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Washington gives Five Points a $600,000 break

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The Washington City Council approved a plan Tuesday that most likely will relieve Five Points Washington of its obligation to pay the remaining $600,000 of the $1.25 million it owes the city in annual payments.

The vote was 6-2, with council members John Blundy and Lili Stevens opposing the plan.

Supporters of the plan point to Five Points' importance in the community and the need to keep the 16-year-old multi-purpose facility financially solvent following setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and upcoming expensive infrastructure replacements and repairs.

"We can't let this fail," council member Mike Brownfield, the city's representative on the Five Points board, said at the Dec. 18 city council meeting.

Mayor Gary Manier has called Five Points a major reason for Washington's growth and he thinks the city should help it. He did not vote on the plan (he only votes to break a tie).

Stevens said Five Points is a valuable community asset, but she doesn't think the payment relief plan is in the city's best interests.

She also thinks Five Points board meetings should be open to the public even there is no legal obligation to do that because the facility is run as a private, not-for-profit business.

"Both home-rule sales tax and property taxes— through the high school and park district yearly (Five Points) use fees — are used to run the facility," Stevens said.

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

Originally, it was for $50,000 annually for 10 years starting in 2011, and $75,000 annually for 10 years starting in 2021 to help the city pay for a $5 million construction bond for Five Points.

Four years earlier, the city established a .25% sales tax to pay off the bond.

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 this year.

Under the terms of the payment relief plan, Five Points will not have to make an annual payments to the city through 2029, when the bank loan will be paid off — as long as revenue from the .25% sales tax covers the annual bank loan payment by at least $75,000. Five Points will 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 will be forgiven if the .25% sales tax produces at least $75,000 in revenue.

Blundy said he prefers the payment relief plan and Five Points finances are reviewed annually by the city council.

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.