Decatur Issues

I fully intended for the last post to be my last but that was before so many really weird things happening in Decatur over the last couple of weeks and months.  It seems like every time I’m ready to retire from blogging about Decatur, Decatur goes off a cliff.

I’m not going to write about the details of the firing of the chief of police because they have been covered elsewhere (and we don’t even know the details) but I am going to write about things I’ve noticed from the current city council, the city manager, and mayor.  Things have changed.  The appearance of citizens has changed, the whole tone of the meetings has changed, and most importantly discussion of important votes has been minimal with little time between public notification and council votes.

Of course, I expected a change in personalities since the major players have changed but I didn’t expect citizens appearing before council to to be cut off or treated rudely.  According to former police chief Sweeney, the city manager allegedly directed a police officer to remove a citizen from the council chamber apparently because he or she was opposed to a particular agenda item.

Before the last municipal election, we were told Decatur was on the right path.  Things were looking up and brighter than they had been in decades.  Then after the election, we were painted a totally different picture of the city’s finances.  Now, I knew the finances weren’t as great as many may have been led to believe.  I had looked at the numbers and knew there was nothing for city road repairs.  Nothing.  That’s why I proposed major changes to shrink the size of the city since we have lost 25% of our population.

Of course, a lot of the issues stem from the fact that previous councils had put off increasing taxes for years, so instead of modest increases here and there we were hit with some hefty increases all at once.  The main issue though is that the city has no real vision for tackling Decatur’s shrinking population.  A city built for a 100,000 people cannot be supported by a population of less than 75,000.  It’s impossible.  Major changes need to take place and the answer doesn’t involve taxing people to death.  I guess I’ll have to roll out my plan again because it does address those issues in bold and innovative ways.

Other Stuff

I also thought it was highly unethical to appoint a city worker to the library board to essentially be a city spy.  At least that’s how I see it.  I don’t even know why the city wants the library building in the first place.  They don’t have the money to maintain it and they killed off the possibility of commercial development downtown. They also killed a plan for county offices to move into vacant portions of the library building that I thought made a lot of economic sense for taxpayers.  It’s seems the city’s motives regarding the library are petty, shortsighted, and irrational.

I don’t understand what the heck is going on. It’s weird.  I’ve been writing about the city council since 2008 and I’ve never seen behavior like this.  Even when council members were at each other’s throats during the Change Decatur years, at least I knew the motives behind everyone’s actions. I don’t understand the motives behind our city leaders today.  I really don’t.  It’s crazy!

And I really wanted to retire.

 

 

Read more

A few days ago I wrote about an old Decatur-themed board game from 1982 that I found at an antique store.  It was hard not to notice how many of the businesses featured on it are no longer in Decatur, and it didn’t even begin to list all the ones that are gone.  However, I’ve noticed quite a few new buildings popping up in Decatur and thought I’d take note of them because it’s been a long time coming to see any new development in town.

girl scouts decatur

Since the Girl Scouts have taken over the former WSOY/Y103 building on East Pershing Road quite a few other new offices buildings have been constructed nearby.

DSC_0681

Above:  New doctor’s office.

DSC_0676

Pella Windows & Doors on E. Pershing.

DSC_0677

Next to Pella Windows is a new bank on E. Pershing that is still under construction. I’m not sure what bank branch it’s going to be but it looks like a bank to me.  Speaking of banks, well credit unions to be more exact…

staleys credit union full

The new Staley’s Credit Union branch on the corner of Eldorado and well I’m not sure what the other road is, turned out great. Though the building is small, there is some really nice architectural details.

staleys credit union front

Below: The building even has a chain gutter waterfall downspout thing.  I don’t know what these particular things are called either but they’re cool!

staleys credit union

It’s not just commercial buildings that are changing the look of Decatur but its two public high schools.  Eisenhower isn’t even recognizable to those who knew its’ former look, which wasn’t all that appealing.

eisenhower high school

I’ll have to head over and get a picture or two of MacArthur High School.  The renovation isn’t yet complete but it is coming along, so pictures to come.

GW Plaza on the corner of Water & Grand is finished and looking good.  There are still some empty spaces available for rent but it’s a high-traffic location, so hopefully they’ll be filled soon.  I’m just thrilled to see investment in Decatur’s inner-city.

GW Plaza

Speaking of inner-city development, as I was traveling from Eisenhower to Eldorado I noticed this new building – Baloo’s BBQ on Jasper Street.  I hadn’t seen it before, since I don’t travel this way too often.  I’ll have to try it out.

baloos bbq decatur

County Market on the corner of Grand and 48 is coming along.  It sits across from a Speed Lube and a Walgreen’s.  I am noticing a pattern with the new development in town.  Wherever a new Walgreen’s locates, new businesses follow, and a Speed Lube is usually nearby as well.

county market grand

Speaking of Speed Lube, they really do a great job landscaping and beautifying their properties.  It just goes to show that any business, providing any service, can have a positive impact in their area.  I need to get better pictures of their landscaping on Eldorado. This one doesn’t show how many plants and flowers they’ve planted.

speedlube eldorado

But here are some of the flowers at the Speed Lube on the the corner of Grand and 48.

speedlube grand

I have to say that Eldorado Street is beginning to look much, much better. It didn’t look good in 1982 either, or in 1922, for that matter, from old photographs I’ve seen.  It’s nice to see the improvements, especially since it’s a major road in town.

dollar general eldorado

Jeesh, I’m really bad with names because I know this area has one. Anyway, it’s on Oakland near Millikin University.  Cherry Berry and Headwest Subs are just a couple of the new businesses in the area.  I still haven’t tried University Dogs yet but I’ve heard it’s good.

oakland shops

university dogs decatur

Even the WINeRY or WINErY has had a facelift.  I can’t remember which letter was lowercase but it always irked me.  I’m just waiting for the new sign to see what it looks like!

winery

I’ve driven by this area dozens of times but it never sunk in that there’s a Garcia’s Pizza located there.  I’ve looked at the building and read the sign but the information just bounced off of my brain and reflected into space apparently, until I took a picture of it.

garcias pizza decatur

And, drumroll please, it’s almost finished!  There are critters in the new mini-golf course FINALLY! It’s finally going to open this month.

overlook zebra

Anyway, it’s great to see new things coming to Decatur and even old businesses improving their properties.  No they don’t replace everything we’ve lost since 1982 but we’re moving in the right direction, little by little.

 

 

 

Read more

Soon the Decatur City Council will be considering passing a gasoline tax to help fund street repairs in the city.  Decatur does not currently have a gasoline tax.  It is estimated that a 1 cent tax per gallon of gasoline will bring in about $600,000 a year.  That doesn’t seem like enough money to fix many roads, considering the cost of repaving even a short section of road can easily run into the millions.

I don’t think anyone would argue that many Decatur streets need repaired.  We have to remember that the city isn’t responsible for many of the major roadways inside the city.  Pershing, Eldorado, most of Water and Main, and 22nd Street are state highways, so if we want to complain of their condition, we have to take our complaints to the state.  However, the city is responsible for many, many miles of neighborhood streets.

I’ve lived in my current neighborhood for almost 20 years and my street has never had work done on it, other than patches from a water main break or a sewer line caving in.  It’s still in decent shape considering everything but there are other roads nearby that definitely need resurfaced but not until water main and sewer problems are taken care of. That’s kind of where the city find itself:  Everything needs fixed at the same time and we’re being hit with taxes and increased rates from every direction.

It is hard to stomach another tax in Decatur.  Our sales tax rate is one of the highest in the state at 11%.  Ouch!  Not everything is taxed at 11% but even at 9%, it’s still painful.  Property taxes aren’t cheap.  Water rates have been raised.  Then there’s all those other taxes we forget about, like what is added to our landline and cell phone bill, cable, Internet, and power bills.  Of course our unemployment rate is still one of the highest in the state and the percentage of residents living at or below poverty levels is unacceptably high.  The city isn’t rolling in the dough, but we are wading knee-deep through a myriad of taxes.

A gasoline tax creates a few problems.  One, it gives an advantage to gas stations in nearby communities.  They’ll probably charge the same amount as Decatur stations and just pocket the extra cent or two, or whatever the rate is, for themselves.  Gas stations in Mt. Zion and Forsyth would have an unfair advantage over Decatur stations.  Secondly, even if Mt. Zion and Forsyth had lower gasoline prices, it would benefit the more affluent communities the most, and stick the highest prices on the poorest inner-city Decatur neighborhoods.

For the reasons above, I’m against the gasoline tax.  I think we’re taxed enough.  I don’t think the gasoline tax is outrageous or unreasonable but considering what we already pay, the line has to be drawn somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more

Next month we’ll be tackling our basement, which has become this big, moldy, cluttered monster lurking beneath our floorboards. No matter how perfectly clean the rest of the house may be, I enjoy those 10 minutes every 6 months, knowing that the basement is a wreck irks me.  It also irks me that I know there are good things down there that other people could be using.

I’m not a hoarder but I don’t like throwing away items that are still in good condition.  I just want them transferred into good hands.  Besides, being an environmental science student, I’d be kicked out of the club, if I were to take truckloads of stuff directly to a landfill that will take 10,000 years to decay!

Having lived in the same house since 1995, we have accumulated a lot.  Most of it is clothes that the kids have outgrown, old furniture, VHS tapes, books, old TVs, old electronics, and I’m not even sure what all until I start digging in.

Anyway there’s a good lesson here:  Don’t allow yourself to accumulate so much junk!  Also, grandparents out there, don’t buy your grandkids so many toys for Christmas and birthdays.  I think 90% of the toys in my basement were purchased by my kids’ grandparents.  90% of toys sold at garage sales were toys originally purchased by grandparents, and 90% of toys purchased at garage sales are purchased by grandparents.

This is usually the result of grandparents trying to outdo the other by spending more than the other set.  My dad always jokingly referred to my husband’s parents as our kids “generic” grandparents.  If you don’t think there’s a rivalry between grandparents…ha!  My basement is proof there is.

Anyway, now I’m faced with the task of getting rid of lots of stuff. I wanted to share some places where items in good condition can be donated for a good cause in Decatur.

Oh, and I wanted to share another thing.  If you’re going to give, give what you would like to receive.  In other words, don’t unload unusable items to a charitable organization.  It just makes more work for them and costs them money to get rid of it.

When my brother was a pastor, his family received a big box of donated food for Christmas one year but unfortunately half of what had been donated wasn’t even edible.  He received a box of Kroger brand Macaroni & Cheese that could have been taken to the Antiques Roadshow for appraisal.  He wasn’t sure what decade it was from.  He turned this form of “giving” into a sermon (pastors like doing that):  You’re not really giving anything, if you’re giving other people your garbage.  Most especially, If all you’re giving people is food poisoning, you really need to rethink your giving! 

Here’s a list of local agencies and thrift stores:  These aren’t all them in Decatur but the ones that I know of.  I’d recommend calling ahead to find out what they’ll accept and how they would like to receive the items.  These aren’t in any particular order.

LSA Resale Shop (Benefits Lutheran School Association)
421 E Cerro Gordo St
Phone:(217) 423-0122

Salvation Army Family Store – 2 Locations
229 W. Main St, Decatur, IL 62523
Phone: (217) 428-4647 and
137 S. Church St
Phone: (217) 362-3983

Catholic Charities of Decatur
https://www.cc.dio.org/area_offices/decatur/home.htm
247 W Prairie
Phone: (217) 428-3458

Blessingdale’s (Benefits God’s Shelter of Love – A homeless shelter in Decatur.)
http://www.godsshelteroflove.org/blessingdales.html
235 W. Eldorado
Phone: (217) 429-0624

Naz Thrift Store (Nazarene)
http://www.westsidenaz.net/
1290 W. Grand
Phone: (217) 423-6968

DMH Thrift Shop
http://www.dmhcares.org/services/ThriftShop/
553 W. Wood St
Phone: (217) 428-8512

Economy Shop
967 N. Water
Phone: (217) 423-3003

 

 

 

 

Read more

I thought by now I would have stunk up more than a few rounds of miniature golf and Decatur’s new Overlook Adventure* mini-golf course, but delays have pushed its opening back to the end of June or possible July.  I visited it last Fall as construction really got underway and took some photos then, so I decided to make another visit today, June 13th 2014, to see what progress has been made.

Overland Adventure Mini-Golf Course

There has been a lot of progress but honestly I thought it would be further along but I’m beginning to see some of the more detailed work shaping up.  Yet to be installed are the escaped critters from the zoo, which will be the theme for the course.  We should see some familiar animals from Decatur’s Scovill Zoo as we become aggravated, I mean as we enjoy playing each hole.  (I’m very competitive in miniature golf, ridiculously so.)

Other obvious things that need to be completed besides the installation of plastic critters are a fence, a finished parking lot, and quite a bit of landscaping.  If it’s going to be open by the end of this month, they’re really going to have to kick up construction into a higher gear.  I’m thinking it’ll probably be July before it’s ready but I could be wrong.

If I remember correctly, a Cherry Berry frozen yogurt shop, and a potato themed restaurant will also occupy the building.  I haven’t heard when those will be ready.

*I called it Overland Adventure Park originally but that didn’t sound right, so I double-checked and yep I was wrong…it’s Overlook Adventure Park. Now the guy with the binoculars and raccoon on his back on top of the building makes more sense.

Well, I’ll just let the photos do the rest of the talking: (Click on the pics for a closer view.)

DSC_0572

Uhm…that flag looks familiar to me for some reason.

DSC_0570

The lights are in. I think this is going to be a very popular place on a summer night in Decatur.

DSC_0586 DSC_0568 DSC_0569 DSC_0575

There's just something about that flag.  I've seen it somewhere!

There’s just something about that flag. I’ve seen it somewhere…. I think the raccoon gives us a good idea of what to expect from the other critters yet to be installed.

DSC_0580

The ticket booth.  I hope it’s a very busy ticket booth.

DSC_0579

I love the detail in the brickwork.

DSC_0588

The natural vegetation landscaping in the parking lot islands sure look healthy! Isn’t that the way it always is with weeds…

DSC_0576 DSC_0577 DSC_0578 DSC_0582  DSC_0586

 

 

Read more