PAXTON — The Paxton City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday night to donate $6,000 toward the eighth annual Paxton Swine ‘N’ Dine BBQ Contest & Festival, an event that is expected to again feature a concert headlined by a nationally known musical act.
Last year, the festival’s concert was headlined by country music star Dylan Scott, who attracted a crowd that event organizer Alan Meyer estimated to be around 3,000 to 4,000 people.
This year’s concert headliner will be "another national act," Meyer said, and will be announced during the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner on April 16.
"We are expecting just as big of a crowd, if not bigger," Meyer told aldermen.
The city’s $6,000 contribution is the same amount it has donated toward the fall festival since it started being held downtown in its second year in 2013.
The city’s contribution will again help the chamber, which has been sponsoring the festival in recent years, cover costs of securing bands. Meyer said bands typically require 50 percent payment in advance, and it cost the chamber about $30,000 last year to cover the three performing bands’ fees.
"This year, I think just the headlining band itself is about that (amount)," Meyer said.
There are other costs of putting on the festival, too, including a $3,000 fee to rent the stage that is set up in the middle of Market Street downtown and a $2,000 insurance fee, Meyer said.
"There’s really nothing cheap about this," Meyer said.
The costs are worth it, though, Meyer said, as the event has drawn people from not just Central Illinois but from neighboring states. Last year’s festival saw people from Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri in attendance to see Scott perform.
"I know the hotel rooms were all full," Meyer said. "And Casey’s (General Store downtown) said they had one of the biggest nights ever (doing business). So we are bringing people actually to this community. On our Facebook page there is a picture showing the crowd that was here, and we estimated somewhere around 5,000 people attended at least part of the day."
The all-day festival not only includes a series of live concerts but also a wide variety of food and beverage vendors, a cornhole tournament, children’s activities and, of course, the barbecue cookoff.
This year’s event is set for Saturday, Sept. 21.
The festival’s various costs are covered by sponsorships from not just the city but from area businesses, Meyer said. Last year, some businesses unexpectedly stepped up as sponsors, allowing the event to end up "with the same amount of seed money that we started with, which was about $16,000," Meyer said.
The city’s contribution will come out of revenue from hotel/motel taxes.
Abstaining from the vote to donate was Alderman Justin Withers, a member of the festival’s organizing committee. Absent were aldermen Rob Steiger and Bill Wylie.
Also at the meeting:
➜ The owner of a helicopter frame that was abandoned at the city-owned airport a couple of years ago — Gibson City resident Jeremy Baier, pastor of the Pillar and Ground Independent Baptist Church in Gibson City — told aldermen that he planned to have the rest of the partially dismantled vehicle removed from the airport later in the week. "There’s a fellow to come buy it and pick it up probably (Wednesday) if the weather holds out," Baier said. "It’s a Valentine’s Day present for his wife, I think." The city a few months ago had made plans to donate the abandoned helicopter frame to an American Legion post in Catlin, but Baier later came forward and indicated he was the owner and would remove it.
➜ Meyer suggested that when the city has the clocktower above City Hall repainted — a project expected to get under way "pretty quickly," according to Mayor Bill Ingold — that city officials consider adding some "accents of color to it," perhaps on its arches. "It probably won’t cost any more money," Meyer noted, adding that the additional color could make the city "stand out more." Ingold said the clocktower’s white paint has been peeling, especially on its west side.
➜ The council was presented with a copy of a motor-fuel tax (MFT) compliance review for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. Treasurer Tammy Jensen said the review indicated the city is in compliance with the MFT report.
➜ Withers asked for an update on the status of two properties for which the city obtained court orders to have their dilapidated houses torn down. The demolition of the homes at 234 W. State St. and 137 W. Oak St. left the properties with empty lots. Ingold said one person has expressed interest in buying the Oak Street property, but the city has not "done anything more on the one on State Street." Alderman Rob Pacey asked if the council should set a timeline for selling the lots either through accepting sealed bids or requests for proposals. Ingold, however, said the city does not yet own the lots. "I think we’re probably three or four months from getting the title," City Attorney Marc Miller said. "It’s on autopilot. We’re going through the process as quickly as the law allows us."
➜ Alderman Susan Satterlee asked for an update on the status of the prospective sale of the city-owned airport and adjoining landfill property. While there was no news to report on the sale of the airport, Ingold said he was still "working with the EPA" to get the landfill cleared for sale but that he thinks the city is "making some progress on that." Ingold said he hoped "to have some good things in the next month or so to report on that."
➜ Ingold said the city is pursuing an "opportunity" through the state of Illinois to apply for "some help" in reducing energy costs at the city’s wastewater-treatment plant. After submitting an application to the state, the city is now waiting on two people from the University of Illinois to make a visit to the plant and "take a look at it and see if there is some way we can save electricity," Ingold said.
➜ The council tabled a discussion about possible changes to the city’s contract with Paxton-based Central Illinois Disposal & Recycling. Ingold said he thinks it would be a good idea to review the contract given that it has remained unchanged since the city started doing business with the garbage-hauling company in 1997.
➜ Pacey said a previously discussed proposal to create an "incentive program" for new local homeowners is expected to be further discussed by the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce during the organization’s February executive committee meeting. "Hopefully we’ll have some ideas from them" to consider, Pacey said. "In talking with (the chamber board’s president) Cody Kietzman, it could be something similar to what used to be the ‘Welcome Wagon’ in the community with incentives. Beyond that, I’m not really sure where it’s going to go, but I should have some more information hopefully by next month."
➜ Pacey said he had been contacted by "a handful of residents" about a proposed Master Naturalists-sponsored project that potentially could involve the railroad cut that runs through downtown Paxton. "I don’t know the exact design and scope of that yet, but as soon as I have more details I’ll pass that along," Pacey said.
➜ The council voted unanimously to approve a one-time payment of $25,000 to Paxton Packing LLC and the payment of $23,725, to be paid in four installments, to Mom & Pop’s Kettle Korn Stop as required under redevelopment agreements with the two businesses that were previously approved by the council. The payments reimburse the two businesses for costs they incurred in redeveloping their respective properties. The money will come out of the city’s tax-increment financing (TIF) account, which contained $91,183 prior to checks being written to the two businesses, Jensen said. Ingold said he expects there to be three other reimbursements made next month to other businesses with redevelopment agreements with the city.
➜ The council concurred with the mayor’s appointment of Jason Mills to fill a vacant trustee position on the Paxton Carnegie Library board.
➜ Alderman Eric Evans said he wanted to recognize the city’s public works department for its "fabulous job" clearing snow and ice from the city’s streets this winter. "For what they’ve gone through this year, the roads are pretty cleaned off, and the intersections are salted really nice," Evans said. "So I’d like to say ‘thank you,’ to make that known."
➜ The council voted unanimously to approve an automatic clearinghouse (ACH) service agreement with The Frederick Community Bank in Paxton. Jensen said approval of the agreement is "essentially just housekeeping," adding that it is the same ordinance the council approved in 2017 with the only exception being that the bank’s new name is reflected in the agreement. The bank changed its name from the First National Bank last year.