Rock Island City Council met November 6.
Rock Island City Council met November 6.
Here is the minutes provided by the Council:
Community And Economic Development: Millennia Housing Update
Community and Economic Development Director Chandler Poole introduced Mark Ciepiel, Development Manager from Millennia Housing Development. Mr. Ciepiel said he would be discussing the two affordable housing rehabilitation projects they are working on in Rock Island. They have been working for two years on complex financing involving a HUD loan, tax credits, and TIF incentives from the City. Millennia was first formed in 1995 as a management company with additional companies formed to create investment in the assets the management company manages. They own 220 properties in 25 states with 23,000 apartment homes that are mostly Section 8 housing. Their mission is to serve as a long-term dedicated owner and manager of quality apartment communities. They work to maintain the highest quality management and operations standards.
Mr. Ciepiel reviewed the background of Century Woods Apartments at 1400 5th Street and Heather Ridge Apartments at 9500 14th Street West. They have had meetings with the aldermen for each location as well as with representatives of the Police and Fire Departments. They plan to invest over $62 million in the properties with an average of $45,000 to $50,000 spent on each unit. The homes will remain Section 8 housing after the rehabilitation. Millennia holds their properties for the long term and they also try to incorporate social services into their properties. He discussed the improvements that would be made at each location and presented before and after photos of several of their other completed projects. Alderman Geenen said he has been in contact with the local World Relief office who would be willing to offer citizenship classes.
Mr. Ciepiel reviewed the projected TIF benefits for each property (increased property taxes) and other benefits from the rehabilitation such as jobs created, local materials purchased, property management jobs retained, etc. over the TIF's twenty-year span. Mr. Ciepiel reported the HUD loan process is underway and their tax credit application is ready to go. They are seeking a TIF redevelopment agreement with the City. The TIF proposal still needs to be worked through with the City and they will be having conversations with the Mayor and Council members. Millennia will pay for the City TIF consultant. They need to get the TIF value established.
Alderman Spurgetis asked how long Millennia owns their properties. Mr. Ciepiel said he would get the full list and send to Council. He believes they continue to own all of their properties except for one. Part of their mission from the beginning has been to hold properties. Alderman Spurgetis asked for clarification that they were not in the business of flipping; Mr. Ciepiel said no.
City Manager Randy Tweet said when the project gets further along in the TIF process, it will come to Council for a vote. Economic Development Manager Bret Gardella said it will probably be in six months, maybe April. Kane McKenna is the City's TIF consultant and will be starting analysis on the project. Mayor Thoms asked if Millennia owns a 49% share of the two properties. Mr. Ciepiel responded that as of August 3, 2017, Millennia Housing Development has acquired a minority interest in both properties and will be taking over the management operations soon. They have started fixing up a unit that was damaged by fire.
Alderman Schipp thanked Millennia for the presentation and for choosing to be in Rock Island. Alderman Schipp offered his assistance in doing anything to help expedite the TIF process. Alderman Parker asked if Millennia had spoken to the residents of Century Woods and Heather Ridge Apartments. Mr. Ciepiel said he doesn't know if the aldermen have. Alderman Mayberry said he has and they are excited about the work that will be done on the apartments. Mr. Ciepiel said they do the renovation from 9 to 5 while residents live in the units and ensure that the residents can still cook, sleep, etc. in their unit. He said after 5 p.m., work stops. Millennia also provides an onsite hospitality suite with internet, phone, TV, etc. for residents who don't want to watch the ongoing construction in their units.
Mr. Ciepiel thanked Council.
Rock Island Public Library: Long-Range Plan Overview & Next Steps
Rock Island Public Library Director Angela Campbell thanked all who came to the library's Coffee and Conversation events; as a result, the library obtained more public input about their plans. Ms. Campbell said their purpose is still to help people and the product is information, not that much different from 100 years ago. They also provide equal access to lifelong learning. She explained the need for change to take the library into the future. Patron needs have changed; new technology and flexible spaces are now required. The library is transitioning from a transactional service to a transformational service of doing things at the library. They have spent the last four and a half years working on their Long Range Plan Study; patrons wanted them to focus on facilities. It has been tweaked a lot and the Library Board has listened to patrons and staff before making a decision. They have determined that the best fit is a Neighborhood Library Network with a central library, a downtown library, and the southwest library. All residents would be within three miles of a library with this network. She reviewed the space needs analysis which determined a city the size of Rock Island should have almost 51,000 square feet of library space. She explained that currently they have 43,000 square feet; with their plan, they would have 61,000 square feet.
Ms. Campbell explained the downtown library would have a total renovation with the mezzanine level removed. There would be almost 9,000 square feet available for rental to non-profits creating a revenue stream. She reviewed the determining factors for the decisions regarding the three locations: historical significance/downtown presence, land/building availability, walkability, public transportation, and community support for locations. The Rock Island Library Foundation hired a consulting firm to determine the philanthropic support for three different options. The option Ms. Campbell is discussing tonight was determined to be the most viable option.
Ms. Campbell presented conceptual drawings of what each library would look like with the unique features at each location. The southwest branch had some recent renovations which were paid for by the Milan-Blackhawk Area Public Library District. Alderman Geenen asked about the current square footage for the children's area in the downtown library. Ms. Campbell thought it was about 4,000 square feet. Currently, the downtown library has no space for teens. Alderman Spurgetis asked if the library had any relationship with the Rock Island County Historical Society. Ms. Campbell said they have had some conversations with them, but it is a volunteer driven organization which makes it hard to coordinate with them.
Ms. Campbell then reviewed the project estimates. She said the downtown library is in need of $3 million in repairs (HVAC, windows, wiring) even if nothing is done with the master plan. The downtown library renovation cost estimates are $4.67 million while the Tri-City Jewish Center renovations (a complete redesign of the interior) are estimated to cost $6.3 million. Soft costs and contingency fees add another $4.7 million to the total cost of $15.67 million. There is also the cost to purchase the Tri-City Jewish Center. Alderman Geenen asked for the cost of the Tri- City Jewish Center. Ms. Campbell replied they have an appraised cost, but they do not want to disclose it.
Ms. Campbell next reviewed the budget supporting the three buildings. The breakdown is 68% staff, 12% materials, 10% building maintenance, and 10% supplies, utilities, etc. The 12% for materials is a state standard. They hope there will be increased revenues with the new plan (either through increased EAV or a higher tax levy). There will be no new staff added. The digital collections and consortium items will be utilized more. There will be decreased building maintenance costs enabling them to build a reserve for future maintenance needs.
Ms. Campbell discussed the five most frequently asked questions about the library plans: how can they afford to operate three buildings; what are the cost differences between operating three libraries vs. one main downtown library; is the downtown library going away; how many people use the library's services and why is the library needed; would services be duplicated at three locations; and what are the advantages to patrons? Ms. Campbell said the southwest library is completely funded by the Milan-Blackhawk Area Public Library District. Retirements and staff reorganization have saved them money. Even with one library, they would still need the same amount of staff due to the volume of services. The library has 350,000 items in circulation every year with purchase of 20,000 items every year. Ms. Campbell said the downtown library is not going away. They have spent over $700,000 on maintenance in the downtown library over the last few years and the interior needs to be renovated and upgraded. With online services available, the library had 700,000 patron transactions in 2016 including all services and 41,000 people using the public access and wireless resources. The library has 37 FTE staff. There is an average of 19,000 patron contacts per staff member. People are asking for small meeting space and collaborative space. Ms. Campbell said each location will have the core services, but also its own niche.
Ms. Campbell explained the library is at a stopping point; they cannot go forward with their plan without a financial commitment from the City. Donors want to know how much the City is committing before giving a pledge. They will be applying for grants and want to start negotiations with the Tri-City Jewish Center. Eventually they will sell the 30/31 branch. The Rock Island Library Foundation is providing a lead gift of almost $1 million. Ms. Campbell stated they are requesting $12 million from the City; they need a firm commitment now, but won't need the money until 2020. She reviewed the proposed timeline of their master plan. In January 2018, they will come formally to Council for approval of their plan and ask for a contract of funding. Ms. Campbell said she is willing to meet with individual aldermen if they want to review the plan in more detail.
Alderman Parker asked what is their operational budget. He would like to see a proposed operational budget. Alderman Spurgetis asked Ms. Campbell to send the operational budget to every Council member. Alderman Geenen asked if they were asking for a one-time payment from the City or payments over time. Ms. Campbell said that would depend if bonds were a funding source; she will work with the Finance Director.
Mayor Thoms said budgets are tight; bonding is difficult. It would be a problem to use gaming funds because of other infrastructure needs. In the near future, it is hard to determine what the City can afford; not $12 million in the near future. It may be three or four years in the future that perhaps the City could afford $4-$5 million, but they cannot make a commitment now. Mayor Thoms said he doesn't know if or when the City would be able to bond without taxing the citizens further. He said while the City should support the library, but at what magnitude he doesn't know. Mayor Thoms commended the library for the time and effort spent, but said the City must be wise with its investing. The City should be investing in businesses where there will be a return long term vs. projects that don't produce much income. Mayor Thoms gave an example of the new police station that was built, but with no revenue to offset the expenditure. Ms. Campbell asked if they could move forward with looking at funding options. Alderman Parker asked in response if the library could go forward with the City offering $4-$5 million. Ms. Campbell asked Council if they support the plan enough to look at funding options. The library needs the funding in order to be able to guarantee match options. Alderman Parker said it is a matter of being able to maintain all the libraries; that is the controversy. He will not sign off on the project until he sees a proposed budget and if the City can afford three libraries. He said the library is doing a fine job, but he wants to make sure the City can afford all of these libraries.
Alderman Schipp said they should have an honest and sober conversation. The magnitude and seriousness of next year's budget needs to become aware to the public. The City is required to pass a balanced budget. They also have to look at what 2019 will look like; the picture is bleak. In terms of financials, Moody's issued a credit downgrade this year. Increasing the debt load would be another strike against the City and will cost the City even more. From a revenue side, the City is struggling. He questioned the space needs analysis and asked what is the most cost effective way to get an additional 7,000 square feet to meet community needs. Where is that alternative plan in the discussion? Alderman Schipp said with regards to the planning side, the City is the final linchpin in the plan. Everything is on the City which is unfortunate. The City has a longstanding history of investing in the downtown in many ways. He asked how the library could add more value to the downtown experience instead of pulling resources out of downtown for elsewhere. He is nervous about what that means for the downtown library. Ms. Campbell said she would like to speak with Alderman Schipp about his concerns.
Mayor Thoms said he thinks the library has worked it backwards. If the City could afford $4-$5 million or some number, then how much additional funds could the library raise and then what would the project look like with the available funds; one building or three buildings. Perhaps there could be a phase-in program. Mayor Thoms said he has concerns about the operational expenses of two buildings. What money do you have and what can be done with it vs. what money you need and how you would spend it. Ms. Campbell said the process was followed how it had to be followed. She thinks it will take more conversations. They cannot stand still. She said the 30/31 branch has severe problems and they don't have a lot of money to put into it and it would be a waste of money if they are not going to keep it. The downtown library could need millions in maintenance tomorrow. They don't have the money in reserves. She asked what are the options.
Alderman Spurgetis asked Finance Director Stephanie Masson what's involved in determining funding options. Ms. Masson stated that with what they know now regarding the City's debt and the tax levy, there is no funding source to pay additional debt service for the library's plan.
Alderman Geenen said the 7th ward residents are in favor of a central library near them and the majority he has talked to would support a large tax increase to pay for it. He has similar financial concerns as Alderman Schipp and added there are many people who think it would be good for Rock Island.
The study session concluded at 6:41 p.m.