Superintendent interested in having District 117 acquire JDC

By Jim McCabe on December 18 at 1:04pm

District 117’s superintendent says the Jacksonville Developmental Center is a “major player” in the school district’s facilities vision.

Steve Ptacek made that comment last night at a facilities vision committee meeting. The group of administrators, teachers, school board members and community members is in charge of creating a plan that could change the landscape currently dotted by one high school, one junior high, and six grade schools.

Ptacek referenced Senate Bill 341, legislation created by State Senator Tony Munoz of Chicago in October that aims to provide economic development opportunities for businesses interested in leasing or buying state-owned property that has been shuttered within the past two years.

The Jacksonville Developmental Center officially shut its doors in March.

The legislation, if passed, would provide tax credits equal to 30 percent of the expenditures for redevelopment of the JDC, with District 117 having the potential to receive $10 million in tax credits.

Ptacek says it’s important for the facilities vision committee to consider this legislation if it passes.

“We have to be prepared. When an opportunity knocks, you’ve got to be prepared to answer. An opportunity like that will happen once every century, and we’ve got to be prepared to take that opportunity if that is want the community wants to do,” says Ptacek.

“It’s not that I’m pushing for that with this process. I would not be doing my job if I did not bring that important opportunity to this committee.”

Ptacek notes the tax credits also exist for private companies that would develop the property. A ranking system would give the city the first shot at the JDC, then Morgan County, then District 117.

Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard says there has been interest expressed by private interests, but so far, it has not gone beyond private discussion. Ezard says the school district would be an attractive unit to take up the property.

State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer is hopeful that SB 341 will be passed by the House in the springtime.

“This bill’s been a long time coming. We’ve been working on it for, basically, the past year trying to put it together the right way. We’ve made sure to be very inclusive on other areas that are affected by state properties,” Davidsmeyer.

“So, I think we’ve got a good coalition from bipartisan support. Republicans, democrats, there’s a lot of areas that have been affected by state closures.”

As for what District 117 would do with the JDC if it acquires the property, Ptacek says that’s still to be determined.

“You’re not going to hear me talk at all about what type of new building would be on the JDC grounds. I’m not going to predetermine if we’re going to build, I’m not going to predetermine what we’re going to build,” he says.

“I need to interact with the community and discuss with the community what the community’s thoughts are about that possibility.”

Davidsmeyer says the coalition of lawmakers working on this bill has been working closely with the governor’s office, and he believes there’s support from that camp as well.