Category Archives: Local Government
By Bernard SchoenburgPolitical Writer
The State Journal-Register
By Bernard Schoenburg
Posted Apr. 5, 2016 at 8:09 PMUpdated at 10:21 PM
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.
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.