Originally Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2014, 11:02 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 18, 2014, 11:18 pm

Port Byron trustees hear presentation on revitalizing downtown area

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By Sarah Hayden, shaydenqconline@gmail.com

PORT BYRON -- Trustees on Tuesday heard a presentation on revitalizing the downtown area to include a boat launch, adjacent parking, easier access to the bike trail and creation of more green spaces.

Stephen Tremlett, of MSA Professional Services, said the estimated cost for the boat launch and parking project is $300,000 to $350,000, and upward of $1.5 million for the entire plan, which includes acquisition and demolition of several buildings along Main and High streets.

Mr. Tremlett suggested Port Byron add bed and breakfast businesses along the bike trail and replaced excessive amounts of pavement with riverfront parks with outdoor workout equipment. He said a bike lane could be built along Cherry Street, allowing easier access to the bike trail.

"I looked at land values and assessed building values, and determined where the land is more valuable than the building," Mr. Tremlett said. "What was the grocery store could now be used for a bike and kayak rental business. You could move the public works buildings from the High Street location, which is a gateway entrance to the town, and move them further out."

Mr. Tremler proposed using the Old Academy building and its gymnasium on Illinois 84 as a community center.

Trustee Brian Bitler questioned the reality of the ambitious project, saying owners may not part with their properties as cheaply as Mr. Tremler is predicting. Trustee Scott Sidor also expressed doubts with the project, noting the village paid $500,000 for a new parking lot last year and asking how it would be possible to only spend $300,000 for a new boat launch with adjacent parking.

"I don't think any of this will bring economic progress to this community," Mr. Sidor said.

"This is completely insane for me to look at," he said. "We need to build our infrastructure first. I don't know where we'll get the money. It's very interesting; the river's going to look great. But I don't see how we're going to become a mini LeClaire."

Mayor Kevin Klute reminded trustees that the proposal was just a conceptual idea.

"This isn't, by any means set, in stone," he said.

An informational meeting on the project is planned for March 26 at village hall.

Also on Tuesday, Riverdale School District Superintendent Ronald Jacobs discussed the county school facility sales tax that will be on the March 18 ballot. The tax does not apply to groceries, medications, cars, boats, RVs or farm equipment.

"This is a shift away from property taxes," he said. "I have always said how important the community is to our school district.

"When our funds are withheld or prorated by the state, our only major source of revenue is property taxes," he said. "On March 18, there will be a question on the ballot -- a 1 percent sales tax to be used exclusively for the use of school facilities."

Mr. Jacobs said, if the tax is approved, the Riverdale School District will drop the current nickel levy, which brings in $75,000 each year.

He said the 1 percent facility sales tax could generate $11.5 million for Rock Island County schools annually. Riverdale would receive $511 per student.

"We need $225,000 in repairs," Mr. Jacobs said. "If I don't have the funds in my health/life/safety fund, I have to sell bonds to make the repairs.

"One of the first things on our list will be to improve school security," he said.

Mr. Jacobs said a viable, thriving school district was "very important" to the in this community.

"No one likes taxes, but the school system is the pillar to any community," Mayor Klute said. "People decide where they will live according to the school system."