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Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 12:07 am

Money for nothing

Developers pay, but roads not fixed

 The city of Springfield has secured nearly $2.9 million from developers to pay for road improvements, but most of the money hasn’t been spent.

Just two of 10 road projects for which the city has obtained either money or letters of credit from developers since 2000 have been completed. And the city paid the lion’s share of the two projects that have been finished to help handle traffic generated by development on the city’s west side.

The YMCA and Concordia Village together paid nearly $733,300 to install a roundabout and otherwise improve roads at Archer Elevator Road and Iles Avenue. The city paid more than $3 million for the project that cost slightly less than $5.2 million, with the balance of $1.43 million coming from the federal government. Concordia Village, a retirement community at the intersection of Archer Elevator and Iles that has been expanded at least twice since 2007, submitted a $367,000 letter of credit to the city for the project in 2007. The YMCA on Iles Avenue, which opened in 2011, submitted a $366,000 letter of credit in 2009. Road improvements were completed this year.

Concordia Village paid more than $96,000 for improvements to Meadowbrook Road that were completed in 2011. Developers of the Mill Creek and Thornhill subdivisions together paid an additional $507,500 for Meadowbrook Road improvements that cost a total of nearly $1.8 million. The city paid more than $1 million, and the federal government paid nearly $202,000.

Several roads on the far west side of town, where developers are turning cornfields into housing and businesses, remain substandard, with no money identified to pay the city’s share of costs for eight improvement projects that have a combined funding of nearly $1.85 million from developers who have submitted letters of credit. It is, says public works director Mark Mahoney, a question of money.

“That’s the challenge,” Mahoney said. “Obviously, there’s a contribution that comes from the developers. Unfortunately, we have to come up with the rest of the funds. Some of these are significant projects. … A lot of these letters of credit, we don’t have the money to match them.”

Carol Kneedler, chairwoman of Inner City Older Neighborhoods, a consortium of neighborhood associations, said that development on substandard roads shouldn’t be allowed. The city, she added, already has plenty of roads that need fixing in established neighborhoods. While developers pay construction costs for roads within subdivisions, the cost of maintaining and plowing them should be considered, she said.

“Keeping a city vital and well maintained is the responsibility of city leaders, just like it’s my responsibility to maintain my own house,” Kneedler said. “I’m not going to build an addition on my house when the rest of my house needs to be fixed.”

The issue, Kneedler says, should concern everyone who lives in Springfield.

“Where is the money to maintain new roads going to come from?” Kneedler asks. “Where’s the money going to come from to maintain the infrastructure we already have?”

John Klemm, who develops subdivisions on the west side of Springfield, said that developers don’t like paying to secure letters of credit for road projects that don’t get built. Developers, he said, are meeting with city officials to figure out how to get projects accomplished.

“There haven’t been but two or three or four letters of credit called since 1999,” Klemm said. “That tells you that whatever you’re doing is not working very well.”

In Bloomington, Klemm said, the city borrows money to pay for road improvements, then gets reimbursed from developers who must pay for improvements as a condition for getting building permits. Developers should pay their fair share, he said, and that means charging on a proportional basis based on how many vehicle trips a new home is expected to generate.

“I’m not in the business of building arterial roads because I happen to put a little subdivision on one of those roads,” Klemm said. “But we should be required to upgrade it when the city upgrades it, and we should pay our share. It’s just that, now, we post the bonds and nothing ever happens. It just lingers on, and you don’t know what’s going to happen or if it’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen.”

Klemm rejected the notion of barring development if a road isn’t deemed sufficient.

“If you wait until the city is able to do that, there will be no development in the city,” Klemm said. “There is a very precise definition of what is standard and what is substandard. … What is substandard to some people doesn’t mean that it’s technically a substandard road. If a fire engine can safely get down that road to get to an accident or a fire or whatever, that is not considered a substandard road.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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