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Urich: Peoria considering other ways to allocate funding for violence prevention programs

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich
Joe Deacon
Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich.

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich says the city might consider changing the way it distributes anti-violence grant funding.

Last summer, Peoria awarded $1.5 million in violence prevention grants to six initiatives, and the 2024 budget includes another $700,000 for additional efforts to deter violent crime.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, members held a lengthy policy session to discuss the procedure for allocating grant money and how future funding might be put to better uses.

“I think it was a great discussion that the city council had around, ‘What do we want to do, and what do we want to try and accomplish?’” Urich said in his latest monthly interview with WCBU.

“I think that they understand that violence prevention funding is really kind of sowing the seeds for long-term change in the community, because what you're really trying to do is work with the social service agencies and other governmental partners on long-term change.”

Urich said council members have wondered if there are ways to use anti-violence money from the American Rescue Plan Act [ARPA] in different ways, while still having an impact on public safety.

“Part of the discussion centered around: could we use more of the funding for infrastructure improvements, like lighting and addressing both porch and street lights for residential neighborhoods that are in our hot spots, where we're seeing a lot of criminal activity,” he said.

Urich acknowledged some organizations have been awarded violence prevention grants from the city more than once, and that other groups may be at a disadvantage due to inexperience in applying for grants. He said city staff is working on a way to address that issue through another funding source.

“In addition to the money that we have from the American Rescue Plan, we are also the recipient of a $500,000 Department of Human Services grant from the state of Illinois. Unfortunately, those dollars have to be spent by June 30 of next year, so we have a very accelerated time frame on those dollars,” said Urich.

“But what we're going to present to council at the first meeting in January is a proposed recommendation that we would set aside $105,000 of that money and use it with entities that haven't received grants before, that they may be kind of in the infancy of their progression into become a nonprofit.”

Urich said those allocations would likely be between $10,000 and $15,000 each, and would need to be focused on youth programming.

Short-term rentals

Urich said the city’s approach to short-term rentals remains a concern after thecouncil deferred taking action on possible changes to the way the properties are regulated.

“We looked at it from two perspectives. One from the licensing perspective: What do we need to do to tighten up some of the licensing requirements to address the people that are renting out to people that are throwing parties and not treating the neighborhood right,” said Urich.

“Then the other element was looking at the distance and the density of the number of short-term rentals that we have. The council is still grappling with that [but] I think there's probably some unanimity on the council on the issues of distance and density, making them fewer and farther apart than where they are currently.”

The density change proposed at Tuesday’s meeting would reduce the cap on special-use permits from 3% in a quarter-mile radius to 1% in a half-mile. It also would add a 1,500-foot minimum distance between short-term rentals.

Paid Leave For All exemption

Urich explained why the council needed to act on approving an ordinance that exempts the city from the state’s Paid Leave for All Workers Act that goes into effect Jan. 1. The new law grants nearly all employees in Illinois at least one week of paid leave each year.

“Home-rule municipalities can basically opt out of the Paid Leave For All Act, and that's something we looked at and decided it would be in our best interest to do,” said Urich.

School and park districts already are exempt from the new law. Municipalities had the option to opt out, provided they passed an ordinance before the law went into effect. Urich said most city workers already get sufficient time off.

“Almost all of our employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements that have paid leave built into them,” he said. “But we have a number of employees that are part time, that are working for us on a periodic basis. This just allows us to kind of exempt ourselves from this act for those employees.

“It's a small dollar amount that we're talking about. I think our total annual exposure in this is about $17,000. So, it's not a lot of people that we're really talking about. But it was just a way for us to kind of protect the status quo that the city currently operates under.”

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.