The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

City Council Meeting 07/17/2012

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The Carbondale City Council met at the city hall/civic center at 7:00 p.m. on July 17, 2012. As usual, I watched from home on Mediacom channel 16. A summary and brief commentary are below.

After roll call, announcements and proclamations, and public hearings and special reports, council approved the consent agenda unanimously. Council then moved on to the general business agenda.

Item 5.1, an ordinance bringing Carbondale’s sewer regulations into compliance with state law, passed unanimously.

Items 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, and 5.5 were all removed from the agenda.

Item 5.2, establishing policy for release of city liens for properties sold through tax sales, was removed because the policy had already been established in 2009.

Item 5.3, amending city code concerning water and sewer fees, and item 5.4, amending city code concerning parking fines and fees, were pulled from the agenda because more work was necessary before the items could proceed.

Item 5.5, authorizing the city manager to request volume cap allocation for private activity bonds from the Governor’s Office, was removed because the city manager learned the process for allocating those grants has changed.

Item 5.6 was an open discussion of options for tourism promotion for the City of Carbondale. Staff had laid out three options for council to consider: (1) reconstitute the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB) with a new board, staff, and a new name, (2)  form an in-house tourism bureau, or (3) contract for tourism promotion services with either ILLINOISouth or Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau.

Council heard presentations from representatives of  ILLINOISouth, which covers nineteen Illinois counties (including Perry County, our neighbor to the north), and the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau, which covers the southern seven counties in Illinois and will likely soon cover Jackson County.

Council then discussed the options available. It seemed to me that there was a consensus to both revive CCTB and to simultaneously work with either ILLINOISouth, Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau, or both. A majority of the council seemed persuaded by the need to maintain local control and the availability of matching funds from the state to a reformed CCTB.

Before the meeting, I was wary of the idea of resurrecting CCTB. As the meeting went on, I slowly changed my mind and came to the same conclusion a majority of the council seemed to reach. Carbondale risks losing around $60,000 in state money if we let CCTB die. If we resurrect CCTB, we can keep the state money and contract specific services with the other two tourism bureaus, both of which seemed to offer valuable services.

Council declined to take formal action at tonight’s meeting and instead instructed the City Manager to gather additional information. Council plans to hold a special meeting later this month to vote on a path forward.

One interesting item came up during Citizen’s Comments and Questions. The Saluki Express has stopped bus service to John A. Logan College and two students came to the meeting to ask council either to fund a route to Logan or to help them identify options to keep mass transit service to Logan. Council members offered some advice on who to contact but, aside from council member Lance Jack, there didn’t seem to be much interest in getting involved in improving Saluki Express.

I think that’s a mistake. Bus service seems to me like a good use of funds. As council member Jack pointed out, there are many people who would use the bus if the service was better. There are more people who currently use the bus but who would use it more often if the service was better.

Saluki Express is mostly an SIUC service but, if I’m not mistaken, Carbondale provides some money to pay for a route that runs when school is not in session. Additional funding, perhaps paid for by an increase in the gasoline tax, could improve service. It’s worth considering.

Comments are welcome.


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