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February 8, 2013

Chautauqua Survey results discussed at City Council

SHELBYVILLE, IL. — After hearing the results of the recent city-wide survey about the Chautauqua building Monday evening, the Shelbyville City Council is still undecided as to what to do.

The 110-year-old building is showing more signs of stress and age. Proposed restoration work of the building has been broken down into four phases totaling $1.7 million.

About 2,000 surveys were included in recent city water bills, but only 500 were returned.

The survey included two questions:

1. Shall the Chautauqua Auditorium in Forest Park be repaired and restored using City funds?  No    255;    Yes   243.

2. Would you support a property tax increase to fund the repair/restoration?  No  367;  Yes  139

Comments added to the survey included:

- Form a committee

- Hold fundraisers

- Apply for grants

- Need more information about amount of money needed

- There are more important things to spend the money on

- What will the building be used for if repaired

- Tear down the building and put up a more functional one.

“We already have done  the first three (comments),” said Commissioner Bill Shoaff after the results were read aloud.

A Chautauqua committee was formed five years ago and through fundraisers and pledges have raised $120,000 toward project. They have also been applying for grants to help fund the project.

“I think we should give the results to the committee,” said Commissioner Jeff Johnson. “I also think we should be able to match what the committee has raised. It’s the right thing to do.”

Johnson note that the city has helped fund other projects in the park such as the pool, ball fields, and athletic building.

Commissioner Tim McConnell said he is not letting the building be used during the winter in light of recent evaluations of the building.

The auditorium has been used for concerts, plays, weddings, and other activities during recent years.

“I’m scared of the liability,” McConnell said. “I’d love for it to be repaired, but at what cost?”

“I’d like to save it, but we (city) just don’t have the money,” said Commissioner Brent Fogleman.

“It would be a good investment,” Johnson said. “We’ve already spent 180,000 on the alley (between South Morgan and South Broadway), and we’re going to spend another $180,000 on the mini-park.”

“If we match their funds and spend $350,000 to stabilize the building, what do we do with the building?” Fogleman asked. “If we decide not to do anything with the building, we’ll have to tear it down. We spent $300,000 to tear down the Moose building, how much will it cost to tear down the Chautauqua?”

“I don’t feel right using taxpayer money on it,” Shoaff said. “If we don’t take  care of it we will have a big eyesore in the public park.”

Shoaff also suggested salvaging the stage portion of the building and building a new open-sided Chautauqua similar to the one in Pana.

The council decided to present the survey results to the Chautauqua committee and discuss their suggestions  at the March 4 council meeting.

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