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Five Points Washington owes the city $600,000 over the next 8 years. Is the city willing to forgive the payments?

Alderperson Mike Brownfield (left) discusses the importance of Five Points Washington to the city while Police Chief Mike McCoy listens.
Steve Stein
Alderperson Mike Brownfield (left) discusses the importance of Five Points Washington to the city while Police Chief Mike McCoy listens.

"We can't let this fail."

That was Alderperson Mike Brownfield's impassioned plea to his fellow Washington City Council members Monday as they discussed an ordinance amendment that would relieve Five Points Washington of its obligation to pay the remaining $600,000 of the $1.5 million it owes the city in annual payments.

Brownfield, the city's representative on the board that governs Five Points, said the 16-year-old multi-purpose facility isn't having financial issues, but it needs to make costly major infrastructure improvements and repairs in the next few years, including about $1.1 million in the aquatics center.

"This is something we can do to help a staple in our community that brings in sales tax money and attracts people to move to Washington," Brownfield said about the ordinance amendment.

"Five Points isn't in danger of closing by any means right now, but we don't know what the economy is going to do in the next five years," he said.

If Five Points closes, it will become city property.

City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance amendment Jan. 2.

The annual payment agreement between Five Points and the city dates to 2010.

Four years earlier, the city established a .25% sales tax to pay off a $5 million construction bond for Five Points.

Revenue from that sales tax has covered the bond and now bank loan payments every year except 2008 and 2010 since then, and has created $1.6 million in extra income for the city that has been used for city projects and services.

Five Points has eight annual payments of $75,000 remaining on the 2010 agreement. The next payment is due in 2024.

Under the terms of the ordinance amendment, Five Points would not have to make an annual payment through 2029, when the bank loan will be paid off, as long as the .25% sales tax revenue covered the bank loan payment by at least $75,000. Five Points would have to make up the difference if that scenario doesn't happen.

For 2030 and 2031, when there will be no bank loan payment, Five Points' annual $75,000 payment would be forgiven if the .25% sales tax produced at least $75,000 in revenue.
Two additions to the ordinance amendment were suggested Monday by alderpersons.

Alderperson Bobby Martin III said he'd like to see Five Points offer at least a 50% discount on a fitness center membership to city employees as a good will gesture.

Alderperson John Blundy said he preferred that an annual review of the ordinance amendment and Five Points finances be done before the $75,000 payment was forgiven.

Neither idea was added to the ordinance amendment Monday, but could be added before the vote Jan. 2.

The ordinance amendment includes a requirement for the Five Points board to hold at least one meeting that would be open to "interested parties having a financial interest" in the facility, including taxing bodies in Washington, public entities that helped with construction costs, and private donors.

The meeting agenda must include a discussion of Five Points' audited financial statements.

Failure to hold the meeting would force Five Points to make the annual $75.000 payments.

Five Points board meetings aren't normally open to the public because the facility is a private, not-for-profit business.

However, the "open" board meetings Five Points offered to hold would not include media, and "if a majority of the City Council attended the meeting, some members would have to leave before the meeting begins" (so there wouldn't be a violation of the Open Meetings Act), said City Administrator Jim Snider.

In addition to Brownfield, other representatives of taxing bodies on the Five Points board are Jennifer Essig from the School Board for Washington Community High School and Brittany Miller from the Washington Park District.

Sherril West is the board president, Chris Dubois is the vice president, Rob Quin is the treasurer and Stacy Smith is the secretary. Other board members are Steve Brown, Scott Ehrsam, Dustin Essig and Nicole Miller.

City opts out of state law, approves tax levy

Also Monday, the City Council approved opting out of the state Paid Leave for All Workers Act, and establishing a tax levy of $2,116,155 for 2023 (paid in 2024).

The city opted out of the state act because "for our full- and part-time employees, the city's paid time off policies and collective bargaining agreements provide for an amount of time that is greater than the legislation requires," Snider said.

The tax levy is an 8.41% increase from 2022 (taxes paid in 2023), which is equal to the projected percentage increase in the city's Equalized Assessed Valuation. The tax rate, set by Tazewell County, is not expected to change.

The city's portion of a Washington resident's tax bill is 5.85%.

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.