It looks like the City of Monticello has a third option to consider as it studies places to possibly relocate some city services.
During a closed session to end its May 11 meeting, the city council discussed the possible purchase or lease of real estate. While the location of the property was not revealed, Alderman Wendall Brock stated during his alderman report that the city now has a trio of options to review when it comes to possible expansion.
Those include the North State Street Professional Building at 1109 N. State St., the Monticello Community Building at 201 N. State St., and the unnamed option. Since feasibility studies are already underway for North State Street, Brock proposed tabling similar contracts for the community building.
“We are under no timeline on this building, as we are on North State Street. I think at this time, considering the expenses we have incurred so far, it would be a good time to step back and look at another option that has presented itself recently,” said Brock.
The council tabled the community center feasibility studies until its May 26 session.
The city previously approved about $15,000 in feasibility studies on the North State Street Professional Building, currently owned by Kirby Medical Center and located next to the Piatt County Office Building (former hospital) and Piatt County Nursing Home. Kirby had sought to sell the property sometime this spring.
Motions to consider similar studies for the community building– one a $7,500 contract with Farnsworth Group to review existing building conditions and map out possible floor plans; the other a $5,515 contract with Bodine Environmental Services to gauge any asbestos or lead-based paint concerns – will be back on the city council agenda on May 26.
City Administrator Terry Summers noted that approval of the studies does not mean the Community Center will be the city’s landing point.
“This feasibility study will consider the Monticello Police Department utilizing the Community Building, along with city administration offices. However, this feasibility study may demonstrate that the Community Building may not be suitable for the relocation of the police department due to safety concerns.”
City officials have been looking at alternative sites for the police station, which is in a 1,460-square-foot building, along with more space for municipal services. An option to purchase the North State Street Professional Building for $20,000 has met with stiff opposition from neighbors, who suggested the city expand into the downtown-centric Monticello Community Building (former library) instead.
Public comment – submitted by email – showed that North State Street homeowners support the Community Building option, saying it keeps essential city services downtown and retains the park-like feel of the North State Street Historic District
They are also reportedly putting their money where their mouths are. Michael Moore noted there was already $27,000 in seed money pledged by residents towards remodeling efforts at the former library, which is located on the other side of a parking lot from the current municipal building.
He also felt the Community Center option could be less expensive, especially if grants could be obtained.
“That isn’t really the main issue for us, but cost always matters, and I think this cuts in favor of the Community Building,” he said.
Deanna Glosser, a Champaign resident but frequent Monticello visitor, also favored options closer to the downtown square, fearing that a move of city services away from downtown area to be detrimental in the long run.
“I fear this move will have long-term negative consequences to both the downtown district as well as the North State Street Historic District,” she said. “Often these changes occur slowly over a period of years, and result in incremental changes that cannot be reversed. Avoiding that first set of changes is vital.”
Grant application approved
Aldermen approved a resolution to apply for a $25,000 Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program Grant on behalf of These Four Walls. If approved, the dollars could be used to offset expenses during the COVID-19 shutdown, provided the business reopens within one year of the grant award.
These Four Walls is in the non-essential business category, so has been shuttered since shutdowns were ordered in March. They have five employees.
In April, the council approved similar grant applications for 3 Ravens Food & Spirits, Fieldhouse 219 and The Fitness Center.
Walden Pond residents show concern
Ron Miller, a resident of Walden Pond Estates, registered concern over a 72-by-54 foot wood frame addition approved for 805 Trail Blazer Lane, a property that borders Walden Pond to the north but is not part of the subdivision.
“We as a community and a group have grave concerns that the building permit and building itself was not submitted to the city in the spirt of the ordinance, and is detracting from the community,” said Miller.
He also expressed opposition to a lane possibly being installed from Route 47 to the back side of the Trail Blazer Lane property, which Miller said would create an alley between the home and the highway near Walden Pond. Summers said there were no plans for a road extension at this time.
Business support urged
Mayor Larry Stoner asked residents to “support the local businesses now more than ever, as many are struggling now with the challenges brought on from the pandemic. Information on business assistance can be found on the Monticello Chamber’s website (www.monticellochamber.org) and is updated regularly.”
He noted that gift cards for many local businesses can also be purchased on the Chamber website.
The mayor also congratulated “the senior class at Monticello High School. We wish you the best in your future ventures.”
Stoner also declared May 10-16 as Police Week in Monticello.
In other action, the council:
–heard a plea from Stoner to cooperate with the 2020 census as it winds down. He noted that 77.7 percent of Monticello residents have responded thus far, compared to 71.9 percent for Piatt County, 62.4 percent in Illinois and 57.5 percent nationwide;
–received a report from Fire Chief John Rupkey, who said the department responded to 46 calls in April, including nine within a 90-minute period on April 8 due to the storm that swept through Piatt County. He said only one of the 46 calls was for a structure fire, which was on a porch and caused only minor damage. He also said the department has welcomed four new firefighters in the last two months.