After lengthy discussion, the Chester City Council voted 4-3 Monday night not to increase the number of liquor licenses available in the city.
The proposal, prompted by a potential new business to be located on the east side of Chester, was opposed by several representatives from fraternal organizations.
Larry Mitchell, manager of the Chester Moose Lodge, opposed the idea during the public comment portion of the meeting. Mitchell said he is against seeing any new business getting a liquor or gambling license. According to Mitchell, there is only a certain pool of money in Chester for drinking and gambling, and the more places that offer both takes away business from other establishments.
The potential business owners did not address the council.
Alderman Robert Platt said he did not want to see any changes made to the ordinance and did not want Chester known for drinking and gambling all over town.
Alderman Jeremy Homan, who represents the ward where the new business seeking licenses would be located, said he was not upset when the last business offering both disappeared a few years ago.
Mayor Tom Page asked the council what they would say if someone wanted to open a new grocery store; would they object because there are already places to buy groceries in Chester? He said there is no difference in this situation.
Page pointed to the revenue Chester receives from each licensed business and said increasing the number of licenses would mean increased revenue for the city.
Aldermen Bryce Hill and Ray Allison also spoke against changing the ordinance.
Alderman Bob Buckham presented the motion to change the ordinance with Alderman Randy Dudenbostel seconding it. When the vote was taken, Platt, Homan, Hill and Allison voted No. Buckham, Dudenbostel, and Russel Rader voted yes. Alderman J.D. Maes was absent from the meeting.
Page shook his head in disbelief and seemed genuinely upset with the council's decision. He moved past requesting a change of the ordinance pertaining to the number of gambling licenses, which was also on the agenda, since a liquor license is required for a business to obtain a gambling license first.
• The council heard from City Engineer Harold Sheffer concerning an agreement with Geosyntec Consultants for the Water Plant Wells Project. Sheffer is looking for grants and subsidies for the project, saying the agreement with Geosyntec may become moot without additional funding .
• The council received a letter of resignation from Danielle Conway from the park board and gave its approval to the mayor's appointment of Wendy Atchison to fill the position.
• The council gave its approval to hire Sarah Hicks as a new dispatcher for the police department.
• Cynthia Lawder, a member of the Beautification Committee, shared a drawing of the new mural to be painted on the east side of the Korando Heating and Cooling building at 1941 State Street. The mural will say "Welcome to Chester" and will have scenes from the old Chester Fair Grounds, which was located directly across State Street from the mural. Lawder said the $5,800 project should be covered by private donations and hopes the public will support the project.
• The council cleared the way for parades at the Fall Festival and the Christmas on the River celebration with approval of IDOT resolutions for road closures along the parade routes.
• Platt voiced his concerns about the condition of the streets and alleys across Chester, saying he believes the council should start looking at making improvements over the next five years.
• Platt spoke against action on the Parks and Recreation Committee's request for new exercise equipment at the Cohen Complex. According to Platt, the $70,000 purchase request presented some potentially dangerous looking equipment, and as such the discussion was tabled until next month when opinions can be obtained by the city's insurance company. Platt added that he feels $70,000 could be better spent on road improvements.
• Allison asked when work would begin on repairs to the Welcome Center Overlook Deck and on the Gazebo in midtown. Page answered that the work should begin soon on both, saying city workers will probably start taking down the Gazebo in July, with construction of the new one to follow.
The council will next meet July 5.