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Streetscaping could cost $5 million

TIF to pay for most of project

DIXON – A 10 1/2-block downtown streetscaping project could cost about $5 million, engineers told the City Council on Monday.

The council is eyeing the second phase of downtown streetscaping with between $3.5 and $4 million of the funding coming from tax increment financing (TIF), which allows future tax gains to subsidize improvements to a specific area.

The council could utilize about $900,000 in its general fund set aside for capital projects because of a surplus in its Illinois Municipal Retirement or Social Security funds that allows it to make up the difference, Finance Director Paula Meyer said.

That is just one option, but if this money is used from the general fund for streetscaping, it could affect other plans, Meyer said.

No action was taken Monday and much more discussion is expected as engineering designs are expected to be shared at the first of the year. A final plan has not yet been determined.

When the downtown TIF district was extended for 11 more years in December 2011, Mayor Jim Burke said the goal was to redo sidewalks, curbs and streets downtown so they look similar to streetscaping on South Hennepin Avenue.

The project would tackle First Street from Crawford Avenue to Madison Avenue, South Ottawa Avenue from East River Road to East Second Street, and South Peoria Avenue from West River Road to West Second Street.

The city hopes to start work next summer, Burke said.

The streetscaping project would include new sidewalks, new curbs and gutters, street and parking reconstruction, new street and parking lot lighting, new traffic signals on Peoria Avenue, new trees and amenities, said Scott Brown of Wendler Engineering in a joint presentation with Willett Hofmann & Associates.

The cost is about $450,000 per block and $150,000 for parking lots. The proposed plan includes two alleys and two parking lots.

The city can spend more or less, depending on its plans, Brown said.

Because Dixon's downtown is listed on the National Historic Registry, all engineering will have to be done with input from Dixon's historic preservation commission, Dixon Main Street and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Brown said.

The mayor is hopeful signage can be put up to recognize Dixon's listing on the registry.

Meetings will be scheduled for public input from residents and merchants, Brown said. Also, commissioners asked for consistent updates on the progress of plans and the opportunity to give input along the way.

Commissioners Dennis Considine and David Blackburn discussed possibly getting rid of the traffic signal at Peoria Avenue and Second Street.

Depending on the traffic volume discovered at the intersection, it is possible the city could do away with that signal there, or a signal may be placed at Peoria and Third Street instead.

The streetscaping will be an opportunity for the city to readdress any issues it has with handicapped parking, Commissioner Jeff Kuhn said.

The mayor informed the council he is working with the governor's office to acquire $450,000 in grant money for the construction of a parking lot along the Riverfront on the west side of the Peoria Avenue bridge.

The project has nothing to do with the $40 million recovered from the recent lawsuit settlement or sale of Rita Crundwell's assets, Burke said.

"This project has been planned for a long time," he said in response to a visitor's question about funding. "This was our justification for extending the TIF district by 11 years with the Illinois legislature. This money can only be used for the downtown."

Also Monday, the City Council placed on file an ordinance that would allow for a referendum asking for a change to the city manager form of government on the November 2014 ballot.

A seven-person governmental task force, appointed by Burke and approved by the council, recommended this summer the city ask citizens to decide if they want to adopt the city manager form of government.

November 2014 is the earliest the question can reach the ballot.

In other items, commissioners authorized the special-use permit for an electrical contracting business, D&R Electric, at 1107 Eastern Ave., and gave the go-ahead to make the prohibition of drug paraphernalia part of city ordinances.

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