Springfield City Leaders To Begin Infrastructure Debate

Members of the Springfield City Council are likely to have their first substantial debate Tuesday night on plans to address the city’s infrastructure woes.

Aldermen meeting in committee last week decided to wait until the Mayor would be present to answer questions about his funding proposals for streets and sewers.

They spent most of the April 9th meeting listening to members of the public concerned about raising the sales tax to fund road projects.

Paul Branham, owner of U.S. Electric in Springfield, was one of three small business people to voice opposition:

BRANHAM: “Our customers are very price sensitive and, let’s not forget, they have choices.  They have other sources of supply.  I’d hate to see a tax increase become the boot that makes them go elsewhere.”

Michael Higgins, owner of Maldaner’s Restaurant, spoke out in favor of moving the 8 percent sales tax rate to 9 percent.  He noted that shoppers are already paying a 9 percent rate when they visit the Legacy Pointe Shopping Center’s stores, such as Scheels.

Higgins challenged members of the City Council to see the proposed tax hike as an opportunity to build a city more attractive to businesses and tourists.

HIGGINS: “When does this city wake up and realize it has a lot of potential? …  Don’t you get tired, as a City Council, of listening to people say ‘Why can’t we be like Bloomington-Normal, with bike paths and walking trails?  Why can’t we be like Champaign?  Why can’t we be like Rockford?’  And move our city forward… instead of just maintain the status quo?” 

During his State of the City address last week, Mayor Houston asked Springfield residents to voice their opinions on his four infrastructure funding options as aldermen begin serious debate on them this week.

-Peter Gray

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