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Washington steps up for Central School District students with Eagle Avenue sidewalk project

A nearly $110,000 project that adds a sidewalk along the east side of Eagle Avenue (left) from the Central Intermediate School parking lot to Eagle's intersection with U.S. Business Route 24 could be completed by the start of the school year in August.
Steve Stein
A nearly $110,000 project that adds a sidewalk along the east side of Eagle Avenue (left) from the Central Intermediate School parking lot to Eagle's intersection with U.S. Business Route 24 could be completed by the start of the school year in August.

Washington Central School District students will have a safe place to walk along Eagle Avenue to and from the street's intersection with U.S. Business Route 24 in Washington when they return to school in August.

Washington City Council members Monday unanimously approved the low bid of $109,852 from C&G Concrete Construction of East Peoria to construct a sidewalk on the east side of Eagle from the Central Intermediate School parking lot to Business Route 24.

City Engineer Dennis Carr said he hopes the project can be completed before the start of the new school year.

"Or at least the part closest to the school," he said.

The project was rejected for a state Safe Routes to School grant in 2021, so the city picked up the slack.

The Eagle-Business Route 24 intersection is a busy one for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. During the school year, students often walk through the intersection to and from the Beck's gas station and convenience store, Dairy Queen and other locations.

About 1,300 students attend Central Intermediate School and Central Primary School.

"It's great that the sidewalk will go all the way from the school parking lot to the traffic light," said Central School District Superintendent Dale Heidbreder in an interview before the meeting.

"Kids have to walk in yards or in the street along that stretch," he said. "If I was a kid, I know I'd be walking to Beck's or Dairy Queen. We really appreciate the partnership and collaboration with the city on this project. That's Washington. We all work together."

The city budgeted $150,000 for the project.

The project estimate from Hutchinson Engineering of Peoria was $107,160. Even though the low bid from C&G was 2.5% higher than the estimate, "it's a reasonable bid," said Hutchison senior vice president W. Shane Larson.

A 2019 Safe Routes to School project added sidewalks to Bobolink Drive, a major east-west road near the Central School District campus, and a portion of Eagle.

"About 75% of that project was along Bobolink," said Jon Oliphant, the city's planning and development director.

New location explored for proposed police evidence storage building

A proposed evidence storage building for the Washington Police Department will be rebid following the council's rejection June 18 of a request by city staff to add $600,000 to the line item for the project in the city's 2024-25 budget.

Because of the rejection, the council didn't vote on the low base bid of $2,337,400 by PJ Hoerr or the low bid of $2,376,900 by Peoria Metro Construction to have seamless epoxy systems installed on the floor and walls.

Alternative sites to the planned location of the evidence building west of the Washington Fire Station off Jefferson Street are being explored in hopes of trimming $600,000 off the cost of the building, City Administrator Jim Snider said Monday.

Those sites include city property on Constitution Street and Legion Road, where utilities may be accessible, Snider said. Utilities would need to be installed at the Jefferson site, a concern of council members who rejected the budget amendment.

Snider said returning evidence now stored outside Washington to the fire-damaged building the police department shared in recent years with the Public Works Department isn't a good idea because public works needs that space.

Deputy Police Chief Jeff Stevens said moving evidence back to the police station also isn't an option because there's no room to expand the station and the building can't accommodate another story.

Core & Main hits $50,000 home rule sales tax goal, triggering rebate from the city

The city has a unique sales tax rebate agreement with Core & Main.

The agreement was an incentive for the nation-wide distributor of water, wastewater, storm damage and fire protection products and services to build its area branch at 400 N. Cummings Lane in Washington.

After outgrowing its space at 115 N. Cummings Lane, where it had operated for about 20 years, Core & Main was looking for a new location. It chose a five-acre property just north of its former site for its nearly $3 million project.

A big reason for the location decision was the city agreed in 2021 to rebate a maximum of $20,000 annually in home rule sales tax revenue during Core & Main's first eight years of operating at the site.

The rebate is triggered each year after Core & Main generates $50,000 in home rule sales tax revenue at the Washington location.

That's happened in 2024, according to city officials, so the council approved the rebate Monday. It's the second year for the rebate.

Core & Main is one of the largest sales tax generators in Washington. No other business in the city has a similar sales tax rebate agreement.

Is one year too long to wait for a video gambling license?

The city's video gambling ordinance requires a one-year wait for an eligible establishment to receive a license.

The requirement will be discussed next week by the council at its committee of the whole meeting after Jeff Giebelhausen, owner of The Peak on Summit in Washington Plaza, requested an exemption at a previous council meeting to help the restaurant to get off to a good start financially.

The vote was 4-3 in favor of the discussion. Council members Brett Adams, Mike Brownfield and Brian Butler cast the no votes. Council member Mike McIntyre did not attend the meeting because of a work commitment.

South High Street parking lot ready to open

About 36 public spaces will be added to the downtown Washington square's parking inventory when this new city-owned lot on South High Street opens.
Courtesy Jamie Smith
About 36 public spaces will be added to the downtown Washington square's parking inventory when this new city-owned lot on South High Street opens.

The city's new parking lot on South High Street across from the Washington Post Office near the downtown square has been paved and will be striped by city crews this week, City Administrator Jim Snider said Monday. The lot should open next week, Snider said.

About 36 public parking spaces will be in the lot.

Reports to council: Used fry oil thieves arrested, Freedom Parkway could open in August

Highlights of Police Chief Mike McCoy and Deputy Police Chief Jeff Stevens' report to the council Monday:

  • A motorist was ticketed for driving 100 miles per hour in a 55 MPH zone on U.S. Route 24 and College Drive. The driver was later cited for aggravated fleeing and eluding.
  • Suspects accused of stealing used fry oil from restaurants were arrested Sunday. Fry oil can be recycled into biodiesel fuel.
  • Mail thefts are being investigated.
  • Preparations have begun for negotiations with the Washington Fire Department for a new contract with the city

Highlights of City Engineer Dennis Carr's report to the council Monday:

  • Freedom Parkway could open to traffic as early as August.
  • A project to construct a berm in Washington Park has been delayed because of a complaint a property owner filed with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Because of the complaint, the IDNR will do a full review of the project.
  • Brick removal is expected to begin this week on Catherine Street.

Highlights of Planning & Development Director Jon Oliphant's report to the council Monday:

  • Roofing materials are expected to arrive at the downtown square restaurant site this week.
  • A vote on a business improvement grant for Countryside Banquet & Catering to help pay for the renovation of its parking lot was delayed until July 15 because of a revision in the agreement.
  • Two inoperable vehicles were towed last week as ordered by the city's new code hearing officer, who also issued orders for several other vehicles to be towed.

Chamber says late securing of festival site caused 'severe time crunch' in planning for Good Neighbor Days

In its "snapshot report" to the council for April through June, the Washington Chamber of Commerce noted Monday it was finally able the secure its regular site for Good Neighbor Days, the John Bearce Properties, just four weeks before the festival.

"While this caused a severe time crunch in planning, attendance was back to pre-pandemic numbers," the chamber reported. "There were some issues, but these were mostly due to the lack of planning time."

The chamber touted its Aug. 17 event, a partnership with the Washington Park District, in its report. "Rock the Field" will feature a performance by JammSammich in Washington Park along with kids activities and a beer garden.

"The event will feature many of the community favorites that were missing from the festival," according to the chamber.

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.