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By MATT DANIELS
Rantoul Press assistant editor
Work is progressing at the new Easton-Bell Sports facility located west of Interstate 57 in Rantoul.
Several village officials discussed the project — slated to open later this year — at the Rantoul Village Board meeting Jan. 8, which featured a combined study session and regular board meeting.
An item on the meeting’s agenda involving approval of an ordinance between the village and Rantoul 57 Development Inc., was removed from the agenda and will likely be discussed at the February board meeting.
Village attorney Ken Beth said the item was removed at the request of Easton-Bell, a company called Lexington, which will ultimately own the property the new facility is being built on while leasing it to Easton-Bell, and Rantoul 57 Development, Inc.
“Those three parties are hassling over various provisions that affect their various relationships, and that’s the hangup,” Beth said.
Part of the incentives with the Easton-Bell development included tax increment financing (TIF) incentives.
“We had entered a pre-development agreement with Rantoul 57,” Beth said. “That pre-development agreement said once the TIF was actually established, which it is now, we would have to enter an actual re-development agreement that contains the same essential terms and provisions as were contained in the pre-development agreement.”
Director of Public Works Greg Hazel said installation of the water main at the facility has begun, and Community Development Director Mike Loschen said the project’s enterprise zone certificate was received recently.
“The project has all the walls up,” Village Administrator Bruce Sandahl said, “and they’re erecting steel as we speak.”
Rantoul industrial roundtable: Sandahl said leaders of several area businesses met Dec. 20 for a Rantoul industrial roundtable meeting.
The companies that attended included Jeld-Wen, Easton-Bell Sports, Eagle Wings, ConAir and Taylor Studios, among others.
Sandahl said the total employment for all companies in Rantoul is 2,412, which did not include part-time work.
“There’s been a positive growth experience by all of them in the past year,” Sandahl said. “That’s good. The challenges stated by all of the companies there was a concern on the quality of workforce. Both production and maintenance positions are very, very hard to come by. We’re currently working with the Work Force Investment Board and Parkland College to address those concerns. It is a real challenge for our local companies, not only here in Rantoul, but also Champaign County, of finding qualified employees.”
Other development news: Sandahl said excavation equipment is in place to start work on the new 42-unit senior villa project that will be built north of Brookstone Estates.
Sandahl also reported the Autumn Glen apartment building cleanup is progressing well.
“They’re very close to completing the cleanup on the six buildings,” Sandahl said, “and we need to publicly recognize the Warner brothers, particularly Joe Warner, for donating the equipment and labor needed to get that done.”
Bond refinancing: Village Comptroller Scot Brandon said the village was able to take advantage of refinancing savings on its 2003 bonds, which saved the village roughly $130,000. Brandon said the anticipated savings by refinancing the 2005 and 2006 bonds were not taken advantage of quick enough.
“Unfortunately, our timing was off just a little bit in November,” Brandon said. “Rates had hit their lowest point, and since then, have started to move back up. The savings we anticipated by refinancing was gone.”
Brandon said it is possible for the village to refinance the 2005 and 2006 bonds in the future.
“It just depends on what rates do,” he said. “We’ll continue to monitor those. If rates get to a point where we think we can realize some savings, we’ll go ahead and refinance those.”
The board approved 6-0 to abate the new bonds that were just issued to refund the 2003 bonds. The 2003 bonds were used to pay for the Rantoul Public Library expansion along with improvements at the Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center.
“What we have done historically is abate the part of the swimming pool part because that is being paid with TIF revenue,” Beth said. “The part attributable to the library has historically been levied. What we had to do in connection with these new bonds once they refunded the other bonds is put a levy in place to make it a general obligation bond. For the new bonds, we have to do the appropriate abatement that will be paid for by the TIF part and leave intact what is attributable to the library.”
Rec update: Recreation Director Rich Thomas said more than 250 people attended the department’s Breakfast with Santa event in December. The department also helped with a youth wrestling tournament held at Rantoul Township High School that had more than 220 wrestlers compete.
“I think we’ll plan on doing that (tournament) on a regular basis,” Thomas said. “Officials told us we could have up to 300 kids, and I’m sure we’ll get that next year.”
Thomas also said the department’s fall dance recital was too big to be held at the Youth Center and a new location might be selected next year. Also more than 30 youth basketball teams are signed up to start play this month.
Budget revisions: The board approved unanimously to make three revisions to the budget. The first revision dealt with moving funds to the proper account for the purchase of warning sirens and installation to the proper account. The revision will show $60,500 in the equipment fund and $3,134 in the equipment maintenance fund compared to $40,500 in the equipment fund and $23,134 in the equipment maintenance fund.
The second revision focused on the two new police vehicles the board approved in December. The village is using a federal grant worth $11,397 and increased the transfers from the investigation fund by $16,500. The third revision dealt with the required Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) accelerated payment for retiring employees. When an employee’s vacation and sick leave is paid out of retirement, IMRF now requires the increased pension cost be paid in advance rather than over the life of the pension. This move required an increase of $28,500 put towards that fund.
Other action items: The board approved by a 6-0 vote to purchase new portable and mobile truck radios for the village’s public works department.
Hazel said the department’s old radios did not comply with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) narrow-banding of radio systems.
The move by the FCC “basically changes our frequency of operation,” Hazel said. “We can’t reprogram our radios, so we need to replace them.”
The total cost for the purchases was $22,371 from First Communication Inc., Tallahassee, Fla. The board also authorized a contingency fund of $4,628 for the purchase of any other materials related to the new 50 mobile units that will be used for vehicles and equipment and the 18 portable units.
The board also unanimously approved the purchase of a Hurts COMBI Tool from 5-Alarm Fire and Safety Equipment, Delafield, Wis., at a cost of $6,557 and waived the bidding process.
“We have (this tool) checked out every year, and we were told it needed to be replaced,” Fire Chief Ken Waters said. “The edge on it is not replaceable anymore. It doesn’t have the capacity to cut the metals we need to.”