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Lemont Village Board nixes public financing, referendum for sports complex

Published: Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 11:13 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 11:38 a.m. CDT
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(Photo provided)
The Lemont Sports Complex, a contentious project within the village, will no longer be publicly funded after the village board voted against the option in front of a room of impassioned taxpayers Monday night.

LEMONT – The Lemont Village Board unanimously voted to repeal an ordinance to publically finance the Lemont Sports Complex during a special meeting Monday night.

With the ordinance repealed, a referendum question on whether the village should be allowed to purchase bonds to pay for the project will no longer be on the March primary ballot.

The repealed ordinance allowed the village to use facility revenue, sales tax, income tax and tax increment finance funds to pay for the complex.

Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves said the village is negotiating a private financing agreement that would not require taxpayer money.

Since the $21 million project was announced in January 2013, residents expressed concern that the village could levy taxes on them if the proposed revenue sources were not sufficient, and collected 1,657 petition signatures to force a referendum on whether the village could pay for the project.

The special meeting was scheduled in order to beat a Jan. 9 deadline to put the referendum question on the March primary ballot.

Reaves said the vote is about financing the project and the village is still in the process of determining its feasibility.

There are other potential obstacles that could deter the village from pursuing the complex, he said.

"If (the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, who owns the property) comes up with new rules and regulations, the construction that would have to be done may not be feasible or practical," he said. "That would kill the project."

But Reaves and the trustees said the village needs a large attraction such as the sports complex to economically sustain the town.

"We keep calling it a sports complex," said trustee Paul Chialdikas. "What we're looking to create is an economic device to create greater value."

Chialdikas said local businesses struggle surviving on Lemont customers alone and need customers from outside of town.

Residents packed the meeting room to voice their opinions.

A majority of the audience were supporters of the referendum who were skeptical about the project.

Janet Hughes, one of the residents who opposes the facility, said talk of private financing is misleading because it will be another form of a loan that will cost the village and the taxpayers.

She said changing the form of financing so there would no longer be a referendum circumvents the will of the residents who petitioned.

"The fundamental point is we want to have a vote on this," she said.

Some residents supported the board's efforts to bring new revenue to the village.

The consensus opinion of the audience was that they wanted more input on the project.

Reaves mentioned the possibility of a citizen advisory board, which received general approval.

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More questions?

The village of Lemont has information about the proposed Lemont Sports Complex on its website, www.lemont.il.us. A search for "sports complex" brings up a question and answer form and a market and impact assessment.

Residents with more questions on the project can call Village Administrator George Schafer at 630-257-1590.

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