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Galesburg approves community center site; debates sales tax increase

Galesburg City Hall.jpg
Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio
The Galesburg city council has voted on a location for a proposed community center.

The Galesburg city council narrowly approved selecting the former Churchill Junior High as the site of a proposed community center at its regular meeting this week.

Four council members voted for Churchill, and three against.

Voting yes were Kevin Wallace, Sarah Davis, Jaclyn Smith-Esters, and Dwight White, and voting no were Bradley Hix, Wayne Dennis, and Larry Cox.

That came after a round of robust public comments on the community center – and on a proposed .25% increase to the home rule sales tax, which could fund part of the project.

Hix initially moved to table the vote, but that was shut down along the same lines.

“What’s the hurry? I mean why don’t we listen to some of the smartest people we have in this community, who have said they are not necessarily against it, who just want more meat on the bones,” Hix said.

The idea to transform the former school into a community center materialized last year, after Galesburg District 205 vacated the building.

Churchill was acquired by the city at no cost, but renovating it is estimated to cost $7.3 million.

Four other locations were also considered.

How a city-operated community center will be funded is yet to be determined.

But Ward 5 Council Member Jaclyn Smith-Esters reminded the council what the vote at hand was about.

“What we are approving is the location, the selection of Churchill as the community center,” she said. “I think we’ve all decided that Churchill is the location to go. Many times we’ve talked about it and hashed it out.’

City staff recommend approval of the tax increase, which would generate $950,000 a year for the city, with those funds potentially earmarked for needed street repairs – or for the community center.

Some community members and council members are already expressing opposition to the tax, which will come up for a vote at another meeting.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.