New Rec Center In The Works In Litchfield

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A motion approved by the Litchfield City Council on Thursday, March 7, provided the next step in the building of a recreational center in the city in the near future.

Mark Stieren, the chairman of the newly formed non-profit corporation Litchfield Unlimited Corporation, was on hand to answer questions as the group requested TIF funds, up to $100,000, to help with the costs of demolition of the building at 120 West St. John Street.

The corporation bought the site, the previous home of the Litchfield Creamery and Milnot canning operation, at auction in December and plans to level the building and build a recreational center there in the near future.

In a letter to the city, the corporation anticipates that the majority of the construction funds will be provided by the W. Darrell Kilton Foundation, which does not open its grant cycle until March and does not consider grants until May.

The TIF funds would allow the group to begin demolition and other site work. Some cost estimates have already been obtained and were detailed in the letter, including $4,288 to KAM Services for asbestos abatement testing, $13,539 for electrical relocation from D&M Electric, a demolition permit for $2,000 from the city, $100,000 for asbestos abatement from KAM Services and approximately $20,000 in landfill tipping fees.

Stieren said that the asbestos abatement could cost more, up to $200,000, but testing had not been completed yet. Mayor Steve Dougherty said that the amount of TIF funds used for the project would not go up from $100,000 if the asbestos abatement costs do go up.

The letter also stated that the cost of demolition will be done for salvage, with the contractor, Glynn Demolition, believing that there is enough steel and brick in the building to cover his costs. Most of the steel and 70 to 80 percent of the brick will be salvaged, with the remaining brick and ceramic glazed tile hauled away by the contractor and used for erosion protection.

The concrete floors, slabs and footings will be ground on-site and reused to level the property to make a clean safe site in preparation for construction.

Mayor Dougherty said that more information on the project will be available after the corporation meets on March 19. He noted that he and City Administrator Tonya Flannery are ex-officio members of the Litchfield Unlimited Corporation board, but do not vote and just provide input and information. Dougherty said he also has no financial interest in the project. Other board members are members of the Litchfield community who would like to see this project become a reality.

Alderman Ray Kellenberger asked when the project was likely to start. Stieren said it depends on the results of the asbestos abatement, but he hoped to be shovel ready by mid-summer.

The council has used TIF funds for demolition in the past, having done so with the previous AMVETS building in a partnership with the Litchfield Community Development Association.

Mayor Dougherty noted that if the property is not redeveloped into a recreational center within five years, the property would then be given to the city of Litchfield.

The motion passed unanimously, pending final review of the contract by legal counsel.

In other business, the council started the night by meeting interim fire chief, Joe Holomy, who was hired after the closed session of the meeting on Feb. 21. Holomy, who was joined by his wife of 27 years, Mary, said that he had been in fire service for 43 years and also had a son who was a firefighter and paramedic in Country Club Hills.

After accepting the minutes of the Feb. 21 meeting and approving the motion to transfer funds and pay bills, the council approved the purchase of two six-foot backless garden recycled plastic benches and one 55-gallon heavy-duty squared recycled plastic trash receptacle for the Lake Lou Yaeger Marina One comfort station/restroom in the amount of $1,514.90.

In other lake business, the council approved an amendment to the 2019 lake fees to make a correction and passed a motion to spend just $29,700 for preliminary engineering and environmental services for the Lake Lou Yaeger sedimentation basin and shoreline protection project for the Section 319 grant. Ted LaBelle of Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Engineering, who will be doing the work, said that this work will be done to see if the city's first two preferences for the project are possible or if they need to look at other options. He added that there will be a secondary engineering agreement for final design of the project in the future.

The council also approved the establishment of a change order/pay request board for the city's I-55 Commerce Park water main project, approved a proposal from AceSign Co. for a entrance sign at the west side of the city and approved contracting with Evan Lloyd Associates for architectural services on the Carnegie building for an amount not to exceed $11,800.

Flannery said that Evan Lloyd Associates will be working on some design work and finding out what needs to be done at the building, the first step of putting the old library into use after receiving input from the community committee.

The council also approved the solicitation of bids for mowing services, approved the pay request from Legends Underground Utilities for the amount of $236,516.05 for the I-55 Commerce Park water main project and rejected a motion to revise the city's building permit fee structure.

Alderman David Hollo spoke out about the building permit fee revisions, saying that the city already had the most restrictive and expensive fees in the area. He added that housing had been one of the major problems for employees of new businesses and that adding additional costs would not help that.

City Building Inspector Gary Baker said that the revisions were to help the city cover the costs it incurs on certain projects that require him to make multiple visits to the property. He said that the fee increases for certain projects would bring the city more in line with other communities who have similar building codes, such as Springfield and Decatur.

Alderman Woodrow Street asked what the permits are for Hillsboro and Carlinville. Baker said that they don't have permit restrictions like Litchfield does and Litchfield is one of the few cities of its size that has building codes.

Hollo also expressed concern over changing the policy that homeowners don't need to have a permit. Baker said the reason for the change was to protect the next buyer of the property, saying that there is no oversight if a homeowner does sub-standard work.

The motion would split the council down the middle, with Hollo, Marilyn Sisson, Tim Wright and Woody Street voting no and Dwayne Gerl, Ray Kellenberger, Mark Brown and Kassidy Paine voting yes. Mayor Dougherty would vote no to break the tie, saying that he thought the revisions should be revisited in the future, perhaps with some amendments.

The council would go into closed session at 7:19 p.m. and would reconvene with no further action minutes later. The next meeting will be held on Thursday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m.

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