It was a ceremonial evening for the Jacksonville City Council tonight. Three new city council members were sworn in last night. Ward 2 alderwoman Alison Rubin de Celis, Ward 3 Alderman Kent Hannant, and Ward 5 Alderwoman Mary Watts each took their oaths of office. Ward 1 Alderwoman Darcella Speed was absent and will be sworn in at the next meeting.
New Ward 3 Alderman Kent Hannant says that he has no immediate plans other than to get a grasp on the process of the city government and find out where the city’s needs are. Hannant says that his election versus outgoing Alderman Brandon Adams was an uncommon occurrence: “It was a unique experience.” Hannant says he hopes to work with many of the residents Adams has over the past 2 years: “No one has come forward to me with any needs yet, so at this point I don’t know of any needs that they have. Hopefully, [Mr. Adams] will get with me and express any needs that they do have and I can continue to work on those. It’s part of getting me up to speed on everything within the next couple weeks.”
New Ward 5 Alderwoman Mary Watts says she knows a lot of projects are going on in her ward currently and she’s ready for the challenges ahead: “I’m very ready, very excited. Right now, my focus is just to get my feet settled in. I think that’s where I need to start. With all of the projects going on, that will be interesting. The [other council members] keep telling me my phone is going to start ringing, but I haven’t had nothing yet. I’m ready though. I’m ready to hear it. I feel like that’s the best way to learn about what is going on [in the city].”
In final business for the old council tonight, they approved a first reading awarding a liquor license to the El Patron Mexican Restaurant located in the old El Rancherito building in Lincoln Square. The utility department received approval to purchase a new pick up truck for $28,085 from Morrow Brothers in Greenfield and a 2015 John Deere utility vehicle for the cost of $10,900. The utility department lost a vehicle in a crash last month, and Utility Superintendent Rick Hearin said it would be more cost effective to buy a brand new vehicle than go with a used vehicle outfitted for their department. He said the difference between new and used would be about $8,000-$10,000, and a used vehicle may or may not have over 100,000 miles on it.
The council also approved the final reading on an ordinance amending their golf cart and UTV ordinance to be reciprocal with the Village of South Jacksonville’s ordinance; and approved a 50% TIF match with Matt Summers for work he’s doing on the old Denney Jewelers building located at 59 East Central Park Plaza. Summers told the council that he intends to make renovations to the building to make it more attractive to rent for business spaces. TIF Review Committee representative Kelly Hall told the council that the cost of renovation was $90,390. Summers told the council he has already invested around $27,000 in the building. Currently, the building houses the Jared DeGroot Jiu Jitsu school in the back. Summers hopes more unique opportunities will follow once the work is complete. He is looking to add modern glass buildings to the front facade, reopening the building.
Hall went on to give a brief overview on the Downtown TIF District’s investment numbers. Hall says that the TIF has participated in 9 projects since 2019 until most recently and that private money has leveraged over $500,000 into those projects with the TIF kicking in approximately $185,000 to those projects. Hall says for every $3 spent private, the TIF has contributed a dollar in matching funds. He thanked the city for their continued support of the TIF District program.
During the workshop meeting Alan Bradish thanked the city council and the city as a whole for the success of the 2020 Temporary Overnight Emergency Shelter Accommodation for the city’s homeless this winter. He said the TEOSA was open 4 months and served approximately 30 individuals, helping to relocate 3 and find permanent housing for 3 others. He presented a certificate to the city and to outgoing Ward 3 Alderman Brandon Adams for his volunteer work at the shelter. In all, Bradish said he trained 100 volunteers, had 50 take an active role, and 25 other community members help prepare meals for the shelter during the TEOSA’s operation.
The new city council members will be officially put to work for the first meeting in the month of May.