OKs $425K in TIF funds for senior living projects

News-DemocratOctober 21, 2013 

Belleville Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle reads a statement during the Belleville City Council meeting on Oct. 21. In this excerpt, Randle explains why the city should not give TIF funds to help nonprofits — in this case, St. Paul's Home — that are not on property tax rolls.

BNDJLEE

— The City Council on Monday voted to approve up to $425,000 in tax increment financing funds to help with demolition for two new senior living center projects.

Councilmen were unanimous in their decision to reimburse $175,000 in demolition costs to The Cottages at Cathedral Square.

The $8.2 million senior living community at 100 W. Harrison St. by St. Peter's Cathedral is expected to break ground November.

The Cottages will have 32 units. The agreement states The Cottages has to create two on-site management jobs within the first year and stay open at the site for at least five years.

Aldermen, however, were divided in a 10-6 vote to approve $250,000 in demolition costs for St. Paul's Home.

Those who voted "no" were concerned about giving funds to the nonprofit nursing home and thus setting a precedent for other nonprofits to ask the city for help.

"They're going to come to us with their hands holding out," Alderwoman-At-Large Lillian Schneider said.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert clarified that the incentives given to St. Paul's is not the first time the city helped a nonprofit with a development project. A similar business agreement helped the building of the downtown YMCA, Eckert said.

St. Paul's is planning a new $29.5 million facility with about 130 beds at their current location, 1021 W. E St.

As part of the agreement, St. Paul's has to retain 54 full-time jobs and 16 part-time jobs; create five full-time jobs in the first year and stay open at the site for at least five years.

Demolition funds for both nursing homes will come from Tax Increment Financing Fund No. 3.

Those who voted no on the St. Paul's Home project were: Schneider, Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle, Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult, Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden, Ward 6 Alderman Bob White and Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti.

Randle spoke for about six minutes, reading a statement about why he was against the St. Paul's incentives.

"What will be the criteria for the next application?" Randle said. "Will $29.5 million be the new threshold?... Is $250,000 the top end for the TIF amount? What happens when TIF goes away and our streets and other infrastructure have sat on hold while we fund nonprofits?"

And Randle asked, what about other churches, fraternal organizations, unions and bar associations?

In response to supporters' claims the St. Paul's development will improve property values and the area as a whole, Randle questioned how the project will help individual homeowners.

"How has my home been improved?" Randle said. "No, it is my wallet that has been altered."

Ward 2 Alderwoman Janet Schmidt said the St. Paul's project is in her ward and residents have said they find the nursing home's investment in the area "uplifting."

Nursing home tenants and their visitors will spend money in the city, Schmidt said. And, residents will get residual benefits such as more of a police presence and street repairs due to the project.

"For $250,000, we're getting a very good deal," Schmidt said.

Hayden said he voted against giving TIF money to St. Paul's, but for giving money to The Cottages located in his ward, because of the difference that The Cottages will be done through a for-profit entity and therefore going back onto property tax rolls.

Also on Monday:

* The council approved the hiring of two police officers. The Police Department will see one new hire sworn in on Oct. 29, and some promotions soon after, due to the retirement of Belleville Police Lt. Doug Jones.

Jones served for 27 years. His retirement will make way for the promotion of his brother, Sgt. Tim Jones, to lieutenant.

The second new officer will be hired in December after a current Belleville officer is assigned to the Crime Free Housing Program, which is in effect this year.

The Police Department has 82 sworn officers. The hiring of an officer through the crime-free housing ordinance will bring the number of sworn officers to 83.

*The council approved a $107,000 contract with TWM for engineering work on the development of about 173 acres that will be the Belle Valley III industrial park.

The funds will come from adjoining TIF No. 3 though the site is part of TIF No. 21.

The first phase includes the design of about 40 lots and a 0.7-mile main access road from Illinois 13 to Tower Plaza Drive.

The second phase includes about 12 lots in a Federal Emergency Management Agency designated flood plain zone.

*The council approved the fiscal year 2012-13 financial audit done by C.J. Schlosser & Co. and decided to hire the firm for the fiscal year 2013-14 financial audit.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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