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Council OKs $39,900 Decatur Civic Center usage study – Herald & Review

Council OKs $39,900 Decatur Civic Center usage study – Herald & Review

Council OKs $39,900 Decatur Civic Center usage study The Decatur Civic Center at 1 Gary K. Anderson Plaza is shown.  HERALD & REVIEW FILE PHOTO BRENDEN MOORE DECATUR — As Decatur emerges from the economic pause brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials have authorized a study seeking to determine the best use of

Council OKs $39,900 Decatur Civic Center usage study

Civic Center

The Decatur Civic Center at 1 Gary K. Anderson Plaza is shown. 


DECATUR — As Decatur emerges from the economic pause brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials have authorized a study seeking to determine the best use of the Decatur Civic Center, a potential economic engine they say has long been underutilized. 

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a $39,900 agreement with Hotel & Leisure Advisors, LLC, a Cleveland consulting firm, to conduct a “highest and best use study” for the 40-year-old facility. 

The property is owned and maintained by the Decatur Civic Center Authority, a governmental entity created by state statute. But the city signed a 99-year lease agreement in 1980, the year the facility opened.

The city’s annual rent payments subsidize the facility’s operating losses, which have ranged between $400,000 and $500,000 in recent years. 

“The facility is underutilized,” said city manager Scot Wrighton. “It was underutilized before the pandemic and the pandemic made it worse. And so this is just an attempt to find out if there are other uses that could drive up activity at the civic center in a way that can reduce the the significant subsidy that the city’s general fund pays for this, and makes better use of it in ways that were intended, even when it was developed 40 years ago.”

The facility serves as a municipal office building, event arena and public theatre venue. It regularly hosts hockey-related events, trade shows, exhibit events and other activities in need of larger space. 

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Decatur City Manager Scot Wrighton speaks during a January council meeting. 

City staff and council members were universal in their praise of the civic center’s staff. And the facility has been well-maintained over the years. 

But, with conventions, trade shows and other signals of economic life destined to resume in the near future as pandemic restrictions are relaxed, city officials determined now to be an adequate time to determine how to get the most out of the facility. 

“It’s to everyone’s benefit that we make the most effective use of this space,” said Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe. 

As part of the study, Hotel & Leisure Advisors will analyze several scenarios, including renovations to the facility and expansion of its use as a regional hockey venue. 

The study will also explore whether it would be the best use to covert all or a portion of the civic center to entertainment uses like an aquarium, entertainment retail or “destination” developments; a sporting or recreation venue; food hall, brewpub or other food and beverage options; and a meeting and conference space. 

Council approves purchase of six additional police cars

The vehicles will replace six Ford Interceptors, either 2016 or 2017 models that accumulated between 105,000 to 123,000 miles.

The additional order comes after several council members expressed concern that the city was a year behind in new police vehicle purchases after tabling the issue in 2020 amid fiscal uncertainty.

But, newly flush in federal COVID-19 relief dollars and at the urging of council members, city staff reexamined the issue. 

“Given some of the fiscal, trade and energy decisions made by the federal government, it’s causing us to not only have to deal with anticipating inflationary pressures, but also supply chain issues that I believe have a strong probability … of resulting in the possibility where we may not be able to acquire these same six sometime in 2022, regardless of how much money that you might have available,” Wrighton said. 

Also, the vehicles were available to be delivered within six to eight weeks, significantly less time than the typical six to nine months. 

Fire Station 2 overhead door replacement voted down

In a rare split, the council voted down a contract to replace two overhead garage doors at Fire Station #2, 2707 E. William St., over concerns about the bidding process. 

With a 4-3 vote, the council rejected a $68,400 contract with Bloomington-based Felmley-Dickerson Company.

Councilmen Ed Culp, David Horn, Chuck Kuhle and Rodney Walker voted ‘no,’ with Moore Wolfe, Councilman Bill Faber and Councilwoman Lisa Gregory voting ‘yes.’

Felmley-Dickerson was the second-lowest bidder, with city staff choosing their bid over low-bidder Decatur-based Christy-Foltz due to the latter’s inability to meet the city’s Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) requirements.

Christy-Foltz’s bid was $61,718. 

The city requires contractors to show good faith efforts to meet the city’s goal of 10% of the project amount going towards MBE subcontractors and 18% of total hours to be worked by minority employees. 

Felmley-Dickerson met that 10% threshold while Christly Foltz only reached 2% while not appearing to make a good faith effort, according to city documents. 

But, the company asserted in a letter that it made a good-faith effort as required, but that the limited scope of the work made compliance not possible. 

Wrighton acknowledged that there was some ambiguity.

“I think that there is room for interpretation as to compliance or non-compliance,” Wrighton said. “And so the combination of the fact that that ambiguity, I think, does exist and because the second low bidder was fully in compliance, as well as we’ve also had some very good experience with Felmely-Dickerson … is what leads to the recommendation for Felmely-Dickerson to receive the bid.”

Raising the doors at the station would allow fire apparatus to be moved around to any fire station without being limited by door height.

The department’s new “Truck 2” which cost more than $1 million, must now park in the training building across the parking lot from the station. 

The door project would allow Truck 2 to be parked inside the station when the project is completed.

“While I am 100% supportive of the doors being installed, at the same time, I’m concerned that we have a set of rules for contractors, the contractors put out a bid, and then we’re going to accept the higher bid,” Horn said. 

After the vote, Wrighton said “we’ll sort those things out and bring it back to you at a later time.”

Other action items 

Traffic signals

The council approved a $38,750 agreement with the state of Illinois for traffic signal improvements at the intersection of Eldorado and 24th streets. 

The improvements, at the main entrance to Tate & Lyle, are meant to accommodate the heavy volume of grain trucks accessing their facility at various times.

The work will include improving the traffic signals and installing a left turn arrow to help trucks enter the facility. The company is expected to reimburse the city for the costs. 

A larger project that would have added a left turn lane into the facility was shelved as more employees work remote and thus traffic has decreased. 

Recycling services 

The council approved a new, four-year contract with Midwest Fiber, Inc. to handle the city’s recycling. The contract is an extension of the city’s decade-long relationship with the single-stream recycling facility. 

The current value of recyclables is $76.51 per ton and the current cost of processing is $112.71 per ton, meaning there is an expense of $36.19 to the city, which is partially offset by the a monthly fee charged to city residents. 

The recycling fee currently accounts for about $.29 of the $2.15 monthly fee charged to residents. 

Wrighton said there will be no changes right now to the city’s recycling fee, with the city opting to wait until they have a better idea of what rates garbage haulers will charge. 

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