Author Archives: Jamie Munks

City council takes no action on Salvation Army TIF agreement

Aldermen didn’t take action Tuesday on a proposal to extend a redevelopment agreement with the Salvation Army, which provides for roughly $1.1 million in tax increment financing, as the organization looks to move from North Ninth Street to the shuttered Gold’s Gym at 1600 E. Clear Lake Ave.

Questions remain about how exactly the TIF dollars may be used if the project moves to Clear Lake, which is outside of the downtown TIF district.

Some aldermen and members of the public who spoke to the Springfield City Council knocked Mayor Jim Langfelder’s administration for a lack of communication on the relocation issue.

While it was known that city officials had approached the Salvation Army about moving its proposed Springfield headquarters away from a building that sits right next to the 10th Street railroad tracks, the surprise announcement came Friday that Gold’s Gym was the chosen property.

Jim Moll of Hanson Professional Services made a presentation to the council Tuesday on the rail-consolidation project and how it affected the matter.

With the increase in rail traffic as consolidation moves forward, the 100 N. Ninth St. property will lose access onto Jefferson Street, as well as to the east side of the building, which is the side the tracks are located on. That was explained to the Salvation Army earlier on in the process, when different people were leading both the organization and the city, but there were limited options at that point, Moll said.

Salvation Army representatives looked at 45 different sites for its downtown headquarters before settling on North Ninth several years ago. An estimated $500,000 worth of work had already started there.

The theme among the few residents who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting was that they support the Salvation Army’s mission, but they don’t want its local operation, particularly the homeless-shelter component, in their backyards.

“It doesn’t matter where Salvation Army goes, there’s objection,” Langfelder acknowledged.

Salvation Army Maj. Steve Woodard said Tuesday on every project he’s worked on, someone has said they didn’t want the organization in their backyard. But he emphasized that he thinks too many people focus on the homeless shelter without realizing “who all comes to the Salvation Army.”

The organization wants to develop a community center at the former Gold’s Gym, and said it plans to hold open houses on Saturday and next Wednesday to have some discussions about the plans with the community.

When Ward 2 Ald. Herman Senor asked why the Salvation Army wasn’t approaching neighbors about the relocation before the announcement was made, Woodard pointed out the Salvation Army didn’t ask to move; it was approached by the city about moving.

Page 2 of 2 – Woodard said he would have liked to further those communications with neighbors.

Langfelder said anytime the city is involved in negotiations on a property, the price escalates, which is why city and Salvation Army leaders kept it under wraps until Friday.

— Contact Jamie Munks: jamie.munks@sj-r.com, 788-1528, twitter.com/JamieMunksSJR.

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Springfield City Council approves lower Arch coal price

The Springfield City Council on Tuesday approved a contract with Arch Coal and held off on extending a redevelopment agreement with the Salvation Army for tax increment financing funds.

Aldermen voted 7-3 for a contract to purchase coal for a lower price, $35.90 per ton through 2020. City Water, Light and Power buys a substantial amount of the coal produced at the Viper Mine near Elkhart, which Arch owns.

“There’s less risk now, we avoid the capital cost to switch,” CWLP chief utilities engineer Doug Brown said, adding that the move ensures there will be competing coal mines in the area in the future.

The city has been paying as much as $45 per ton for coal, and the new price amounts to $57.9 million in savings for the CWLP. The savings in this fiscal year’s budget will be lower – the budgeted coal price included in the spending plan was $39 per ton.

The approved contract with Arch also calls for the company to remove up to 60,000 tons of ash annually from the Dallman Power Plant for $5 per ton, a decrease from what the city has been paying.

Some aldermen emphasized they want to see those savings used to provide some relief on bills for rate-payers.

The council Tuesday heard again from Foresight Energy, which submitted a competing bid for CWLP’s business, right up until taking a vote on the contract.

Foresight has argued that going with it would save the utility more than $30 million over five years. A company representative said a presentation two weeks ago by CWLP officials “artificially inflated” Foresight’s bid and overstated the capital cost for switching.

“We might be able to save more, but you have that risk,” Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer said of switching companies.

Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner, Ward 4 Ald. John Fulgenzi and Ward 6 Ald. Cory Jobe cast the three “no” votes. Turner said Tuesday she was in a “quandary” about what to do, with lingering unknowns and inconsistency in the numbers presented to aldermen on the savings the utility will see. Turner voiced concern about Arch’s financial situation, including its bankruptcy filing and company layoffs elsewhere, trickling down to affect the local mine.

John Ziegler, chief commercial officer for Arch, said the Viper Mine is a “cash flow positive” operation.

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin, who voted for the Arch contract, commended Foresight’s work, and said it’s in the city’s long-term interest to have two competing mines open in five years, when it will again be negotiating a coal contract.

Potential loss of the CWLP contract raised fears that the Viper Mine might have to close.

— Contact Jamie Munks: jamie.munks@sj-r.com, 788-1528, twitter.com/JamieMunksSJR.

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Neighbors question wisdom of homeless shelter at Gold’s Gym site

Frankie Brooks can see the Gold’s Gym property from her backyard, and it concerned her to learn last week of the Salvation Army’s plans to move into the shuttered business.

Brooks learned about the plans to move the Salvation Army’s operations, which includes a homeless shelter, from a neighbor, who heard about it through news reports, she said.

“Why haven’t we been notified?” Brooks said Monday. “Something should have gone around.”

Brooks questioned whether an area with single-family homes was the best place for a homeless shelter.

“The biggest concern is them camping out in the park behind us,” Brooks said.

Ward 2 Ald. Herman Senor, who represents the neighborhood, has a number of questions about the planned relocation, and also said the Salvation Army “may not be a good mix for the park there in close proximity.”

“That park is used quite a bit by young kids… That creates a concern,” Senor said.

Springfield officials approached Salvation Army Maj. Steve Woodard earlier this year about moving from North Ninth Street, where work on its new headquarters had begun, citing proximity to the 10th Street railroad tracks and parking issues.

Woodard and Mayor Jim Langfelder on Friday announced at a city hall news conference that the project, where about $500,000 worth of work had already been completed, would move about a half a mile to the east, to the former Gold’s Gym, 1600 Clear Lake Ave.

The North Ninth Street building is along the 10th Street railroad tracks. The Helping Hands of Springfield homeless shelter is just east of there, on the other side of the tracks.

“I wish we would have gotten a poll of the neighbors before we got to this step. It seems like things are being done out of order,” Senor said. “I don’t think they’ve (the neighbors) had adequate time to get this information and digest it.”

Among the lingering questions in Senor’s mind is whether the more than $1 million in downtown tax increment financing funds allocated for the Salvation Army project on North Ninth Street can be used for the new proposal at the Gold’s Gym property, which is outside of the TIF district.

Brooks’ neighbor, Mary Adams, said she already sees bottles and other items left in the nearby Comer Cox Park, which she picks up, and expressed concern that the situation might become worse.

“We want peace in our neighborhood,” Adams said. “We want children to be able to go out and play and feel safe. We don’t know what kind of people they serve.”

Page 2 of 2 – Woodard has said that when city officials approached him about the Salvation Army moving, they said the city would need to acquire the 100 N. Ninth St. property within the next decade, as it continues to push toward consolidating rail traffic along the 10th Street corridor.

An intermodal transportation hub is planned for that area as part of the rail consolidation.

Langfelder said Friday his hope was that a neighboring business, Horace Mann, which will see some displaced employee parking as the rail relocation progresses, would purchase the Ninth Street property, which is across the street from the insurance company’s downtown campus.

A 180-space Horace Mann parking lot will be affected by development of the city’s planned transportation center, Ryan Greenier, vice president for investor relations and corporate communications, said Monday.

He said Horace Mann representatives have been in contact with city leaders about the project.

But Horace Mann doesn’t have an agreement in place related to the Ninth Street property with the city, the Springfield Mass Transit District or the Salvation Army, so Greenier said he was “not in a position to comment” about the potential for Horace Mann buying it.

With the Salvation Army’s plans to move, though, putting some Horace Mann parking at the North Ninth Street property “could be a viable option,” Greenier said.

— Contact Jamie Munks: jamie.munks@sj-r.com, 788-1528, twitter.com/JamieMunksSJR.

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