After more than a year of discussion and debate over what to do with the closed Armory building in Galesburg, aldermen decided against spending any money on the facility.
Aldermen were presented with three options to vote on during Monday night's meeting:
- Spend around $3.5 million for a renovation project to turn it into a community center
- Spend just enough on repairs to bring the building up to code
- Spend nothing on it
Four people addressed the city council before aldermen took their vote. Jim Jacobs urged them to spend the money on renovations.
"I think that we can make that (the Armory) into a great place to house, for one thing a community center, which we no longer have. But I don't think that's the only thing that could go in there. I think there are many other things, because it's a sizable structure," Jacobs said.
Ed England first thanked aldermen for the money spent on repairing Seminary Street, then recommended they vote against the Armory renovation plan.
"As far as the Armory's concerned, it's a pigeon coop. To waste three million dollars on that building is shameful," England said.
Aldermen then discussed the issue, debating first the option to bring the building up to code at a smaller cost. Fourth Ward Alderwoman Corine Andersen encouraged some type of work be done to make the facility usable to the public, even if that meant getting a little help. One suggestion was having the Armory serve as a meeting center for those affected by a disaster.
"Could we get the Red Cross or other communities to buy into at least heating the place, getting air conditioning, getting basic plumbing and the kitchen done, and not have to do the whole project and not have to figure it out at this point?" Andersen asked.
Ultimately, the proposal failed on a 4-3 vote. Aldermen then considered putting the project to the side and doing nothing to the Armory. First Ward Alderwoman Angela Bastian said the city cannot afford the project.
"The fact of the matter is, the city has a deficit, and we’re trying to balance a budget, and deal with our financial situation to get us on the right track," Bastian said.
The money to fund the Armory renovation project would have come from a bond issue that is being paid off through a new capital utility tax. However, if the building was renovated, the city would then have to maintain it at an estimated annual cost of $400,000.
The proposal to do nothing with the Armory and leave the building in its current state passed 4-3. Those who voted yes are Bastian, Second Ward Alderman Wayne Dennis, Third Ward Alderman Russel Fleming, and Sixth Ward Alderman Wayne Allen.
City Manager Todd Thompson said the $3.5 million that would have been set aside for renovations will instead most likely go to road repair projects in the city. Some of it might also be spent on construction of new softball fields and a city-run mini-golf course.