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City, County look ahead to 2013

“2013 could be a huge game changer,” Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said about the year ahead for the city.

The city will see the opening of 300,000 square feet in new retail space, with Kohl’s, Meijer and other stores; more developers are looking at Main Street and other areas of the city; there’s still an opportunity for a casino with a gambling expansion bill; businesses are expanding and investing in the community, such as Watchfire Signs and others; and other city projects continue, such as replacing the Fairchild Subway.

The subway construction won’t be finished until 2014.

“I think there is a different outlook going into 2013,” Eisenhauer said, even with declining property values and tight budgets.

“I think there is a more optimistic outlook …,” he said.

Plans also are proceeding for a new yard waste site and also a new Danville Mass Transit bus transfer zone in the downtown area.

“It’s possible we may see a groundbreaking for the new transfer zone,” Eisenhauer said about 2013, but funding still is needed.

The Main Street widening project is a state project, but residents are looking forward to its finish and further possible development on the city’s east side.

“It opens up that area in a greater way,” Eisenhauer said.

The “temporary inconvenience for the permanent improvement” will be well worth it, he added about the Main Street project.

Also in 2013, city officials will work toward a plan for riverfront development and plans for mixed-income housing to replace Fair Oaks.

Eisenhauer said more movement on the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame Museum at the David S. Palmer Arena also is expected next year. The museum is still in its fundraising stage.

Vermilion County Board

Dealing with the future of several county facilities will be on the agenda for the new county board administration heading into 2013.

Vermilion County enters the new year with a new chairman at the helm, longtime District 1 county board member Gary Weinard. He faces pending decisions for the county courthouse, Vermilion Manor Nursing Home and the county EMA headquarters.

The courthouse and Vermilion Manor are directly linked to referendums passed in the November general election. For Vermilion Manor, voters approved giving the county the authority to sell the county-owned nursing home.

With the decision made by voters, Weinard said work has already begun to determine the next move on the nursing home.

“We’re gathering information so we can make an informed decision on what is the best way to go to make sure it stays here and stays open and the people there have a place to live,” said Weinard, who took over the chairman’s seat on Dec. 5.

“It’s the biggest question mark that is in front of us at the moment,” he added.

The county also is pondering the next step for the Vermilion County Courthouse, which is in need of renovations estimated at one time between $5-7 million. The work would include new elevators and repairs to a courthouse roof that has been leaking for 20 years.

How to pay for those repairs, however, hit a snag when the Illinois Power Agency issued a decision that the county’s referendum for an electrical aggregation program would cover only unincorporated areas of the county.

The county, which would have received funds as part of the program, was counting on the funding from the countywide program to assist in the renovation. Reduced to only the unincorporated area reduces the funds — which would have come in the form of a fee — the program is expected to provide.

Weinard said the county wants to form a “stop-gap measure” to prevent more damage from taking place and letting the problem “get out of hand.”

“That’s something we’re going to have to devote some attention to,” he said. “We’re looking at all the options.”

Along Georgetown Road, the county’s EMA headquarters also is experiencing problems, ranging from an outdated electrical system, plumbing problems and a leaking roof since the county moved there from the Public Safety Building in 2007.

The building — the former South Danville TV site at 2705 Georgetown Road — was purchased in July 2005 for around $250,000 using funds from a federal Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness grant. The grant was available as a result of the county’s proximity to the Newport Chemical Depot in Indiana.

Weinard said the county must look at the federal funding to determine whether there can be a modification of the terms that will allow the county to relocate the building. Up until now, it was thought the county would have to return the money used to buy the building if the EMA headquarters is moved because it would be considered a misuse of the grant money.

Weinard also said all of the county’s labor contracts are up for negotiations in 2013. Those talks, he said, will begin in early January.

He said Vermilion County is “extremely financially solvent” compared to the money problems encountered by other counties in the state.

“Our goal is to keep the ball rolling and keep the harmony going so we don’t get in some predicaments as neighboring counties,” Weinard said.

contributed by: JENNIFER BAILEY AND BRIAN HUCHEL Commercial-News

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