By RYAN FERGUSON/Paxton Record correspondent
GIBSON CITY — Mayor Dan Dickey broke a tied vote of the city council, giving the green light for Gibson City to pursue a preliminary engineering study for the "City of Lights" project he proposed earlier this year.
The final tally was split on the $9,000 study, with four council members voting "yes" and four "no." The mayor breaks all council ties, and Dickey voted this week in favor of hiring Clark Dietz for the engineering study and grant writing.
In a related vote, the council approved the formation of a Downtown Revitalization Committee consisting of residents and business owners, both within downtown and other parts of the city.
The committee will meet at least six times each year to brainstorm ideas to facilitate improvements to the downtown area, as well as formulate a comprehensive long-term plan "to reverse the current 'downward' trend."
The committee will also be an integral part of providing feedback on the Clark Dietz engineering plans once completed. Aldermen Dean Kidd and Barb Yeargler will serve as liaisons to the group and report back to the full council.
While there have been several price tags applied to the "City of Lights" project throughout the last two months — $240,000, $300,000, $350,000 — Dickey has stressed that the vote to pursue preliminary engineering does not mean the city will be on the hook to pay any more than a possible $9,000.
Ford County's now-defunct Community Economic Development Foundation (CEDF) donated about $12,000 to the city to be used "for energy-efficiency projects as its council sees fit." The CEDF disbanded last year, and its former board president, Randy Ferguson, said it plans to give similar donations to three other Ford County entities during the next month.
"City of Lights" would involve removing the old-fashioned street lights lining Sangamon Avenue and replacing them with energy-efficient LED street lights on cast-aluminum poles. Also installed on both sides of the street would be in-ground colored LED lights, which would be directed upward at trees and could be programmed to change colors, strobe, or even be synchronized to music.
"Everybody is worried about spending this money," Dickey said of the estimated total costs for the proposed project. "We're not even talking about that. We don't even know what 'this' is. We're trying to find out what 'this' is. That's what this preliminary does, and it's all paid for, still didn't cost the city a penny thanks to CEDF."