After a plea from Alderman Ross Rosenberg about "listening to the people," the O’Fallon City Council switched its support to naming the new downtown pavilion "O’Fallon Station," dropping its recommendation for "Downtown Plaza."
During the council meeting Monday, Rosenberg presented an amendment in favor of O’Fallon Station, which had been the top vote-getter in a public survey. That resulted in a 7-7 tie vote, with Mayor Herb Roach supporting O’Fallon Station.
Then, the subsequent action establishing O’Fallon Station as the downtown pavilion’s new name earned approval in a 13-1 vote.
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O'Fallon Station was the original name of the city when it was first laid out in 1854 as a settlement around the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad Depot, according to Brian Keller, president of the O’Fallon Historical Society.
Part of the Destination O’Fallon initiative, the new pavilion, to be located near the corner of First and Vine streets downtown, is expected to host small festivals, gatherings, a farmers' market and other events.
Rosenberg said his personal concern was not about the specific name.
“I care, but I, personally, don’t really care what we call the finished project. But since I was elected to speak for the residents of Ward 1, that’s what I feel compelled to do. How many of us (aldermen and women), have campaigned on, or told the voters, that we would represent them and cast a vote on their behalf? I suspect that all of us have,” Rosenberg said.
“In this case, regardless of how many responses the city received, we put out the call for the people’s opinion. The ones who cared enough made a suggestion, thereby casting their vote for what they’d like the name to be. One hundred sixty or 16,000, the people who wanted to be heard spoke up. At the very least, everyone was given the opportunity to be heard,” he said. “At the end of the day, my integrity and credibility mean something. Therefore, I make a motion that we amend the motion and name the project, O’Fallon Station.”
At the Committee of the Whole meeting April 30, the council considered the top five name choices listed after aldermen weighed in on the public survey results.
On April 2, the city asked residents to suggest names for the new downtown pavilion. After collecting 160 responses on an e-survey, the staff created a list with the top 10 submitted names. The council was asked to rank the top 10 names in order. Seven of 14 aldermen did so.
Those combined results were:
▪ 1. O’Fallon Crossing
▪ 2. Vine Street Plaza
▪ 3. Vine Street Market
▪ 4. O’Fallon Depot
▪ 5. O’Fallon Station
The actual residents’ survey, made public at Monday’s council meeting, was:
▪ 1. O’Fallon Station, 20 votes.
▪ 2. Vine Street Plaza, 16 votes.
▪ 3. Vine Street Market, 12 votes.
▪ 4. Downtown O’Fallon Pavilion, 9 votes.
▪ 5. O’Fallon Crossing and O’Fallon Depot, tied at 7 apiece.
At last week’s committee meeting, aldermen argued that Downtown Plaza better reflected the pavilion’s location and intentions.
The light voter turnout was mentioned in comments as well. O’Fallon’s population is 28,281, based on a special census in 2017.
Downtown Plaza was approved by aldermen, 7-5, and advanced to official council action May 7.
Several aldermen commented then that O’Fallon wasn’t necessary in the name, so as not to be confused with O’Fallon, Missouri.
“They stated that using the name O’Fallon would be confusing, whether the event is in Illinois or Missouri — really? So, we shouldn’t use the name O’Fallon in anything, because there is an O’Fallon in Missouri and people might get confused? That seems completely nonsensical,” Rosenberg said.
“The top vote-getter by the citizens was O’Fallon Station. This name received 20 percent more votes than the next closest name. If we really mean it when we say it — that we are elected to give the citizens a voice — here is our chance to prove it,” Rosenberg said.
“Furthermore, to the alderman who previously stated the words ‘station’ or ‘crossing’ don’t have any relevance to the project area, there is historic significance to the area with trains, hence the names do have a local relevance,” Rosenberg said.
Alderman David Cozad agreed on the historical significance, mentioning that the mayor has the 1854 O’Fallon Station map hanging up in his office. He supported the inclusion of the town’s name, too.
“I think we’re making a huge mistake if we don’t have O’Fallon in the name,” he said.
Alderman Matthew Gilreath said the council should consider the survey.
“We shouldn’t change the process we agreed to play by,” he said.
Alderman Ned Drolet remained steadfast in his support for Downtown Plaza, emphasizing 20 votes for O’Fallon Station.
The amendment vote for O’Fallon station was thus: Kevin Hagarty, Matthew Gilreath, Andrew Lopinot, Ray Holden, David Cozad, Richie Meile and Ross Rosenberg for it; Jerry Albrecht, Robert Kueker, Matthew Smallheer, Mark Morton, Courtney Marsh, Ned Drolet and Dan Witt were against it.
In the vote to name the building and surrounding property at 212 E. First St. O’Fallon Station, all but Drolet voted in favor.
The survey asked for submissions, but did not ask residents to rank the submitted names or indicate their preference. This was an advisory survey, as the council made the final decision.
Rosenberg said afterward that he was pleased the process worked. He had heard from people about the decision made at last week’s committee meeting.
“I got a lot of calls from residents, and it was way more than 20,” he said.
Construction is expected to take 90 days, and will begin soon.
Both Korte & Luitjohan Contractors’ bid for construction of the plaza and Rooters Asphalt’s bid for construction of the City Hall parking lot were approved at the council meeting.
The total project is estimated at $1.8 million, with $1.5 million for the pavilion and $300,000 for the parking lot.