Economic development plans sparked a long discussion at the Shelbyville City Council meeting this week, along with two other weighty items.

The first order of business, after the consent agenda was approved, was to set a meeting to allow public comment on the city's Appropriations Ordinance. It is set for 5:45 p.m. on Monday, June 17, giving the public 15 minutes to comment on the $25 million ordinance prior to the next Shelbyville City Council Meeting. The ordinance will be on display for the public at Shelbyville City Hall during business hours.

A request to approve funding for Economic Development became a long discussion. In the end, a vote of support, with contingencies, was taken and passed.

Bruce Steinke and Derek Hayden, two members of the Economic Development Corporation, were quizzed at length about plans to hire someone and the annual renewal of the city's portion of their funding.

The questions were not over the need for economic development, but the desire of the Economic Development Corporation to hire a full-time person and how that person would be accountable to the city, which provides half the funding. The county provides the other half. Steinke said that with the resignation of the Greater Shelbyville Chamber of Commerce Director that there is a desire to hire a full-time person to be the director of economic development and the director of the chamber.

"We are in terrible shape in housing," Steinke said. "Industry is hiring. The last eight people IHI Turbo hired at the executive level bought a house out of town. They are going to Effingham, Mt. Zion, even Mattoon. If we maintain the status quo nothing will change. We are taxing the rooftops. IHI Turbo is going to hire for 80-100 jobs and we don't have 80 homes in town."

"When we met we discussed housing and promoting local business," Hayden said. "We also have a big daycare issue in town. Having a director over both would manage both resources more effectively."

Commissioner Martha Firnhaber asked about requirements for a new director.

"Are we going to require that this person would have to live in the city or in the county?" Firnhaber said. "It seems like you already have someone in mind."

"Of the three or four people we have talked to there is one clear candidate," Steinke said. "This person has a degree in economic development and has 10-12 years of history in the field and near to getting a master's degree."

"Who will set the agenda for this person?" Firnhaber asked.

"The intent is to have a job description and goals and this person to report to the city council and the county and the economic development meetings," Hayden said. "We might hire someone to do the event planning for the chamber, but we want someone to do big picture development."

"This would be a contracted position for a couple of years and the person would have to prove his worth or not be renewed," suggested Commissioner Mark Shanks.

Firnhaber continued, "As a council we should know who they are, their background, past accomplishments, if we are going to vote to contribute dollars. Are other communities going to contribute? Looking ahead, would two different communities in the county be found vying against each other? The mayor sits on that board, is that going to be a conflict of interest?"

City Attorney Jack Kiley addressed conflict of interest. "It depends on what the vote is?

Shanks asked if there is a timetable on hiring someone.

"The chamber is struggling right now and needs to hire quickly," Hayden said. "We have chamber members volunteering."

Commissioner Thom Shafer attempted to state what the economic development corporation is needing. "You need our support to negotiate with anyone for this position, to know that we will back you financially? But we don't know who or the amount?"

"If we vote tonight, we lose negotiating power," Firnhaber said. "They can do what they want and we can't vet it. It's only fair to tax-payers to know what they are getting. I'm not in favor of taking action yet."

Shafer said he agreed, "I cannot willingly, until we know who and know a dollar amount."

Erica Firnhaber, the County Treasurer commented. "In an open meeting at the county this was discussed, including a dollar amount and a name, things I've not heard here tonight."

Mayor Johnson said that the city contributes $1400-$1500 a month now and the expectation is that would increase with a full-time person.

Commissioner Shanks made a motion to have a resolution of support for the idea, but with a caveat, "subject to approval of the candidate we are comfortable with."

On that basis, the motion of support carried unanimously.

Another big item on Monday was the approval of an agreement with Zimco Realty, Inc. dba Eastern Illinois Properties to build a multi-family unit apartment complex in Shelbyville. They are looking at 5 1/2 acres behind Triple B Home Center. The council had previously approved a resolution of support and Attorney Kiley authored the pending agreement.

"We have a non-binding memorandum," Kiley said.

The city would have an agreement to reimburse Zimco up to $400,000 for city infrastructure they put in while building the complex. It would be contingent on approval down the line. In the 1st phase, Zimco would construct 16-24 apartments in the $600-$700 a month rental range. In the 2nd phase, they would cap at around 48 units. The land would be in the West Business District and use West Business District funding.

Firnhaber asked if there would be low-income or subsidized housing. Zimco spokesman Nate Zimmer said no. They build for market rates and manage the properties themselves.

"We haven't purchased the ground yet, but we have an option on it," Zimmer said. "We may not need all 5 1/2 acres, so it could be the start of a new subdivision with single family homes."

Firnhaber made a motion for the approval and it passed unanimously.

The third big item on the agenda was an engineering agreement for the Streetscape project downtown. The city is set to receive federal funding for the project.

The "Quality Based Selection Committee" solicited bids for engineering needed and we had 5 candidates," said City Engineer Alan Spesard. "Upchurch Group scored the highest, so we asked them to submit an agreement with an estimated cost."

Spesard said the estimated cost for the engineering is $141,960. There is an Illinois Transportation grant that pays 80% of the cost and the city pays the rest. The funds would come out of the East Business District Fund. IDOT has to approve it also. The agreement was approved by the city council unanimously.

In other business, there was approval on two locations for the downtown free lending library cabinets and benches. Two others will be approved later. A TIF Grant was approved for 126 W Main Street for Brad and Regina Hilbert for improvements for an apartment. The requirements for the TIF grant were met and the grant approved. A backhoe service bid for Brad Agney was approved for sewer work. The proposed beer garden behind the Iron Keg was discussed again, but no action taken.

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