During Tuesday’s city community development committee meeting, the plan to turn O’Fallon into a destination became closer to reality. Many of the 60 people who attended supported the idea, and the plan unanimously passed the committee.
Destination O’Fallon now goes before the full City Council at 7 p.m. Monday.
Destination O’Fallon includes a number of projects and community investments. The two largest are a state-of-the-art multi-sports complex in the O’Fallon Family Sports Park with the addition of multiple new all-weather turf fields and a new multipurpose community plaza in downtown O’Fallon.
“This is a special community, and we need to look like one, and city council, businesses and residents have all made efforts to make this a special place. People judge a community by its downtown, and we need to improve upon that,” said Ted Shekell, the city’s community development director.
Christian Nieroda said he and his family moved to O’Fallon in 2006 because of the high level of infrastructure. As a coach and father to one of the 11 girls on his soccer team for KIXX United, Nieroda said the team has to travel to Creve Coeur, Mo., for games weekly, which he would like to see change.
“I think that we need to continue to progress if we are going to continue to attract young families and keep the families that are here. We are at the Family Sports Park several times a week and there just isn’t the space for all the teams,” Nieroda said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of if you should, it needs to be done (because) our community is growing — it’s a sleeping giant, and if we are going to wake that sleeping giant we need to continue to invest in the infrastructure that is this community. If we don’t, we are going to get passed.”
The plan incorporates the consideration of increasing the current 5 percent O’Fallon Hotel/Motel Tax another 4 percent in order to cover paying for the multiple construction projects for the comprehensive plan’s outline to attract more visitors and businesses to town. With $815,000 in annual revenue, O’Fallon has the lowest Hotel/Motel Tax in the region, according to city officials, with Belleville sitting at 8 percent.
One of the challenges of this proposal is how to do this without bringing costs to our taxpayers, and so we feel pretty good about this, and are ready to take the next step forward.
Walter Denton, city administrator
With the proposed increase, the city projects the current annual revenue would increase to about $1.5 million.
“We don’t want to burden our residents with increasing more taxes, so we felt this was a reasonable and conservative way to cover the cost of the project’s construction,” said Walter Denton, city administrator.
The project’s estimate cost is about $9.5 million. City officials have proposed taking out a bond and using the current hotel/motel tax to pay for it.
“One of the challenges of this proposal is how to do this without bringing costs to our taxpayers, and so we feel pretty good about this, and are ready to take the next step forward,” Denton said.
Jerry Albrecht, ward 2 alderman, reminded meeting attendees that no plans are set in stone yet. “This is all conceptual,” he said. “No contracts have been signed.”
Denton presented the conceptual plan during a power point presentation that is available through the city’s website. The meeting lasted more than two hours.
The committee heard comments and questions about the initiative from about a dozen people in attendance. The majority of those who addressed the committee spoke in support. About four individuals raised concerns about the need to fund other projects in town such as storm sewer infrastructure.
Stewart Drolet, of O’Fallon, said he’s not against the project. But he does want the city to carefully consider how the project will affect the city in the future.
“Do we actually have the beds available for this? You talk about a 16-18 year life on the port, but we’re talking about a 20-year bond. That sort of sounds like what we did before with the roads before when we came through and took away all of the chip and oil, we put down asphalt, and put out bonds for it and we are still paying on the bonds but the roads have to be redone,” Drolet said.
Mary Jeanne Hutchison, the city’s park and recreation director, spoke about the growing demand for more fields and parking at the Family Sports Park, where there are only two lighted fields. Only one has all-weather turf.
She said O’Fallon could benefit from the plan.
“Sometimes it’s hard to have vision to see, I know some are thinking, ‘why would you want to do this?’ if you’re not involved in these types of activities, it’s about going out there and getting involved and seeing what’s going on,” Hutchison said. “Will this happen overnight? No. We’ve grown over the last few years, and we had developed in 2005 with our initial fields and walking trail ... the soccer fields were laid out with a very basic level of infrastructure ... so what has evolved over time is we were the hub for Southern Illinois for quite a few large tournaments and when we added our artificial field we we were one of the first in the area to have one, so this is our vision for the future.”
Gene McCoskey, ward 1 alderman, described Destination O’Fallon as a “forward thinking” project that he supports.
“This will allow O’Fallon to be a gateway for economic growth, and we think that with this when the hospital (St. Elizabeth’s) opens in 2017, we would be destined for greatness and showcase ourselves as a premiere community, not just in the metro-east, but also in the St. Louis metro area,” Denton said.
The first reading for the economic development initiative is at 7 p.m., Monday. A second reading is at 7 p.m. Nov. 21.
For more information, visit www.destinationofallon.org.