DECATUR — Despite pressure for deeper investment in public safety and violence prevention programs, the Decatur City Council greenlit a spending plan Monday that would pour millions of COVID stimulus funds into key infrastructure and neighborhood revitalization initiatives. The council approved the ordinance, which amends the fiscal year 2021 city budget, 5-1, with Councilman David
DECATUR — Despite pressure for deeper investment in public safety and violence prevention programs, the Decatur City Council greenlit a spending plan Monday that would pour millions of COVID stimulus funds into key infrastructure and neighborhood revitalization initiatives.
The council approved the ordinance, which amends the fiscal year 2021 city budget, 5-1, with Councilman David Horn the lone no vote.
The ordinance also dealt with about $4 million in funds leftover from stimulus programs approved under former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Taken together, about $9 million will be spent on high-priority water and sewer projects, including $6 million for the replacement of a water clarifier at the South Water Treatment Plant, and $3 million between the separation of the combined sanitary and storm sewer system around Oakland and Grand avenues and the reduction of inflow and infiltration in the area around Division Street and Ellen Avenue.
Another $2 million will go toward a plan to invest in the city’s dilapidated housing stock, a major piece of its neighborhood revitalization initiative. It would be a down payment on a larger $7 million plan, with the remainder of the funding coming from the ARP funds to be dispersed next year.
Between ARP and leftover CARES Act funds, another $2 million would be used for demolition, clearing and property acquisition, bringing the combined investment in neighborhood revitalization initiatives up to about one-quarter of all stimulus funds allocated.
Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe called the “big-ticket items” necessary investments for the city and that the stimulus funds may help allow the city to avoid passing off the cost to residents in the form of rate increases.
“That’s basically free money for something taxpayers will have to pay for,” Moore Wolfe said. “These are not things (where) we’re just coming up with new program ideas and something fluffy and fun. This is stuff we have to do as a city.”
The final plan largely mirrored recommendations city manager Scot Wrighton made to the council during a study session in July.
But, in staying the course, a majority of the council opted to punt on infusing additional cash into public safety and violence prevention initiatives.
The topics of stimulus funds and public safety have been intertwined over the past six weeks, with the wives of Decatur police officers being a visible and vocal presence every city council meeting since mid-June.
They have been bringing attention to what they say is low morale in the department and the need to hire more officers. They have also urged council members to show more public support for the department and to back up their words with more financial resources.
Several were in attendance again Monday, calling for more stimulus funds to go towards public safety.
“Considering the rising crime rate in Decatur and the declining numbers of law enforcement officers, the currently-proposed ARP funding for rebuilding the police force and curbing violent crime is not enough,” said Michelle Earlies, the wife of a Decatur police officer. “It does not send the message that the city of Decatur stands behind its officers.”
Horn agreed, fueling his vote against the proposal.
“There is far more need for both reducing gun violence in the short term and community revitalization in the long term than what is in this budget,” he said.
However, other city officials scoffed at the notion that the council was not supportive of law enforcement.
Interim Police Chief Shane Brandel said he felt like the council backed the force, noting that he “made it very clear that if it wasn’t for this council’s support, I wouldn’t have taken the position.”
Horn’s pressing of the issue coupled with his insistence that a discussion be had about increasing masking requirements amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in Macon County, “irritated” Councilwoman Lisa Gregory.
“I have been on this council for six years. Dr. Horn, you have been on this council for four years, and every time you take advantage to manipulate the situation, and you did this because it was opportune for you to do so,” Gregory said. “And I am tired of it, absolutely tired of it.”
On the issue of more funding for the police, Gregory noted that she and Moore Wolfe have been meeting with the police officers’ wives to work on issues like retention and recruitment.
All council members have expressed support for an “overhire,” in which the city would hire more than the budgeted amount of positions in anticipation of upcoming retirements.
And Wrighton said that about $1.8 million in ARP funds remain unallocated. These could easily be diverted to public safety initiatives. Brandel said he will have a better idea soon of how some of those funds could be used within the department.
“As I come in, one of the things that I want to do is do a top down review of what we are doing and what can we do better,” Brandel said.
Also included is $450,000 in ARP funds for rental assistance. Though the city already has an agreement with Decatur-based Dove Inc. to administer the city’s rent, mortgage and utility relief program, the ARP funds are more flexible than existing Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant funds, allowing for money to get out the door quicker to those who need it.
This story will be updated.
48 Olympic athletes with Illinois ties
Aisha Praught-Leer, Jamaica: 1,500-meter run
Alyssa Naeher, United States, soccer
Andrea Filler, Italy, soccer
Casey Krueger, United States, soccer
Darryl Sullivan, United States: High jump
David Kendziera, United States: 400-meter hurdles
David Robertson, United States, baseball
DeAnna Price, United States: Hammer
Eddy Alvarez, United States, baseball
Edwin Jackson, United States, baseball
Eliza Stone, United States: Saber
Evita Griskenas, United States, rhythmic gymnastics
Felicia Stancil, United States: BMX racing
Gwen Berry, United States: Hammer
Jewell Loyd, United States, women’s basketball team
Jordan Wilimovsky, United States: 10-kilometer
Jordyn Poulter, United States, volleyball
Josh Zeid, Israel, baseball
Julie Ertz, United States, soccer
Kelsey Card, United States: Discus
Kelsey Robinson, United States, volleyball
Kent Farrington, United States: Show jumping
Kevin McDowell, United States
Laura Zeng, United States, rhythmic gymnastics
Lauren Doyle, United States, rugby
Maggie Shea, United States, sailing
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, United States, volleyball
Mitch Glasser, Israel, baseball
Nefeli Papadakis, United States, judo
North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics team, United States: Rhythmic gymnastics team competition
Pedrya Seymour, Bahamas: 100-meter hurdles
Rajeev Ram, United States: Men’s doubles
Raven Saunders, United States: Shot put
Ryan Murphy, United States: 100- and 200-meter backstroke
Sandi Morris, United States: Pole vault
Thomas Detry, Belgium, golf
Thomas Jaeschke, United States, volleyball
Thomas Pieters, Belgium, golf
Tierna Davidson, United States, soccer
Tim Federowicz, United States, baseball
Tim Nedow, Canada: Shot put
Tomáš Satoranský, Czech Republic, men’s basketball team
Tori Franklin, United States: Triple jump
Tyson Bull, Australia: Horizontal bar
Zach LaVine, United States, men’s basketball team
Zach Ziemek, United States: Decathlon
Olivia Smoliga, United States: 400-meter freestyle relay
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Deputy Chief Shane Brandel talks about training for police in December 2019.
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