City staff propose rerouting $1 million in neighborhood revitalization funds to unrelated projects
Neighborhood revitalization is Decatur’s number one priority and currently, the city’s revitalization efforts do not keep up with the rate of blight. Yet the city administration is recommending using $1.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated for neighborhood revitalization to cover $600,000 in additional expenses for the 2nd floor library construction and $482,509 for cost overruns in the building of Fire Stations 4, 5 and 7.
The City of Decatur has multiple other sources of funding that can be used to pay for these two projects including a special projects reserve of $2.5 million. Certainly, renovating the second floor of the library for workforce development training and making sure our firefighters have modern facilities are special projects. In addition, the council could reallocate unspent American Rescue Plan Act funds originally committed to water projects for which other funds are currently available, most notably, unspent proceeds from a bond issued specifically for water capital projects.
The number of problem properties in Decatur is rising, and more resources are needed now. From January to May 2019, the city declared 155 properties unfit for human habitation and boarded up 78 properties. From January to May 2023, the city declared 280 properties unfit for human habitation (81% increase) and boarded up 183 properties (135% increase). Assuming a cost of $15,000 per property for demolition, the $1.1 million would be able to rid neighborhoods of 72 properties that are dilapidated and beyond the point of rehabilitation.
One solution to reducing gun violence that has been verified in multiple national studies is the removal of blight and the creation of green spaces. Unfortunately, in Decatur, decades of disinvestment have left thousands of Decatur residents living in neighborhoods with significant levels of blight. Of the 18 neighborhoods within the city’s urban core, 11 have very high levels of blight with blight scores over 0.25 (a blight score represents a probability that a house will have some characteristic of blight such as a broken window, faulty roof, etc. A blight score of 0.25 corresponds with a 1 in 4 probability of a property showing a sign of blight). City staff estimate that at least 200 houses annually need to be demolished to keep pace with the rate of blight.
The city of Decatur currently does not have enough funds to clean-up our neighborhoods, and thus, should not be rerouting neighborhood revitalization funds for other purposes. How much does the city need? The city received a $1.25 million grant in 2020 to fund demolitions, cleanups, and lot acquisitions in the Johns Hill Neighborhood. This donation was a critical first step in transforming the neighborhood. The Johns Hill Neighborhood represents 4% of the total area of the city’s urban core. Thus, assuming this neighborhood prior to its positive transformation was representative of the urban core, the city has an immediate need for $31.25 million for demolitions, cleanups, and lot acquisitions in other parts of the city.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL MEETING
The rerouting of neighborhood revitalization funding, video gambling, as well as other agenda items will be discussed and possibly voted on at the next meeting of the Decatur City Council on Tuesday, June 20. Meetings take place at 5:30 PM in the council chambers located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
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If you would like to discuss city issues with a council member, phone numbers and email addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
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An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.