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Peoria Approves Fee Caps On Third-Party Food Delivery Services

The Peoria City Council is back to full virtual meetings only as COVID-19 cases surge regionally.

The Peoria City Council is implementing a fee cap on third-party food delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash during the ongoing COVID-19 mitigations that are shuttering indoor dining.

The new ordinance caps those delivery fees at 10 percent of the purchase price, and the total of all fees to 15 percent of a restaurant's monthly net sales through a third-party delivery service.

At-Large Councilman Sid Ruckriegel said the ordinance protects not only struggling restaurants that are often presented a "take it or leave it" contract by these services, but also consumers who are relying more upon these delivery options during the pandemic.

"I think that this helps both protect our restaurants, which are important to our fabric and our local economy, and also our citizens," Ruckriegel said during the council's virtual meeting Tuesday night.

The ordinance automatically expires after restaurants are allowed to return to 50% or greater indoor dining capacity for at least two months.

"We're at a crucial time here, and restaurants are really hurting," said At-Large Councilwoman Beth Jensen.

The ordinance passed 10 to 1 on Tuesday night, with At-Large Councilman John Kelly casting the only "no" vote. Kelly questioned the origins of a statistic in the agenda packet that claimed some third-party services raised their delivery fees to 30% or more once tighter restrictions were implemented.

"If we don't have evidence or some rationale from these companies, then I can't support it," Kelly said.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said he's received multiple calls from local restaurateurs asking for approval. 

"Restaurants work on such a small margin, and now that they can't even have people dining inside their restaurants, they're depending totally on either pickup or a delivery service," Ardis said. "Gouging is the right word for what was being done by these delivery services."

But Kelly remained skeptical.

"We have not spoken with these delivery companies," he said. "Everyone wants things for less. I do. But there may be a rationale, and there may not be. But without this information, I think we're irresponsible in going forward, just hearing from the restaurants."

But Ardis said this relief will help local restaurants struggling under the COVID-19 restrictions.

"One of the reasons that we tried to move this forward is because we wanted to provide relatively minimal relief to the restaurateurs. Literally, every penny counts," Ardis said.

The ordinance will automatically expire when restaurants are once again able to operate with at least 50 percent indoor dining capacity available for 60 straight days.

Pension referenda on November ballot

Peoria voters will vote on two advisory referenda next April to weigh in on whether the city should roll out new fire and police pension taxes in order to meet its growing funding obligations.

At-Large Councilman Zach Oyler said the pair of questions are simply to gauge how voters feel about new taxes as an option to address the funding issue.

"This is not a request for a tax increase. This is not an endorsement of a tax increase. This is a question being put out for the public to give their feedback on such," he said.

The state requires local police and fire pension funds to attain 90 percent funding by 2040. The local pension fund boards are asking for 100% funding within that timeline, however. Currently, the police pension fund is at 50% funding. The fire pension fund sits at 48%. The combined unfunded pension liability currently sits at $328.7 million.

Without more revenue, the city said it will have to move another $24.6 million dollars out of the general fund to cover pension payments over the next three years. The current public safety pension fee sunsets next year.

Council members Jensen, Grayeb, Moore, and Ali voted "no" on placing both referenda on the April ballot.

Other action

In another matter,  City Manager Patrick Urich asked to table discussion and action on moving forward with a federal consent decree over the city's longstanding combined sewer overflow(CSO)  issues. He said he hasn't yet received the full language the federal government is proposing. A special meeting on the consent decree is likely later this month.

A motion to use $550,000 from the South Village TIF Fund to purchase the former Aldi building, at 210 S. Western, in hopes of attracting a new grocer to take over was deferred until next month.

Council members expressed confusion about the wording of the ordinance that states a community center rather than a grocery store, and asked whether that adjustment would affect the reimbursement potential from a state grant originally allocated for a new firehouse and community center.

First District Councilwoman Denise Moore, who brought the motion forward, asked for a deferral after suffering from repeated Internet connection issues that prevented her from participating in much of the discussion.

A joint review board's recommendation to move forward with At-Large Councilman John Kelly's proposal for an Urban Decay Tax Abatement Area in certain parts of the city was received and filed, with Jensen and Moore voting "no." Moore said the idea would lead to gentrification in her district.

Kelly said he's scheduled to have more discussions with Peoria Public Schools District 150, which abstained from voting on the joint review board proposal, until after its own own board can talk about it.

The actual tax abatement area hasn't yet been established.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.