Harrisburg began the process of created a new Tax Increment Finance District in an effort to rebuild the downtown during Thursday night's meeting.
Keith Moran, president of Moran Economic Development, described the TIF as "The Harrisburg Downtown TIF" and said he predicted this would become the TIF's name in future discussions.
The 23-year TIF allows the city to offer tax incentives to businesses and residents wanting to build or remodel. As property taxes increase due to the renovations, the increment amount between the old property tax and increased property tax amount goes into the TIF fund which is drawn upon to fund infrastructure improvements, thus enticing more development to happen.
The TIF encompasses roughly one or two blocks north and south of Poplar Street which is considered the "downtown" area of the city and some property along South and North Commercial Street. But the bulk of the TIF area is in the Dorris Heights area extending to the area of the Harrisburg levee north of town and a significant area north and west of of the Bill Franks Way state Route 13 bypass to St. Mary's Drive.
Council approved a TIF inducement resolution that allows the city to use future TIF fund revenues to reimburse costs incurred from the general fund for the TIF's creation.
Council approved a TIF feasibility resolution which is a resolution to notify taxing bodies the city is pursuing the TIF.
Council approved a TIF ordinance establishing interested parties registry and rules that allows people to receive the same TIF-related documents council receives. Applications for people to receive those documents will be available at City Hall after a legal notification is published in "The Daily Register." Moran said people could get the same information from a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to the city.
Council also approved the TIF preliminary area.
Moran said council members need to examine the preliminary TIF area map and make a firm decision on the boundaries by the Sept. 5 meeting. He said council may want to extend the TIF down South Main Street or south of the state Route 13 Bypass to include West Logan Street or West Elm Street.
"The TIF is for 23 years, so we want to get this right the first time," Moran said.
Moran's timeline of procedures required for initiating the TIF predicts if there are no hang ups the council will be officially adopting the TIF in the Nov. 21, 2013, meeting.
Ron Fearheiley said in the coming years council would like to see remodeled businesses and storefronts around the Harrisburg, vacant downtown buildings being occupied, new street lights and sidewalks.
"I think this is good step for the city of Harrisburg," Commissioner John McPeek said.
"I do, too. I'm excited for you," Moran said.
Page 2 of 3 - Applications for individuals who would like to take advantage of the TIF incentives will be available at Harrisburg City Hall at a future date.
Commissioner Dale Fowler said the Southern Illinois University School of Journalism will be working in Harrisburg over the weekend of Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 learning about the city's people, businesses, churches, schools, organizations and activities. The end result will be a book to be called "A Weekend in Harrisburg." SIU has created the books "A Weekend in Cobden & Alto Pass," "A Weekend in Carterville, Cambria & Crainville" and "A Weekend in Chester."
"All this is going to do is support Harrisburg," Fowler said.
The city will receive 250 copies to sell.
The school intends to bring 55 people into town — some students and some professional journalists acting as coaches — will house them in town overnight and then will send them on assignments throughout the city.
Fowler said the timing is good in that it is the same weekend as the "Bluegrass and Barbecue Festival."
Tornado reconstruction grant
Prior to announcing bills to be paid from the $2.5 million tornado reconstruction grant to grant administrator Roy Adams — which he would in turn pay to contractors doing the rebuilding or new construction work — McPeek made clear the relationship between Adams and the city.
He said Adams is employed by the state of Illinois and Tim Call of the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. People have called the city with issues regarding Adams' operation and wanting to know who is holding him accountable.
"Call Tim Call in Springfield," McPeek said.
"He'll tell you the same thing he tells me, 'It's none of your business,'" McPeek said.
McPeek said Adams decides who is eligible for the grant money and how the work is done, not the city.
McPeek said working with Adams eight new houses have been constructed from the ground up and about 40 have been reconstructed.
McPeek also said people are concerned about the Gaskins City street reconstruction work funded by DCEO and Illinois Department of Transportation. Contractor E.T. Simonds has taken two weeks away from the job, but should be back to work next week.
"I know a lot of people may not be happy about the way it's being done, but this is a huge project," McPeek said.
"This is going to be one of the newest streets in Illinois once it's said and done."
He also reported street lights on the state Route 13 Bypass are now working.
Fowler said the city is in talks with Frank Sisk, owner of Precision Mine Equipment about using unite spray-on concrete to stabilize the masonry at the entrance to City Hall.
Page 3 of 3 - "Right now it's safe," Street Superintendent Rick Brown said.
During the meeting:
Council approved paying the final two bills from its Operation STORM tornado relieve fund: $3,000 to Harrisburg Furniture for a family that lost all the home's furniture in the Feb. 29, 2012, tornado and $1,587 to Cardinal Buildings for an outbuilding lost in the tornado.
"Jerry King (of Operation STORM) said this is the last bill we'll get from them," Mayor Ron Crank said.
Council authorized Crank to sign an agreement with Raleigh Water District to conclude a disagreement on water bills.
Council voted to keep the last six months of closed session minutes closed and took no action on closed session topics of contract negotiations or personnel.
Council approved a new taxi cab ordinance requiring an annual fee increase from $40 to $100 and a requirement driver's provide proof of driver's license, registration and insurance.
Council formalized an agreement with electrical aggregation company Select Energy to utilize the company's services to buy electricity in bulk if voters approve such a referendum in the spring election.