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GIBSON CITY — Gibson City Council members on Dec. 9 approved creating a Community Development Assistance Program (CDAP) loan for Nicole Miller, who does business as Pioletti’s Spaghetti.

The $60,000, 15-year loan will be at 3 percent interest for the first 10 years. Miller will make monthly repayments of $414 per month, which is less than she currently pays to rent a commercial kitchen.

The CDAP loan will help Miller buy the downtown building at 301 N. Sangamon Ave., which formerly housed the Gibson City Courier office. Seller Matt Barnard will be loaning her the remaining $20,000 of the $80,000 purchase price. The building has an appraised value of $86,000.

Mayor Dan Dickey said CDAP originally focused its loans on jobs creation, but about two years ago, the program has focused more on business expansion since fewer small businesses now hire full-time employees.

Miller’s business grew 300 percent for 2019 over 2018 due to beginning a take-home meal service. Miller said demand for that service exceeds her current capacity, so she expects as much as 50 percent more growth in 2020.

Miller said she also expects growth in the catering portion of her business, since she is now the preferred food vendor for the popular barn wedding venue owned by Chris Engelbrecht of rural Paxton.

Tracy Epps, who chairs the CDAP committee, characterized the move as “a great use of space for a unique food business in town.”

With the expanded space, Miller said she will offer expanded services and options such as in-house food tastings for catering and a space for special-event dinners for up to 20 guests. Miller said she will not, however, run a regular restaurant business.

Pool grant application

Council members also approved a $5,000 contract with the Fehr Graham engineering firm of Champaign to assist with a grant application to build a new outdoor public swimming pool facility.

The grant would be funded by the Park and Recreational Facility Construction Grant Program (PARC) of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Pool Exploratory Committee member Jan Hall said a successful grant could be worth as much as $2.5 million.

The committee asked engineer Andrew Kieser of Fehr Graham in October to revise the committee’s initial plan and lower the initial $4.3 million estimated cost for the new pool. Kieser said revisions are progressing, but final plans will not be available until early January.

The grant application is due Jan. 31. Hall has volunteered to provide assistance in putting together information for the grant application.

Both the grant application and the revised plan are ways the city hopes to replace its aging pool and bathhouse for $3 million or less.

Tax levy approved

For what Dickey said is perhaps the 10th consecutive year, the council did not increase the city’s property tax levy request for 2019.

Dickey said the town’s maintenance and operational needs are funded by several sources of income, with the property tax levy being one of those sources.

The levy request totals $338,000. The highest portion of the levy — $94,000 — goes toward funding needs in the city’s general fund. The next-highest amount of $73,000 goes to help pay what is budgeted for the local contribution to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

The city approved a budget appropriation in July for just more than $6.95 million to cover the 2019-20 fiscal year’s operations from July 2019 through the end of April 2020. About $6.6 million of the city’s expected expenses is funded by sources other than local property taxes.

Dickey emphasized the levy request does not determine the local property tax rate. The tax rate is determined by Ford County officials, who combine funding requests from taxing bodies with assessed values for property to determine tax rates needed to fund each requesting governmental unit.

Year-end bonuses increased

Upon the request of Alderman Aaron Franks, the council voted unanimously to increase the amount the city provides for year-end bonuses given to each full-time employee — from $75 to $100. As in the past, part-time employees will receive $45.

“Buy Local” resolution

The council approved a resolution that establishes a “Buy Local/Buy Gibson City” policy. The policy’s intent is to maximize local purchases of goods and services by the city, other business and area residents, especially when cost is similar.

Dickey emphasized that the policy is a resolution and not an ordinance, so there are no mandates or restrictions, even on city purchases.

However, he believes adopting the policy “sends a message” by reminding everyone that buying local benefits many.

City Attorney Marc Miller, who also serves many other municipalities and villages, said this is the only such policy he has ever been asked to put together.