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Paxton will apply on the behalf of five local businesses for downstate Small Business Stabilization applications funded by Community Development Block Grant funds.

The city will apply to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for grants from the State CDBG Program. These funds are to be used to provide working capital for the benefit of the following businesses: Arcade Café, LLC dba Arcade Café $25,000; Leading Edge Salon $25,000; Teri Hancock dba Picket Fence Florist $25,000; Pro-Type Printing, Inc. $25,000 and Pueblo Lindo, Inc. $25,000. The money is part of a state program of $20 million handed out on a first come, first served basis to address the urgent needs of state businesses due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Fredi Beth Schmutte, Chicago, who has done grant work for the city for more than 25 years, said the city received some 21 applications. Some were not qualified because they were not in business for at least three years or were sole proprietors. One application is still pending. Schmutte said the grants are not really competitive but timing will be a factor. The state expects some 800 applications and hopes to “turn the money around in 30 days.”

Schmutte then asked the council to verbally outline its Housing and Community Development goals. Those include the downtown streetscape project, identifying and proceeding with houses that should be demolished and increasing the amount of senior housing in the community.

The city council first held a public hearing on the grants and then met in adjourned session. Aldermen spent some time discussing a proposed mutual aid agreement between the Ford County Emergency Management Agency and the city’s. Aldermen Rob Pacey and Eric Evans expressed concerns about entering into such an agreement and how it would open the city to various liabilities.

Ed Hanson, head of the Paxton EMA said he would take the city’s concerns back to the county and to State’s Attorney Andy Killian who created the document. Hanson conceded that neither agency is fully accredited by the state. The county is close he said, “but the city is far.” He said there was no hurry to sign the agreement.

Evans brought up the question of the city returning to an Emergency Response Services structure instead of the EMA. Hanson said it is under consideration and that it would probably be cheaper for the city to do so.

Also the council voted 6-2 to hire the Springfield law firm of Brown Hay & Stephens to work on some tax increment financing district projects for the city. Pacey said he really wanted some information on other law firms before making a decision and questioned whether this firm’s expertise lies in TIF matters. Ingold said the matters to take up are time sensitive and that the city would not sign a contract with the firm, nor pay a retainer.

Paxton’s previous TIF attorney has retired. Pacey and Susan Satterlee voted no on the proposal.

Ingold updated the council on progress with the downtown streetscape project. The project is in the environmental impact study stage. Ingold said state officials who were working on that on now working on COVID 19 issues and aren’t allowed in their offices. But Ingold said with the state delays the project no longer has a Dec. 31, 2020 deadline.