July 2011
« Jun   Aug »


  • Karrie E. Alms: Amazing insight into the world of politics awaits any reader at pibgorn … from a Demon’s...
  • Tony: Homefield is Dynegy. Dynegy is Ameren. There Charging You twice for the same energy. Do you really thihk $.04...
  • SouthEnder: Also does anyone remember the Velvet Freeze located on Jefferson St, up the street from the Warner Homes....
  • Eric Pollitt: I flew economy class to Hong Kong for Christmas vacation, which is a 14 hour flight. When I got back...
  • Mike: Homefield has been sold to dynery. Google dynegy scandal to see who your new parent is. If this upsets you give...
  • mortified: Fun while it lasted. Godspeed!
  • aaron: your blogging will be missed but i know that your spirit of fairness will remain alive in your other...
  • Jon: CJ, your blog was a revelation and an inspiration. You have a wonderful talent that is an asset to the...
  • Billy Dennis: Of course the Chronicle is done: Screw you. The Chronicle is one of the best researched blogs...
  • Paul Wilkinson: CJ, am sorry you have ended your blog. It was well done. It seems many have given up as we keep...
  • Sharon Crews: Your voice is definitely needed in this community. Thanks for all your insights.
  • emergepeoria: Your blog is great resource to research Peoria issues. I hope you leave it up.
  • BucketHead: I was not suggesting that, I believe the both of you had very strong common sense and that lead to your...
  • C. J. Summers: Without anonymity, there is no courage among my detractors. Take a look back at the wide variety of...
  • Of course the Chronicle is done: Without Sandberg to give stores to the Chronicle there is no Chronicle.

Peoria City Council Special Meeting 7-19-2011 (Live Blog)

UPDATE: Here’s the audio from the meeting, as promised:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

There’s a special meeting (policy session) of the Peoria City Council tonight, and I’ll be live-blogging it. I’ll also put a recording of the meeting up once the meeting is over. All the council members are here except second-district council member Barbara Van Auken. The purpose of the meeting is to talk about the Washington Street corridor — specifically, what section of the street to work on improving first. After a short introduction by Patrick Urich (City Manager), the floor is opened to anyone who wants to address the council.

Public Comment

Jim Duggan, representing Caterpillar, is the first to speak. He says Cat is concerned about safety, as Washington goes right by their world headquarters downtown. “The prime concern,” he says, “is a safety concern for our employees.” But they also want to see more data on impact these changes will make on traffic, particularly on the other streets downtown. They would also like to see the council allocate money toward fixing sidewalks on the northwest side of Washington across from Caterpillar and the museum block, and takes the opportunity to remind the council that they are spending more than $50 million on the museum/visitor center project.

Councilman Sandberg asks if it’s Caterpillar’s position that it’s safer to have someone walk across six or seven lanes of 50 mph traffic than three or four lanes of 30 mph traffic. He also says the traffic counts are not very high in this area compared to Knoxville, Glen, and other streets. If narrower lanes and slower speeds cause a safety concern, can Cat provide data to back that up? Duggan says Cat is asking for a “comprehensive, data-driven study” on that very question. Councilman Spain says that he believes Cat’s concern is that reducing lanes on Washington will move traffic to other streets (like Adams) and could cause safety problems there, especially with truck traffic. Councilwoman Akeson asks Director Barber if a specific traffic study that was done in 2009 would answer Mr. Duggan’s concerns. Barber says, basically, yes. Akeson asks Duggan if he’s had a chance to look at that study. Duggan says Cat is familiar with that study, but not satisfied with it. [I guess that means they didn’t get the results they wanted.]

Dan Silverthorn, speaking for the building trades, says they would like to see the whole corridor fixed, not just one portion. But, if only one portion can be done, they would like to see the effort made in the Warehouse District.

Pat Sullivan, developer in the Warehouse District, says he appreciates the work various committees have done to come up with a plan that satisfies everyone. He doesn’t like seeing these two projects (corridor in front of the museum vs. corridor through the Warehouse District) pitted against each other. He’s asking that if it comes down to picking and choosing, that the money be put toward the Warehouse District first because we’re losing business due to the lack of infrastructure in that area. He says they don’t even have sidewalks in some places and aren’t part of the sewer system in some places either.

Former mayor Dave Ransburg, representing the Peoria Riverfront Museum, stumps for (surprise!) starting the road improvements in front of the museum. He believes the “front door” of the museum should be pedestrian friendly. He also says that the museum will be opening in 16-17 months, so it would be appropriate to begin at that end of the corridor. Sandberg asks why the street in front of the museum would need to be fixed when they’re self-contained with their own parking deck. Ransburg says they’re not self-contained; that they won’t have enough parking spaces in their deck to accommodate all the visitors to the museum, so visitors will be crossing the street.

John Hunt, business partner with Pat Sullivan, says the museum will already have usable sidewalks, but “that is not the case in the Warehouse District.” He says the Warehouse District is “ready to explode.” They just need infrastructure in order to get started on building residential units.

Presentation by Director Barber

And that’s it for the public comment. Now Director Barber is going to give a short presentation. Washington Street Advisory Group (called “WAG” throughout the meeting) is recognized, as well as many consultants that were hired. Barber wants “input tonight, but not formal approval,” which will come later. Barber gives an overview of the problems with Washington Street as it currently exists. Talks about the Planning and Feasibility studies that were started in 2009, and says we’re now in the Phase I part of the project. After there, there are two more phases (Design & Land Acquisition – Phase II, and Construction – Phase III). He references the Heart of Peoria Plan, which gives the vision for this corridor. [Incidentally, the Heart of Peoria Plan was published in 2002.] He also reminds the council that they approved a jurisdictional transfer of the corridor (in other words, removing the Route 24 designation from Washington Street and moving it somewhere else, probably across the river). He gives an overview of the public participation that has occurred in the process. “WAG” started meeting in January and has met monthly ever since. It’s made up of business leaders and residents. They looked at adding a roundabout at Harrison and Washington. He also goes over some other special features along the route that were proposed (e.g., at Washington’s intersections with State and Fulton). He talks about their plans for sustainable design (this part is going by very fast). They are also looking for ways to reduce rainwater runoff into the combined sewers. He also says these features will require on-going maintenance, and the council should be aware of those costs up-front. They want to hire a third-party service to take care of the green features (pruning, trimming, weeding, etc.). He next goes through each intersection, starting with Main and heading south, and highlighting what changes they want to make at each one. He also highlights variances from the Form Based Code that staff is recommending (these appear to be minor, but I’m just seeing them for the first time).

Next: cost. Construction estimates have risen considerably since 2009, from $16 to $27.4 million, and Barber explains why these have risen (increases in scope, new ADA compliance rules, etc.). Funding includes $1 million received from IDOT in 2011 and a promised $2 million in 2012, and a TIGER II grant. This part was confusing. Apparently, we don’t have enough money to do the whole project, so we have to decide whether to get more money or choose between improving the corridor in front of the museum vs. the corridor through the Warehouse District. John Sharp says, “At $4.9 million and $4.1 million, the two projects are expensive. The city only has $2 million available for the construction work.”

Council Discussion

Councilman Spain kicks off the discussion with a little history of the Warehouse District. Spain complains that funding that was promised to Peoria are not being delivered quickly enough (they’re being dribbled out over five years, 2013-2017). [Of course, the state and the feds have money to burn. I can’t understand why they don’t just write us a check immediately.] Spain recommends focusing on the Warehouse District, starting at Harrison and moving south “as far as the money will take us,” possibly as far as Maple. He also broaches the idea of getting help from the County.

Councilman Turner agrees with Spain. So does Riggenbach. Riggenbach asks for more details on why construction costs have risen so much. Barber essentially says they are presenting the ideal plan, not a bare-bones value-engineered plan, so there are things that could be cut to save money on the project if the council wishes. Riggenbach also asks if there is anything we can do to cut down on ADA compliance costs. Riggenbach also asks about the WAG group, and whether their meetings are open. Answer: yes, and the meeting times are posted.

Councilman Sandberg says “this is our one shot” to “set the vision for the next hundred years.” He says we need to make Washington still narrower than what is proposed in order to keep speeds down. The narrower the streets are, the more space is available for pedestrians and commerce, and the safer the streets are for pedestrians. He thinks they’re “going in the right direction,” but it “still favors vehicles over pedestrians.” He suggests 10-foot lanes instead of 11-foot, for example. Cars should be a “secondary concern.” He says he supports starting the street improvements in the Warehouse District where it will spur private development that pays taxes. He also says, why should we start improving the road by the museum when Caterpillar — “the museum’s biggest proponent” — is concerned about narrowing the street? He says Cat and the museum group are sending mixed messages to the Council. Sandberg is also concerned about meeting the proposed budget; he thinks the engineering costs are too high and that those contracts are not being negotiated well enough. He says nearly 25% of the construction cost is engineering fees.

Mr. Duggan wants to address the council again. Ardis lets him, which is a huge departure from protocol and precedent, but it’s Cat, so they get what they want. Duggan clarifies Cat’s position as requesting more facts and data, which he said earlier, making this repetition unnecessary and redundant. He was clearly agitated by Sandberg’s comments.

Councilman Spears asks if we’re going to continue using salt on the roads in the winter (which will kill the plants) and then plant new plants each year, or will we be raising the planters? Barber says they will be using “salt-resistant plants.” [!! I’ve never heard of this miracle of science. I’m really glad that our nation has put its finest minds to work on special hybrids of plants that are “salt-resistant.”] Spears wants to know who’s going to guarantee it. Barber says there will be a one-year warranty. Spears is really concerned about this issue. Barber says he will bring a report back. Spears wants a five-year guarantee. He also asks how much we’re going to have to budget each year for maintenance. Answer from Barber: Don’t know yet, but they’re working on it. Spears wants to know if it’s going to be broken down to a block-by-block area. Answer: yes. Spears says he would like to see more roundabouts. He’s disappointed there is only one. He thinks the maintenance should be funded by a special service district. He’s also disappointed that the study didn’t provide a “grandiose gateway into the area.”

Council Member Akeson wants to talk about the sidewalk width and lane width, following up on Sandberg’s comments. She says she’s not concerned about the sidewalk widths, unless the plantings get in the way of commerce (e.g., sidewalk cafes). [Background: Akeson was on the Heart of Peoria Commission as vice chair, and has supported the Warehouse District for some time.] She thinks the business owners should take responsibility for keeping the front of their stores clean — that is, the sidewalk should be swept/hosed down and kept looking nice by the adjacent stores. She and Councilman Gulley also asked for some clarification on funding. Gulley is concerned that we’re making a decision on a project we don’t have the money to complete. [Van Auken arrived recently, so now all council members are here.]

Gulley says he never looked at all the details of the concept plan. Nevertheless, he says he has never been a supporter of the plan. “I hate the Washington Street plan,” he says. He thinks the money should have been put into Water Street. [Background: this project is in Gulley’s district, but Gulley runs a trucking company and likes trucks being able to go real fast down Washington street to get to I-74.] “I can’t get excited about it; I don’t think it will work,” he says, but also says he hopes he is proved wrong. He doesn’t believe that the city has to improve the infrastructure in order to get businesses to locate there. [Really? Mark this quote for the next election.] He says that, at a meeting he was in, the “people who control the money” want the money to go to the street in front of the museum first, so he doesn’t understand why the council is discussing it. Ardis says he has no idea what Gulley is talking about, and asks him what meeting he’s referring to. Gulley tries to explain, saying that he thinks Sen. Koehler is in charge of the money right now. Ardis says “there has been a misunderstanding” on Gulley’s part. “There aren’t any strings attached that I’m aware of,” he says. Corporate Counsel Randy Ray backs up Ardis’s statement. Gulley says he supports spending the money in the Warehouse District first, and he wants to explore the special service district idea Spears suggested.

Councilman Weaver asks how we can move ahead with “proper planning” when we don’t know what the final dollar amount is going to be. he’s concerned all the money we’re spending on planning when we don’t know that we’ll have the money to construct it ultimately. Van Auken says you can’t get any money from the state if you don’t have a plan. [Also, didn’t Weaver vote for the Pioneer Parkway extension not too long ago, even though we don’t know where that money is going to come from, either?]

Councilman Irving asks how the council is going to direct staff — he thinks there needs to be a motion. He also says we need to use Cat’s expertise to help us get the data we need. He also wants to know what alternative funding sources there are — for example, what about the County? [I would ask, what about the Township? Don’t they have a fund for road improvements?]

Ardis tries to sum everything up from the evening. He says he clearly heard that the council wants to start at Harrison Street and work south; that more data needs to be gathered on the impact of these changes; and that we want to find additional funding sources so we could possibly do the whole project, not just part of it. Ardis also says he doesn’t know what to expect from the state (as far as funding goes).

Gulley asks if we can break up the project to just do, for example, Harrison to State? Answer from Barber: yes. They can work on it in one or multiple projects. Spears says another important issue that Ardis did not mention is that we need to look at how we’re going to maintain the area and what policies will need to be put in place in that regard. Councilman Weaver clarifies that he’s not supporting the Warehouse District portion or the Museum portion. He’s concerned about where the money is going to come from first. “I don’t see the money,” he says. The TIGER II grant is going to do the side streets and Jefferson and Adams, but where is the money coming from for the $27 million Washington Street project? Only $10 million is coming from the state, but over five years. [Background: Weaver was critical of the Warehouse District plan during the campaign as well. He prefers focusing on Main Street, where he’s also an investor in the Main Street Commons project.]

Patrick Urich says this is a TIF district, so we will be getting money from that, and says there are other avenues that can be explored for more funding. He says he will be doing a detailed fiscal analysis over the next 30 days.


12 comments to Peoria City Council Special Meeting 7-19-2011 (Live Blog)

  • Kohlrabi

    There are salt tolerant plants – don’t have to be miracle hybrids. Plants that grow in salty environments are salt tolerant. But a one year warranty isn’t much of a guarantee.

  • Like I said. Gulley doesn’t know what he is talking about and then flips.

    This wasn’t a Council meeting. It was Comic Con.

    What’s next? “These are magic beans.”?

  • I still don’t get it. And why do “they” think the warehouse district is going to work? Because of new streets and sidewalks? There are, at any given time, buildings sitting vacant on Water Street with new streets and little traffic. I just don’t see people moving/living down there as there are few amenities (and please don’t tell me they can drive across the river to Wal-Mart) and business owners, who could provide such amenities aren’t going to invest money into rehabbing old buildings without a client base. Its a Catch 22.

  • Chef: I agree and didn’t one of the first original businesses just go out of business? Wasn’t Water Street completely redone and still nobody is on it, at least until a bar closes the street for weekends? I do however think infrastructure improvements is important but not to cover a museum. But if you build it, they will come. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

    On another note: I wonder what the vacancy rate is at the Twin Towers?

  • Karrie E. Alms

    Em writes …. “But if you build it, they will come. At least that’s what I’ve been told.”

    And heard that line … Riverplex, ball stadium, Gateway Building, Cub Foods ….. how’s that working for us? The more things change the more they remain the same aka nothing changes if nothing changes. Same thinking produces the same lackluster results … sigh!

  • EmergePeoria

    It’s really sad when youngsters visit other places and then come “home” to Peoria. Even they are asking “why can’t Peoria be like _________?”

  • roguemonkey

    Peoria just needs to tackle tough issues head on and make tough decisions. The shame is that the Warehouse District in theory is a great idea, but the city needs to concentrate more time and effort in developing it. Just having buildings for sale and a tax incentives isn’t what redevelops areas. While the Tiger II money is a plus if the city had dedicated the hotel money towards this project it could be underway and/or finished by now.

    City funds no question need to go towards infrastructure. Redesigning the streets will help and is a must for foot traffic. It couldn’t be anymore unwelcoming as is. Businesses are scared to just buy into the idea down there because the city has yet to fully buy into the idea. I think that the previous rehabs down there have been great, the activities to draw people in are great, but the city itself doesn’t want to fully commit. They know more money comes in from new developments north and northwest, but sprawl is most certainly not the best answer.

    They seem to understand that these are good ideas, vote yay, but then can’t seem to get through the finish line. The end result are these projects are half-assed and then the taxpayer is ultimately left with a bad taste in their mouth.

    It’s really not hard to make it what it should be, just do the complete opposite of what has been done the past 20 years.

  • Mamma Hen

    I just hope when they get ready to do this, they bait for Da Rats, because when they start re building down there. Da Rats will going all over the community. First stop, River west, then up the hill by Moss ave , then Bradley .We all think construction is great for our city, it is but think of the whole picture. We are the rats best friends, think about it..

  • JackBolly

    Does anything ever really change in Peoria? Seems not.

    Get out of the COP and D150 if you can…

  • JackBolly

    PS: Forgot to followup that the museum supporters appear to be laying the ground work for their ‘French Excuse’. Namely, but for the street improvement to Washington, the museum would be successful…

  • checking for details

    yet another proud Peoria moment. the council is once again busy debating how to spend other people’s money (ours). We must plan for something we don’t have the money to finish. If it was such a great deal, private investors would have swarmed that meeting chomping at the bit to make the glorious profits promised. Another one of Spain’s follies is about to beging. The large campaign contributers are lined up at the feeding trough wanting their share–notice who spoke. Meanwhile citizens are being attacked, shot, killed in the community on a daily basis. If members worked as hard providing a safe community as they do for their own pet projects we wouldn’t have any problems attracting businesses and residents to Peoria.

  • “If we build it, they will come” is the most stupid phrase I’ve ever heard. It’s wrong and is not applicable to anything that I can think of. Even drug dealers have to spread word of mouth advertising.

    I also cannot understand the whole deal of a business person asking a city to invest taxpayer funds into a project. It just seems crazy. Does it ever provide any value to the city or repay the money invested?