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Pekin buys former funeral home as it eyes future options for City Hall

Pekin City Hall
Tim Shelley
Pekin City Hall

Pekin City Council meetings may soon be held in a former funeral home.

The council voted 4-2 on Monday to purchase the Woolsey building at 301 Broadway St. for $550,000. City Manager John Dossey wrote in a memo that the city is currently strapped for space as staff has grown.

A preliminary site plan calls for code enforcement and information technology to move from City Hall to the building at 301 Broadway. The city council chambers also would move. Dossey said the new chambers would be larger, allowing for a public audience of around 120 people, in addition to the council and city staff. Additional storage space would be created, too.

In the future, the current city hall could be extended up to Broadway if Sabella Street is vacated, Dossey wrote.

Council member Karen Hohimer said buying the building now is a good move.

"We would be landlocking ourselves by not purchasing this property. We have a railroad behind us. We've got a busy street in front of us. We've got Tazewell County next door to us. This is the only opportunity we have for growth, and I will support it," she said.

But council member Lloyd Orrick said he was concerned the money for the purchase is coming from the city Capital Projects Fund.

"My deal here, [the] priority to spend this money is on the roads. Roads, roads, roads. And if we spend it on this, it's coming out of the Capital Fund, there's that much less money for the roads. And I think practically any citizen that drives our roads would say we should spend money on roads," he said.

The building does need some significant upgrades to bring it into line with current code, including upgrades to the sprinkler system and making the restrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilites Act, or ADA.

A potential site plan for the Woolsey Building.
City of Pekin
A potential site plan for the Woolsey Building.

Dossey said much of the work could be done internally to save money, adding there are cost estimates for the work needed, but he recommended keeping those numbers private.

"In conversation with staff, we are concerned that if we put it out, we're setting what we're willing to spend. And that could affect the RFP [request for proposal] and us getting a best quote, so to speak for the labor we seek to install a sprinkler, to do the ADA build out," he said.

Council member Rick Hilst said there should be more transparency, however.

"It's the public's money. Whether anybody thinks that would be detrimental to RFPs, or quotes down the road for those particular projects or that work, I still think the public has a right to know what that cost is. It's their money," Hilst said.

Mayor Mary Burress said nothing is being hidden from the public. She noted that any bids can be obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Dossey said the work will be spread out among the next two or three city budgets. A move likely wouldn't happen for another 18 months to two years.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.