Boosting business, building upgrades on Eureka’s New Year list

By Holly Eaton for Chronicle Media

Mayor Scott Zimmer

As many make plans and resolutions for this new year, the city of Eureka is heading into 2019 with its own playbook.

As is par for the course, city officials face a bevy of junior-level tasks, some already on the table, and others that will pop up throughout the year. But there are larger plans at play; all of which began long before the ball dropped in Times Square.

Early last year, discussions began over the creation of a taxing business district; a proposal that was rife with conflict. After a few public meetings, Eureka Mayor Scott Zimmer chose to shelve the idea until 2019 to better examine the idea and educate business owners and residents.

“In the original plans, we were hoping to implement a business district by a board vote in March,” Zimmer said in February of last year. “There was support, but there were also a lot of concerns, and we’re pushing it back to January 2019.”

That time has arrived, and Zimmer said he’ll be visiting successful business districts in the region to become acquainted with how they operate.

In the meantime, the engineering firm MSA of Madison, Wis., is putting together a more in-depth report to present at coming meetings.

“We still have work here to do, but we’ll have more to share this spring with the public and the business owners,” he said. “We want to visit other successful communities, let MSA finish their work, and we’ll reopen the discussion in spring.”

Business district taxes range from .25 percent to 1 percent, and revenues are collected by the Illinois Department of Revenue for a 2 percent administrative fee. The money is then returned to the community on the 25th day of each month, money that must be spent exclusively on the district, for sidewalks, maintenance, lighting, parking and other such improvements.

The annual scarecrow contest is one of the most popular events sponsored by the Eureka Business Association. Mayor Scott Zimmer plans to review business districts in the region for ideas to boost Eureka’s business community in 2019. (Photo courtesy of the EBA)

With regard to sidewalks, Eureka’s walkability has been at issue for quite some time. Like Shel Silverstein’s book, “Where the Sidewalk Ends”, the sidewalks on South Main Street cease at Sunny Lane, across the street from Olio Cemetery.

All that remains for pedestrians heading to Eureka Middle School, Eureka Lake and other points of interest, are narrow, foreboding shoulders and ditches — and there are many other street improvements throughout Eureka.

Councilman Eric Lind sits on the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission board, and has worked to leverage funding opportunities. TCRPC serves Woodford, Tazewell and Peoria counties and helps develop strategies to enhance the communities in those counties.

Lind successfully sequestered grant money to pay for a public transportation study, money that will be shared equally with El Paso so that they may also host a similar study.

“The study includes walking paths, sidewalks and street improvements,” Zimmer said. “We’d like to stop using tar and chip and give these streets a more permanent fix. All of the streets will benefit, especially on the northwest side, some of our older streets.”

Once a comprehensive study is complete, the city will be armed to approach the State of Illinois and connect with funding resources to complete such projects.

Water mains in the Crowe/Bowald/Callender district will be replaced in 2019, with very good reason. Mains on the north end of town have aged and are undersized for today’s standards. “The fire hydrants do not put out enough water pressure to supply a truck and put out a residential fire, so they’re first in line,” Zimmer said.

Lastly, public services are in the 2019 spotlight. Eureka’s city hall at 128 N. Main St., and the Eureka Police Department, half-a-block north of the city building, need help.

Improvements and upgrades to the Eureka Police Department building at 210 N Main St. and City Hall are on the city’s to-do list for 2019. (Photo courtesy of Eureka Police Dept.)

The city council is currently researching the means to bring both buildings to a 20-year feasibility status, and the numbers are high.

In order to upgrade roofing, heating and cooling, as well as meet fire codes and standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it will cost around $1.8 million, Zimmer said. The other alternative is to build a combined-services building for around far less money.

“We believe we’ll come up with a much nicer facility at potentially half the cost,” he explained. “City hall and the police department will have more space, be more user-friendly and provide potential growth for other businesses.”

That potential growth will become available once the formal police department building is gone. Space will be available for a new building once the city’s shed on Callender and is demolished early this year. In fall of 2018, the city purchased property at Mill Street that is home to an existing shed.

“It really was the perfect purchase. We can simply move everything from the existing shed to the other,” Zimmer said. “We’re taking down the salt shed, too, and that will clear out space for a combined services building.”

The city council meets on the first and third Mondays of each month at 7:30 p.m. To contact city council members directly with concerns, comments and suggestions, visit