A pitch to have the city of Chester become a part of a state program designed to spur local economic development was made to the city council Monday night.
Keith Moran of Moran Associates gave council members an overview of the Illinois Enterprise Zone program administered by the state Department of Commerces. Under the program, businesses located or expanding in an Illinois enterprise zone may be eligible for state and local tax incentives and exemptions.
Specifically, a business wishing to build or expand in a designated enterprise zone could submit an application to the local zone and purchase building materials without paying any state or local sales tax. Other incentives include utility tax rate exemptions up to 5 percent and it also provides a 6.25 percent state tax exemption on all tangible personal property which is consumed in the process of manufacturing.
The number of communities that are accepted into the program is limited, but Moran said many communities using it have joined with other towns and counties, which freed up the availability for others.
Currently, the Monroe County cities of Waterloo and Columbia, along with Randolph County cities of Red Bud and Sparta have expressed interest in submitting a joint application. The Randolph County Board is supporting this endeavor, Moran said. County Commissioner Dave Holder was at the meeting, but did not speak to the council.
Councilman Russ Rader asked how this differs from a Tax Incentive Financing zone, which deals mainly with property taxes. Moran said an enterprise zone relies solely on sales tax exemptions and while a TIF zone must include a large area, an enterprise zone can be very specific in its zoning area.
Mayor Tom Page asked what the cost of the application would be to the city. Mroan said the application -- which must be very specific and include maps of the area -- could cost $6,000, and that cost would not guarantee receiving the designation. It would be processed by Dec. 30, and if it is approved, it would go into effect in 2020.
The council thanked Moran for his presentation and will examine the proposal for a decision at a later date.
In other business, the council approved purchases for the Gas Department, which include a new Chevrolet Colorado truck, a mini-excavator, and tooling drilling machine. Department head Jeremy Homan said the purchases, especially the tooling machine, will save the city money and expects it will pay for itself in two years.
Brian Congiardo received approval of $2,000 to run shuttles during the USS LST 325 visit in September. This event was a huge success the last time it visited the Port of Chester and this year it will be here during the Popeye Picnic. The Chester Library will also be presenting a preview of their Smithsonian exhibits during that time.
The shuttles will run Saturday and Sunday and allow people to visit all three areas without having to move their vehicles.
Fire Chief Marty Bert reported his department had 12 fire calls in the last month, including four homes and three vehicle extractions. Bert said many of these calls happened late at night or during the early morning hours, which are difficult for a volunteer fire department but the firefighters always respond and perform their best.
Police Chief Ryan Coffey reported that he and his department have been busy with several felony cases. One of the local banks received counterfeit $100 bills in a deposit from a local business. Coffey said that seemed to be an isolated case but he cautioned businesses to educate themselves about fake bills and use precautions when accepting large bills. Coffey told the council he is working on the five-year plan for his department and will soon present it, along with the goals achieved in the previous plan.
The Buena Vista Street project is nearing completion. The council approved sidewalk extensions near the City Steps and behind the Courthouse. The road should be opened to through traffic soon.