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Washington agrees to give Five Points a break on payments

City Attorney Keith Braskich and Washington Mayor Gary Manier listen to a speaker during public comment Monday at a Washington City Council committee of the whole meeting.
Steve Stein
City Attorney Keith Braskich and Washington Mayor Gary Manier listen to a speaker during public comment Monday at a Washington City Council committee of the whole meeting.

The Five Points Washington board's request for financial relief from the money the multi-purpose facility owes the city received a thumbs-up Monday from the Washington City Council at its monthly committee of the whole meeting.

Facing expensive infrastructure projects on the heels of slowdowns in the use of its banquet halls and theater caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Five Points board is asking the city to change a 2010 agreement that requires Five Points to pay an annual sum toward the city's payoff of a $5 million construction bond it issued for the 16-year-old facility.

Alderperson Mike Brownfield, the city's representative on the Five Points board, said helping Five Points with its financial issues is crucial for the city.

"If God forbid the economy tanked and Five Points fails, the city gets the building," he said. "Then what do we do?"

Five Points board chair Sherril West, who was in the audience at the meeting, said, "I can assure you nobody on our board wants that to happen," referring to a city takeover of the building.

Mayor Gary Manier said Five Points is a major reason for Washington's growth, "a great tool for Realtors," and the city should help it.

The city established a .25% sales tax in 2006 to pay for the bond.

Since then, the sales tax has created enough revenue to make the annual bond payment in every year except 2008 and 2010.

In fact, the sales tax has produced an additional $1.6 million in revenue for the city through the years that has been used for city projects.

Five Points officials agreed in 2010 to pay the city $50,000 annually for 10 years starting in 2011 and $75,000 annually for 10 years starting in 2021 to help pay for the bond.

In the wake of the pandemic, city council changed the payments to $50,000 for 2021, 2022 and 2023 and an additional $75,000 payment was added for 2031.

Five Points has paid the city $650,000 through the years in the annual payments. Another $600,000 remains to be paid over eight years starting in 2024.

The Five Points board wants the annual payment to be eliminated if the sales tax covers an annual bond payment. If the payment isn't covered, Five Points' payment to the city would be no more than $75,000.

The bond the city took out is now a bank loan that is scheduled to be paid off in 2026.

Some alderpersons want to see the Five Points bond sales tax eliminated after the bank loan is paid off.

"If we don't eliminate it, then taxpayers were told a blatant lie about its use," said Alderperson John Blundy.

Other alderpersons said it would be foolish to get rid of the sales tax because it has been so useful for the city over the years.

"We have so many things that need to get done. Roads on the east side of town, for example," said Alderperson Brett Adams. "We should designate this sales tax for something else after the Five Points loan is paid off."

Manier reminded alderpersons that they were talking about a sales tax and not a property tax.

"This isn't just a tax on Washington residents," he said. "Everybody who comes into town and makes a purchase pays it."

Alderperson Mike McIntyre said he appreciated the two lengthy presentations West made to the city council over the past several weeks about what is happening at Five Points and he would like to see similar "robust" reports continued annually.

City council could not vote on the Five Points board's request Monday. A vote could be scheduled for next Monday's meeting.

Safety concerns could sidetrack brewpub's sidewalk dining area

Developers of the downtown square brewpub have asked to city to get rid of two on-street parking spaces on the northeast side of the square closest to the Walnut Street intersection to create space for six tables and 24 seats for outdoor dining.

Several alderpersons expressed concerns Monday about safety for diners at the location because of vehicular traffic. A planter barrier on three sides and optional glass partition were proposed in a plan for the seating.

"In addition to the safety issues, I thought outdoor dining was the purpose of the brewpub's rooftop dining area," said Alderperson Jamie Smith.

With parking already tight on the square, the loss of the parking spaces also was an issue, even though it's possible only one space would be lost with re-striping.

"Those are premium parking spots for Washington Historical Society events and other businesses on the square," Blundy said.

Historical Society President Jewel Ward said during public comment that her organization is opposed to the outdoor dining plan.

"Parking on the square is already limited, and we'll be losing spaces for something that will be open only half a year," she said.

Alderperson Brian Butler said it's too early for the city council to make a decision on the sidewalk seating area.

"I'd hate to rule it out, but we need to know more about the safety issues and when it's going to be open," he said.

The city's liquor code would have to be changed to allow the sale and consumption of alcohol in the space the developers are proposing.

Steve Stein is an award-winning news and sports writer and editor. Most recently, he covered Tazewell County communities for the Peoria Journal Star for 18 years.