A plan supporters touted to spur economic growth and provide more opportunities for youth and families received the go-ahead from the O’Fallon City Council on Monday.
A standing-room-only crowd applauded and cheered loudly when the council approved repealing and replacing the previous hotel/motel tax ordinance for 5 percent so that an additional 4 percent will fund Destination O’Fallon, an economic development project expected to attract more visitors and businesses.
The initiative, which the community development committee recommended Nov. 1, was OK’d on first reading. Ward 2 Alderman Robert Kueker and Ward 4 Alderman Herb Roach voted against it; Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Hagarty was absent.
The second reading on Nov. 21 will be for final approval.
The increase is projected to bring in $1.5 million. O’Fallon collected $815,000 in hotel/motel tax revenue last year and had the lowest tax of any city in St. Clair County.
The multiple-construction project will be completed in phases. Plans to revitalize downtown with a community plaza for such events as farmer’s markets, festivals and parades are part of it, as is expansion of the soccer fields at the O’Fallon Family Sports Park, including lighted, all-weather turf fields. Only two such fields are there now. The projects could cost up to $9.5 million.
We don’t have firm plans, only a concept...I don’t think this is the best way to use tax dollars.
O’Fallon Ward 4 Alderman Herb Roach
Supporters outnumbered its detractors, and several spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting.
A representative of the Scott Gallagher Soccer Club, which has 277 teams for boys and girls in 17 states, including the St. Louis metropolitan area of Missouri and Illinois, presented statistics about the number of rooms booked for tournaments. He said 15,000 rooms could be attributed to soccer teams, bringing $6 million into local communities.
Christian Nieroda of the KIXX United Soccer Club in O’Fallon said the project would benefit growth, similar to a facility in Overland Park, Kan.
“It would really set us apart,” he said.
Young players presented aldermen with soccer balls.
A parent of three daughters who moved to the area seven years ago said that the first thing they looked at was soccer opportunities.
Michael Lamke, who lives in Ward 3, said he had no problem with soccer, but pointed out that the median income in O’Fallon is $76,823 and the average home sells for $191,625.
“More than half of the city is not considered. All lives matter in this town, and the proposal doesn’t seem to address it,” he said.
Lamke noted the lack of workforce housing for people who would be moving here to work at the hospital, McKendree Metro Rec Plex, restaurants and other businesses.
Mayor Gary Graham responded that 92 percent of residents who took a survey supported the initiative and that 30 percent of the city’s housing stock meets affordability state standards.
Others opposed to the initiative included Terry Lysakowski, a former city employee, who raised concerns about not being able to fund infrastructure projects, such as curbs and storm sewers. He also mentioned that he didn’t think the downtown plan would solve current parking issues.
Kueker said he didn’t like the lack of financial information.
“We don’t know if we will get the money back. I don’t think we do,” he said.
Roach preferred going after private companies and mentioned the McKendree Metro Rec Plex was not a factor in this plan.
“I think we should discuss private development, like what McKendree did with the Rec Plex,” he said. “We don’t have firm plans, only a concept...I don’t think this is the best way to use tax dollars.”
It’s a great plan, it’s the right plan — it’s forward-thinking, and I support it.
O’Fallon Ward 1 Alderman Gene McCoskey
Ward 1 Alderman Gene McCoskey chastised Roach for “belittling” a program to benefit youth. “It’s a great plan, it’s the right plan — it’s forward-thinking, and I support it,” he said.
Ward 2 Alderman Jerry Albrecht said O’Fallon needs this boost. “We don’t want to be left out as a destination. We need to keep our downtown alive and vibrant,” he said.
Ward 3 Alderman Matthew Gilreath said as a businessman and coach, he took issue with the comments about not being supportive of lower-income residents. He talked about how hard work allowed him, a kid from the south side of the tracks — who was in both show choir and sports — to have opportunities.
“At the end of the day, I have to represent O’Fallon... Let’s do it.”
Ward 7 Alderman David Cozad said this was for the future of the children, and the city can’t fall behind. With outside residents funding the project, “it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Ward 5 Alderwoman Courtney Marsh said she would love to see the hotels full. “This will bring more revenue into the city.”
In other action:
▪ Chris Hursey was sworn in as a Ward 5 Alderman, replacing Mike Bennett, who resigned Sept. 19 after serving on the council 21 years. He has since remarried and moved to Collinsville. Hursey will serve the remainder of the unexpired term, through April.
▪ Police Chief Eric Van Hook announced the promotion of Lieutenant Kirk Brueggemann to captain, Sergeant David P. Matevey to lieutenant and Officer Eric Buck to sergeant. Mark Berry, who recently retired and is now the District 90 head of safety and security, was also on hand.
▪ The mayor issued a proclamation declaring Amelia Carriel Junior High Cross Country Day in honor of their outstanding achievements. The girls’ team won the state championship on Oct. 15.
The council approved:
▪ A resolution that OK’d use of motor fuel tax funds for the roundabout construction project at Milburn School Road and Old Collinsville Road. They authorized agreement with Lochmueller Group. Motor Fuel Tax funds of $9,700, excluding reimbursed items, will be used.
▪ A resolution for a preliminary construction engineering services agreement with Horner and Shifrin Inc. for the North Green Mount project, which is expected to cost $368,793.
▪ An agreement with Baxmeyer Construction for the North Green Mount Road widening project not to exceed $2,965,950.
▪ A resolution accepting the preliminary plat of Augusta Greens and the Enclave at Augusta Greens.
▪ Academy Sports & Outdoors permit for a grand opening celebration Nov. 18 - 20.
▪ St. Jude Crusaders permit to use Gator’s for a Christmas Tree Lot from Nov. 25 - Dec. 23.
▪ O’Fallon Moose permit to hold a meat shoot at The Hut Nov. 13.
▪ The Highland Animal Center conducting a raffle for a split the pot on Nov. 19 at the Knights of Columbus.
▪ The O’Fallon Panthers bowling team conducting a raffle for bowling balls and gift cards from Nov. 7 - Dec. 12 at St. Clair Bowl.