EAST PEORIA — The City Council is considering postponing construction of a roundabout at West Camp Street and River Road to free up money to help pay for more pressing maintenance of city streets. The postponement could jeopardize state funding of the project that would pay for 70 percent of the multimillion-dollar project and leave no immediate solution for congestion in an important commercial section of the city.
"To me it's a no-brainer," choosing between a Camp Street roundabout and a more comprehensive program of city street maintenance, Commissioner John Kahl said during Tuesday evening's council working session on the city's capital budget. "To give money to a roundabout when we can't even take care of (the streets) we have is to me completely asinine."
The council met Tuesday to discuss how to spend $1.1 million from its proposed 2019-2020 budget on capital needs in the city, including police cars, public works plows, fire trucks and a new fueling station. That number was reduced at the outset of the discussion by $300,000 to be spent instead on a down payment for the city's $900,000 obligation to the roundabout. That left $800,000 to spend on a departmental wish list that totaled $3.4 million.
The council came to no consensus on the postponement of the roundabout, putting off a decision for another week to gather more information. The hope, according to commissioners, is that pushing back the project to the back end of the state's scheduled construction timeline (2024-2025) would not touch the state's contribution. It was not clear Tuesday whether a majority of council members supported a postponement or moving forward with the project.
That left the council to reach a consensus on how to spend about $800,000 on capital expenses. A preliminary list includes seven police squad cars, instead of the 14 requested, for $315,000; $70,000 for a new fueling station for city vehicles; $25,000 for a Fire Department generator; and $360,000 for two new plow trucks for the public works department. Not making the cut were light poles over Farm Creek ($30,000), a platform truck and engine truck for the fire department ($1.8 million) and a bike trail ($100,000).
Fire Chief John Knapp lobbied for the fire equipment to remain in the capital budget, even if it meant financing it over several years. He described the truck the new platform truck would replace as being well beyond its service life.
"I have serious concerns operating what we have," he said. "We've put ourselves in a really bad spot."
It was not clear Tuesday if the council's uncertainty on postponing the roundabout project would extend the council's budget deliberations beyond next month. Commissioners agreed to meet in another working session next week and could still be on target to pass an operating budget in March.
Commissioner Dan Decker, who oversees the city's street maintenance program, said he would like to spend as much as $3 million on street repair this year. However, the $300,000 gained from possibly postponing the roundabout construction and about $550,000 from the Motor Fuel Tax fund would only give the city $850,000 to spend on street repair.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.