City council approves Downtown Celebration, Relay For Life plans, passes first reading of budget

By Gary Scott on January 27, 2015 at 8:29am

Action at Monday’s Jacksonville city council meeting focused on several big events planned for downtown in 2015.

Aldermen unanimously passed resolutions allowing the Tri-County Relay for Life to use the square for its annual cancer-fighting fundraiser and gave the green light for Jacksonville Main Street to employ a modified alcohol sales plan for this year’s Downtown Celebration.

Tom Grojean with the celebration explained that last night’s request was “downsized” from the original one at the December 9th city council meeting. Struck from the proposal was the request to allow people to purchase alcohol at bars and leave with an approved container.

“As we looked at that further- the roadblocks are going to be set so far back- we realized that that was just going to be cumbersome and too labor-intensive, and costly for the city. So, we have taken that off the table,” Grojean says.

“There’s still going to be beer and wine moving freely within the footprint of downtown, within the square, but not beyond that on East state, West state, South Main, and down to College.”

Grojean maintains the event will be more family-friendly this year and pointed to activities after 8 p.m. such as a movie.

“Over the years, I’ve seen this done in many communities, and it seems to work very, very well. We’re not about people getting drunk and all that kind of stuff at all,” he says.

“To the contrary, I think you find more of that in beer tent areas. We’re about people just enjoying the day and the early evening and being able to, if they want to, have a glass of wine or have a beer and enjoy it that way. But, there will be police protection. Bad behavior won’t be tolerated, and that’s the way it ought to be anyway in a public setting,” Grojean continues.

Aldermen also gave the go-ahead for the event to include fireworks, as it did in 2011. The Downtown Celebration will run from noon to 8 p.m. on May 30th.

There was discussion regarding the Relay for Life event and the city’s participation in it after it was revealed the Relay wants city barricades and golf carts for usage. Several aldermen felt the city should not cover expenses unless it’s directly sponsoring an event.

Alderwoman Lori Large-Oldenettel says in general, city council should be supportive of events like Relay For Life, and noted the recent commitment to helping to run the Grierson Days event, but she says it’s important for the city to be mindful of the resources it’s using.

“We just need to be looking at the big picture so that not every single request has to come to council. It’s something that can be handled within the city based upon certain parameters that we have, or maybe costs,” says Oldenettel.

“[That] better helps us keep track of, perhaps, some of the things that we’re loaning out as well as not eating up a lot of manpower, expenses, to make some of these events happen. It’s not a bad thing; I’m just saying, as we work with more and more groups, we need to be more and more mindful of what we’re doing,” she adds.

It’s not anticipated that the Relay For Life will be back on the agenda for further action, as Mayor Andy Ezard said his office would handle any logistical issues unless there were major ones that would require council approval.

“I certainly understand the aldermen’s views as far as putting something in place that’s more systematic on how we can do events with city manpower. I think we’re all unanimous though that we did this downtown [renovation so we could] have events,” says Ezard.

“Bringing in the Relay for Life event to downtown Jacksonville, I feel good about that. I think the setting downtown for the Relay for Life event will be really appealing to the survivors and their families.”

Ezard added the city might provide the Relay with lighting from the fire department. He said the city wouldn’t be able to provide golf carts if there’s a major event at the golf course. He also noted there was no negative comment from downtown business owners about holding the Relay, which is June 20th and will run from noon to midnight.

In other action last night, aldermen unanimously passed the first reading of the 2015 appropriations bill, which is the operating and capital improvements budgets. The bill totals about $43 million.

Alderman Steve Warmowski noted the police department overtime budget was exceeded by $40,000 last year and thinks the budget should be adjusted.

Warmowski was asked by Finance Committee chairman Don Cook if he had talked to the department, to which Warmowski responded that he has talked to the budget committee and to Cook several times about it.

Alderman Mike Wankel said he’d like to see miscellaneous expenses brought down from $7,000 to $10,000 to a more reasonable figure like $1,000. Cook noted that all department heads came under budget overall.

Aldermen also approved an agreement with Hutchison Engineering for an overlay project of North Main from the railroad tracks to Walnut. The project would require 20 percent local funds and be federally financed the rest of the way. It would begin next spring.