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Pekin pledges $1.75 million so it can apply for $3.5 million state grant to improve downtown

Downtown Pekin was the site of a veterans parade last month that preceded the Pekin Bicentennial Street Faire. The city is seeking a state grant that would pay for half of an estimated $3.5 million project to revitalize the downtown.
Steve Stein
Downtown Pekin was the site of a veterans parade last month that preceded the Pekin Bicentennial Street Faire. The city is seeking a state grant that would pay for half of an estimated $3.5 million project to revitalize the downtown.

Pekin is hoping to receive a grant from the state that would pay for half of an estimated $3.5 million project to revitalize the downtown business district.

After agreeing at a previous meeting to allow the city to partner with the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce on the grant request, the City Council took the next step in the application process Monday by approving the city's $1.75 million commitment to finance the project.

The grant Pekin will apply for, offered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, has a lengthy name: The Rebuild Downtowns & Main Streets & Research in Illinois to Spur Economic Recovery Implementation grant. The grant's acronym is RDMS/RISE.

The list of downtown Pekin improvements that would be funded partially by the grant also is lengthy: Sewer upgrades, ADA ramp improvements, upgrades to water services for buildings, and aesthetic upgrades like flower boxes, catenary lighting over the 300 block of Court Street, outdoor speakers, wayfinding signs, and improved business signs, awnings and facades.

The city's portion of the project would come from Central Business District TIF and Business Development District funds. If the grant is approved, money would be allocated in the 2025-26 and 2026-27 fiscal years.

The chamber of commerce will be paid $2,000 by the city to submit the grant application. Other payments would be made by the city to the chamber if the grant is approved by the DCEO.

Pekin can't apply for the grant because it's on the DCEO's "stop payments" list, mainly because the city fell behind on annual mandatory audits of the city budget.

The city is catching up on those audits, with three completed since interim finance director Bob Grogan was brought on board last year.

The council vote to approve the city's $1.75 million commitment was 5-2, with Rick Hilst and Lloyd Orrick dissenting.

Thumbs up for Eddie Munster, thumbs down for downtown sign

Eddie Munster is coming to Pekin on July 27 for the annual Pekin Downtown Super Cruise.

Butch Patrick, who played the werewolf son of Herman and Lily Munster in 70 episodes of the iconic CBS television series "The Munsters" from 1964-66 and the 1966 film "Munster, Go Home!," will appear at the Super Cruise along with a recreation of the Dragula car driven by the Munsters.

After previously approving a $5,000 sponsorship of the Super Cruise, the council agreed Monday to add $2,500 to the sponsorship to help cover the cost of Patrick's appearance. Money for event sponsorships comes from hotel/motel tax revenue in the city's tourism fund.

Patrick (real name Patrick Lilley) was born in California but was living in Geneseo when he landed the role of Eddie Munster in a competition with hundreds of boys.

Another request for money from the tourism fund was rejected Monday by the council.

Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman requested $3,464 to purchase a sign that would be placed in downtown Pekin. Ackerman wants to plant several signs in the downtown area that point out historic locations.

In addition to saying the county should pay for the sign, council members expressed concerns about who would pay for the sign's upkeep.

The votes to approve the additional grant money for the Super Cruise and deny Ackerman's request were unanimous.

Employee handbook to get makeover thanks to new software

Software that will house Pekin's employee handbook and allow the city to put the policies for each department in one location for quick access was purchased Monday by the council.

In addition to providing the software, Texas-based Lexipol will monitor state and federal law changes and best practices and suggest modifications to the handbook and department policies.

Pekin City Manager John Dossey applauded the software purchase and monitoring, saying they will streamline city operations.

"Currently, policy changes caused by a law change or requested by a department or policymaker have to go to our attorney and often take weeks if not months to implement," he said.

The city will pay a one-time charge of $11,554 for Lexipol for review the city's employee handbook and recommend changes if needed. The annual cost for the software is $6,148.

The vote for the one-time charge and annual cost for the software was 6-1, with Rick Hilst dissenting.

Greater Peoria Economic Development Council gets $25,000 from the city

The Greater Peoria Economic Development Council will receive $25,000 from Pekin to support its efforts to promote the city.

The council approved the annual payment Monday. The city paid the GPEDC $25,000 for several years, but cut back to $20,000 during the pandemic.

"City staff relies heavily on the GPEDC's expertise and connections in the region, state and nation, especially when it comes to workforce development and industrial site selection," said Pekin Economic Development Director Josh Wray.

Among several examples of the GPEDC's support of Pekin's economic development activities during 2023 cited by Wray was sending the city 11 leads for potential industrial and corporate businesses.

The vote to approve the city's payment to the GPEDC was 6-1, with Rick Hilst dissenting.

Council approves sale of city property for $100; the land will be used as a destination for car shows

In other action Monday, the council approved:

  • Selling a small, thin slice of city-owned property along Front Street between Broadway Road and Cynthiana Street to Roger Brotherton for $100. Brotherton plans to develop a "semi-permanent" destination for car shows at the site. Pekin Economic Development Director Josh Wray said the city had no use for the property, so a request for proposals was sent out for the sale and development of the site. Brotherton submitted the lone proposal. The vote to approve the sale of the land to Brotherton was unanimous.
  • Language in the city code that says a home-based business is not subject to the city's food and beverage sales tax. The council informally approved the language at its May 28 meeting after the owner of a home-based bakery asked if the business was subject to the tax. The vote for the language was unanimous.
  • A residential Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement with Ron Abernathy, who is moving into a new home at 1604 Remington Road. Abernathy will receive up to $40,000 for land acquisition, a TIF eligible expense, over a maximum of 10 years. The total cost of the home, including land acquisition, is $317,500. The vote to approve the agreement was 6-1, with Rick Hilst dissenting.
  • Changes to the structure and functions of the Tourism Committee, including removing city staff members from the committee. The vote was 6-1, with Hilst dissenting.
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.