Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2016 9:43 pm | Updated: 5:29 am, Wed Aug 17, 2016.
Passed with a 3-2 vote, the agreement authorizing the mayor to execute a lease agreement with the Gardens was approved for a one-time award of $40,000 for fiscal year 2016-17. After much discussion, it was decided that City Council will review this lease agreement every year going forward and make a decision to either continue or cease funding.
Alderman Tom Butts said the Council isn’t required to continue funding every year, but hopes the City is able to help the Gardens.
Alderman Butts, Jeanette Mallon, and Art Risavy were in favor of approving the lease, whereas alderman Janet Stack and Craig Louer were opposed. Louer said although he appreciates the work that’s gone into maintaining the property since losing the funding from the state, he doesn’t support its approval.
“While I respect all of the work that ACS and Tom and members of ACS put into this, I value the contribution of the Gardens to the green space and recreational space and the overall good opportunity for passive green space in the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon area. I also appreciate all of the contributions that the people have supported their dedication, their hard work with keeping the plants up, and especially their financial contributions. But, I feel that the setting of priorities and decisions to support a nonprofit, in this case, a 501-C3 for the Gardens should be an individual taxpayer decision based on their priorities. I don’t think it should be the decision of a taxing body to make contributions to a pliable 3C on behalf of all the taxpayers. So, I will not support this,” Louer said.
The Gardens are currently in the process of becoming a 501-C3, independent of SIUE entirely. However, Butts said despite Louer’s concerns, the funding is available and is not intruding on the other parks’ budgets.
“I don’t think we are taking money away from the Stephenson House, the Watershed, the Children’s Museum, anywhere else. As far as being a 501-C3, I don’t see where that makes a difference. I look at it as a one-time shot. Everybody gets to take a look at this again next year and City Council decides if they want to fund it or not,” Butts said.
The $40,000 grant will be taken out of the city’s community redevelopment fund, and Patton said because the Gardens is an entertainment facility similar to that of the city’s current parks and projects, it qualifies for the funds.
“The community redevelopment fund is made up of utility tax money but also entertainment tax money. If you buy a movie ticket at the theater and Edison’s entertainment, a little bit of that goes toward this fund. It’s not out of the general fund that we are asking this $40,000 to come from — that would be property taxes. So this is out of the entertainment tax and more specifically the community redevelopment fund, which as it currently stands at $635,000 to be used for things that the Council feels passionate about,” Patton said.
It was also proposed that the city should be credited for supporting the Gardens if and when the lease agreement was approved. Now that it has passed, Risavy said it is something the city will look into and discuss further with SIUE’s Board of Trustees later on this year.
Despite the available funds and tying up lose ends within the lease, Alderman Janet Stack was also opposed to its approval, concerned with not only the current responsibilities the city has with its parks and projects, but also the limitations of the parks and recreation staff.
“I think that we have bitten off an awful lot this year. We’ve got the Corlew Park, which I know we’ve gotten a lot of grants for but the money hasn’t rolled in yet; we’ve got Glik Park that we’ve been looking to do a lot of improvements to that have not occurred because lack of money. Yes we have the Stephenson House, the Children’s Museum and the Watershed Nature area, but do we help them? Yes. Could we help them more? Absolutely. Not to mention the time and the frustration for our Parks staff because it’s going to fall upon them to help with this transition, and that’s where my concern is. Plus, I know that part of the problem is with the university is seeing the funding cut from the state, and I’m concerned that eventually it’s going to trickle down to the city government. So as much as I’d love to say I would like to support it, at this point I really don’t feel like I can,” Stack said.
As the discussion concluded, Mayor Hal Patton made a motion and the agreement passed with a 3-2 vote. Aldermen Barb Stamer and William Krause were excused and unable to participate in the voting. The lease agreement will be reviewed again next year by City Council.
The next City Council meeting will take place at City Hall at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 6. All meetings are open to the public.