BELLEVILLE — City leaders on Monday approved $25,000 for LED lights downtown and $25,000 to help pay for consultants working to keep Scott Air Force Base open.
Belleville aldermen voted 9-6 to use Tax Increment Financing District No. 2 money to pay for half of the cost of buying strings of LED, or light-emitting diode, lights. Cost of materials is $50,000.
Two groups representing businesses -- Belleville Main Street and the Downtown Development and Redevelopment Commission -- will each give $12,500.
Mayor Mark Eckert and the business groups believe the lights will create a nice ambiance downtown and make the area safer.
Belleville resident and business owner Patti Law said the lights are a great idea and called them the icing on the cake that will attract visitors.
Belleville resident Michael Hagberg said that if the city wants to improve lighting downtown, officials should work on replacing existing street lights and bulbs that are broken.
Council members who voted against the lights were: Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult, Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden, Ward 6 Alderman Bob White, Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti, Ward 8 Alderman Joe Orlet, and Alderwoman-at-Large Lillian Schneider.
Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle was absent.
Aldermen who spoke against the LED lights said the city should instead use TIF money on fixing streets and sidewalks.
Hayden said the city could put the $25,000 toward buying and retrofitting the new police station planned at 720 W. Main St.
Hult said downtown merchants will benefit most from the "decorative" lights. She equated the lights to adorning downtown with "jewelry" while ignoring sidewalks just a block away that are a mess.
Hult suggested the city loan $25,000 to the two business groups, which will pay the city back in installments. The council voted her proposal down 9-6.
The City Council then voted 13-2 to give $25,000 over the next five years to Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois.
The metro-east economic development group has hired consultants to protect and grow Scott Air Force Base as part of a $3.2 million campaign.
Proponents have said the consultants are necessary in preparing the metro-east military base for the next round of assessments by the Base Realignment and Closure commission in a few years.
The commission decides which bases to keep open, close or consolidate. Among the consulting team is former U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello and retired Air Force Gen. Duncan McNaab.
Hult and Schneider voted against giving the group money.
Hult has said she does not believe that using "lobbyists" will be effective in swaying BRAC decisions because the process is based on a formula.
Before the vote, Hayden asked why the metro-east doesn't just utilize elected representatives to advocate for the Air Force base. He also questioned how much neighboring cities are contributing to the cause.
Eckert said that every congressman in the country will be fighting for their military bases as well, and this effort has been effective in the past.
Eckert said he hopes all metro-east cities will participate. Last week, Eckert said that other cities are probably waiting to see how much Belleville will pledge.
So far, the Leadership Council has gotten $2,500 from Troy, and $50,000 each from Madison and St. Clair counties.
In other news:
*The council voted to approve $2.2 million for sanitary sewer overflow relief improvement required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The bid went to Haier Plumbing.
The project will address drainage and backup issues in the areas on and near Lucinda, Sherman, Muren and C streets.
The plans will next go to the EPA for approval. City officials hope to start the project this summer and complete within the necessary 320 days.
* The council voted unanimously to approve liquor license special permits to the Main Street Brewing Company, expected to open this spring at 4204 W. Main St., and the existing Main Street Market at 8193 W. Main St., which changed owners this year.