By Stephanie Malench
The Collinsville Township held a special town meeting on Thursday, October 14. The only item on the agenda was to discuss and vote on the purchase of the parking lot next to the senior center for $125,000. Township Supervisor Derrick Cox called the special meeting 30 days before through a public hearing notice in this paper’s classifieds, notices on the doors of all township buildings, and on the Township’s website. The board cannot vote to buy or sell real property without the consent of the electors that are the
However, on the day of the meeting, residents were upset to learn they had not been informed of the meeting in a timely manner. The first order of business was for those in attendance to nominate and vote on a moderator since it was a town meeting and not a township board of trustees meeting.
Once former Collinsville Councilman and current Senior Council member Mike Fisher was nominated and approved as the moderator, Fisher explained that those in attendance had three choices on how to proceed with the meeting: vote yes to purchase the property after a discussion, vote no on purchasing the property, or make the meeting informational only and schedule another meeting when more people are informed.
Because there would not be time to apply for the TIF funds that would have covered 40% of the project before the end of the year when the TIF expires, Cox said that he wanted to table the vote until a later meeting when more residents are able to attend.
Although TIF Funding will not be able to be used due to the owner refusing to sell the lot earlier in the year then refusing to come down on the price, Cox said the lot can still be paid for without raising taxes by using $115,000 in PEP Grant funds through the County and $60,000 being held in a special fund from a donor to be used only for the Senior Center.
Cox said an initial bid he received to get an estimate on paving the lot was $63,000, which would include green space for outdoor activities such as bocce ball and 28 parking spots.
Discussion was heated the decision to put off voting on the purchase of the land until a later date as well as whether or not to proceed with eminent domain to acquire the property that has a fair market value of only $45,000.
Township Attorney Bruce Mattea said that proceeding with eminent domain would not necessarily save the township any money once attorney fees and additional appraisals are paid for and could add two years to the project.
Several seniors in the audience said they want to feel safe and that they do not feel safe walking from neighboring streets to the center, especially at night. They also said they have waited long enough for safe parking.
Senior Center Director Brandon Loyet said “everyone keeps talking about money, but what is the cost of a senior’s life if someone were to be attacked or robbed walking too far of a distance from the senior center?”
Resident Ron Jedda told the audience that imminent domain filings should begin because once the seller finds out you are filing for imminent domain, you will get the property. Jedda also reminded attendees that there is “no such thing as free money” and “if you set a precedent that you are willing to pay more you will always make exceptions”.
Resident Mark Achenbach said that if the township overspends now, it will cost in lost opportunities to spend the money on something else at a later date.
A regular at the senior center, Irene, said “sometimes it’s worth paying more than something is worth because we need it”, likening the parking lot to a replacement tire when driving through the dessert.
After everyone had the opportunity to share their thoughts, Cox made a motion to table the vote for at least 40 days until everyone can be informed of the meeting and have the opportunity to make an educated vote.