The Effingham City Council revisited the ordinance that would rezone a portion of the parking lot in front of Heartland Human Services to allow the construction of a new memory care facility there in the future. The ordnance, which was rejected at the last Council meeting on January 19, was renewed to allow Chuck Siler, Director of Business Services at Heartland, to provide the Council with additionally information on the project. Mayor Jeff Bloemker, who is the Executive Director of Heartland, recused himself from the room during the discussion and Commissioner Merv Gillenwater served as Mayor Pro Tempore.
The Council first heard a presentation from City Engineer Jeremy Heuerman confirming that the proposal to rezone the space was unanimously recommended by the City Plan Commission. Next, Siler addressed the City Council suggesting that due to shrinking payouts from the state Heartland “must increase revenues from a source other than the state of Illinois in order to keep this community asset going for Effingham and the surrounding area.” Siler also stated Heartland is the only Medicaid facility in the area that provides its unique services and that if it were to close, many patients would be forced to travel long distances to receive the services they need.
When Commissioner Don Althoff inquired as to why the new facility could not be built in the unused area of Heartland’s current building, Siler suggested that the space was not configured correctly for a memory care facility and that remodeling would not be viable.
Dixie Hartke, a resident living in the neighborhood just north of the Heartland Human Services property, once again made the case to the council that the construction of the facility would detract from the “neighborhood feel” of the area. She was accompanied by several residents who supported rejecting the rezoning ordinance.
In discussion before the vote Commissioner Kevin Willis stated that when he was a police officer in Effingham that “Heartland was a huge asset” and that it would a “devastation” if it closed down. The ordinance was passed by a three to one vote, Commissioners Gillenwater, Willis, and Esker voting yea and Commissioner Althoff voting nay.
In other business, the Council heard a presentation about the Construction Trades Education Course, or CTEC, from Bob Schultz and Turner Kronewitter, a participant in the program and senior at Effingham High School. The course is a one-year program for students in Effingham County interested in construction trades and has received funding from both the city and local donations for the current school year. Students who graduate from the course are ready to join the construction field after high school. The group has had its number of applicants double after its first year and will be seeking funding again from the city for next year.
The City Council also approved a new liquor licence for a restaurant and bar called Outer Limits Bar N Grill which will be located at 1403 E. Fayette Avenue. Additionally the City Council authorized the sale of the Visitor Center property , located at 1505 Hampton Drive, to Obsidian Development LLC who will have eight months to find a suitable business to develop in the space. A resolution was also approved to allocate funds to Vandevanter Engineering to reinstall newly repaid backwash and service pumps. Funds were also allocated to improve the roadway on Rickelman Avenue by Heuerman Brothers Trucking.