High school project pulled from Danville council agenda

DANVILLE - Aldermen will not be voting Tuesday night on a $980,000 project for campus improvements at Danville High School, because it was removed from the city council's agenda on Monday.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said in an e-mail Monday that after speaking with Alderman Michael Puhr, chairman of the city council's public works committee, city officials want to provide information requested by aldermen in advance of the vote on the project and decided it would be best to delay consideration of the project. Eisenhauer's e-mail did not specify what information, but he said in an interview later on Monday that not only have aldermen requested information but city administration officials also have information they want to present.

At issue is an approximately $1 million project to improve the appearance, pedestrian safety and infrastructure, including drainage, parking areas, sidewalks, curbs and gutters and landscaping, on the west side of Danville High where the vast majority of students, faculty, staff and visitors enter the campus. The project would be paid for using about $484,000 in tax increment financing money.

Eisenhauer said some of the requests for information include examples of other projects across Illinois that demonstrate that this proposed project at DHS is line with how other tax-increment funds are being used, as well as a timeline of the project.

"There's just been bits and pieces here and there, so we figured we would take the time to put it all together and get it out to people," Eisenhauer said.

Puhr said information that's been requested also includes the history of the local Midtown tax increment finance district, which includes the Danville High campus. Puhr said some aldermen were not on the city council several years ago when that district was created with the understanding that the Danville school district would be giving up tax revenue as a result, more than $900,000 since 2005, according to city administration officials.

"We just want to educate the aldermen and get more information out to the public as to what the true costs are," Puhr said Monday.

Last week, the city council's public works committee considered resolutions that would have moved the project forward, including the low bid for the project from Midwest Asphalt for $986,487. But three aldermen on that committee, Bill Black, Ward 7, Jon Cooper, Ward 6 and Rickey Williams Jr., Ward 1, all voted no on the resolution to award the construction bid. The other two aldermen at that meeting, Puhr, Ward 5, and Mike O'Kane, Ward 4, voted in favor of it, and two were absent, Rick Strebing, Ward 2, and Bill Gilbert, Ward 3.

So on a 2-3 vote, the bid resolution moved to the full council for consideration at tonight's city council meeting with no recommendation from the public works committee.

Last year, the city won a $750,000 Illinois Environmental Protection Agency grant for the project, but some aldermen object to using an additional $519,000 in local tax dollars for the project, including about $484,000 from the city's Midtown TIF fund. Black has argued that this is not a good project for use of those dollars.

Created in 2005, the Midtown TIF is a designated area in the middle of the city. Revenue generated from increases in the property tax base in that district since 2005 are diverted from the various taxing bodies, including the school district, and placed in a fund controlled by the city. Those funds can be spent in various ways, but only within the district and are generally geared toward improvements that will spur economic development and a continued increase in the property tax base.

Since 2005, $909,103 in property tax revenue that would have gone to the Danville school district has been diverted into the city's TIF fund.

City officials approached the district several years ago about forming the Midtown TIF district and talked about the possibility of using TIF money to help improve the area around Danville High as a gateway to the community.

Eisenhauer said in the e-mail Monday that the agenda items concerning the DHS project will be placed on an agenda during the month of April once city officials have distributed additional information requested by aldermen. Puhr said delaying consideration of the resolutions would not affect the low bid, which will still stand in April.

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