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Edwardsville property taxes flat, business and tourism up - FlagSpin

Edwardsville property taxes flat, business and tourism up

EDWARDSVILLE — After a rousing mini-concert from members of the Edwardsville Municipal Band, the first City Council meeting of the new fiscal year started Tuesday.

Mayor Art Risavy said live music before the meeting is an homage to former Mayor Gary Niebur, whose wife told Risavy that her husband frequently had band members perform at meetings that involved taking oaths. 

First, the winners from last month’s election were sworn in. Chris Farrar took the oath of office, followed by new alderwoman Andrea Miracle, William Krause and Elizabeth Grant. Farrar and Krause ran unopposed.

In a twist, Risavy requested most aldermen change seats so that they now sit in numerical order by ward from left to right as one faces the dais. Only Krause and Grant did not change seats. 

Risavy also juggled committee assignments for the aldermen. Jennifer Warren will lead the public services committee, with SJ Morrison and Miracle also on the panel. Alderman Jack Burns will chair the finance committee, along with Krause and Farrar as members; Farrar will lead the public safety committee with Miracle and Morrison; and Grant will chair the administrative and community services committee, along with Krause and Burns.

After retaining all current city officials and making appointments to various boards and commissions, Risavy delivered his State of the City address, which lasted just over one hour.

Property tax stays flat

The city’s equalized assessed valuation (EAV) was $997 million in 2021. Previously, in 2020, it was $888 million. He cited the warehouse districts, the gateway enterprise zones and the new commercial/retail developments to account for the rapid rise in valuation.

He added that another result of rising EAV is a flat property tax for the city. Edwardsville’s estimated tax rate for 2023 is 1.3835, a 0% increase. The 2022 rate was 1.4119, while the 2021 rate was 1.4162.

Construction dollar values in 2022 were just over $170 million, the second-largest total in the past 13 years. There were 984 construction permits issued in 2022, the majority of which were residential additions and remodels  at 722. Of those, 25 were single-family, 234 were commercial and three were multi-family. 

Street projects abound

Starting with the public works department in his address, Risavy listed completed street projects: North Second Street, Chapman Street, South Charles Street and West Dunn Street.

In-progress projects include the traffic signal optimization along Troy Road; water main improvements and road resurfacing on East High, North Kansas and Douglas streets; Gateway Commerce Center Drive pavement improvements; the Route 159 shared-use path; wastewater treatment plant improvements; and a system-wide water meter conversion.

Upcoming projects include resurfacing North Buchanan Street; reconstructing and resurfacing University Drive (two phases); the third segment of the Route 66 Trail between Lewis Road and the Madison County Transit Nature Trail; Troy Road resurfacing; St. Louis Street resurfacing between North Main and Vandalia streets; resurfacing Brown, Fillmore and Wolf streets; Hillsboro Avenue drainage improvements; Cass Avenue water main replacement; North Main Street water main improvements; and a 1,700-foot Sports Park Drive extension.

Later in his remarks, Risavy pointed out that the city has 345 employees, 185 of which are full-time. The city has added at least six full-time employees and more than 63 part-time or seasonal employees since fiscal year 2021-2022; there have been 111 new hires since May 1, 2022.

Parks are a big attraction

Switching to the parks and recreation department, Risavy listed the city’s 19 parks. Of those, three of them are passive parks: Drda Woods, Richards Woods and Springer Woods, totaling 123 acres. Last year, the city planted 140 trees at a cost of $19,299; pruned 166 trees at a cost of $39,202; and removed 85 trees at a cost of $114,224. The city retained its Tree City USA designation for the 21st year in a row.

The city’s signature park, Plummer Family Park, received a lot of usage last year. Risavy said the multi-purpose fields recorded 1,350 hours; the ball diamonds received 1,700 hours; and the pickleball courts logged more than 3,300 hours.

“Weekday rentals opened on Dec. 5, 2022, and sold out within an hour for bookings from March until June,” he said. 

Last year, there were 15 baseball tournaments; nine softball tournaments; two soccer; two pickleball; and one youth kickball tourney. In addition, there were leagues at play: 24 co-ed kickball teams; 22 women’s kickball teams; 114 youth flag football participants; 42 youth rugby participants; and 169 youth kickball participants.

The park draws a wide variety of usage from the region: the Southwestern Illinois Baseball League; Missouri State Ultimate Frisbee; McKendree University Softball; Glen-Ed Soccer Association and more.

An important barometer of Plummer’s success has been its concession revenue. They totaled $93,090 in 2020-21; $234,780 for 2021-22; and $276,195 for 2022-23, which ended April 30. The park opened in early 2020.

“We certainly see an uptick in weekend traffic during tournament season, as there are various baseball jerseys, soccer jerseys and team colors gathered through the bar and patio,” said Ryan High, owner of Global Brew and Brick + Bramble. “No doubt they are coming from Plummer Family Park. This doesn’t surprise me at all as this is very similar to consumer behaviors when we travel out of town for tournaments during that time frame.”

Patrick Thirion, co-owner of Peel Pizza, agreed.

“Plummer Family Park is a great addition to Edwardsville,” he said. “Not only does it provide top-notch accommodations for these sports, it gives the community a chance to showcase all of our local businesses.

“As a restaurant owner, it’s great to see new customers experiencing all of the things Edwardsville has to offer and hearing them say they can’t wait to come back to Edwardsville.”

“We have always been a great stop for large groups as we have large rooms and spaces to accommodate travel teams,” said Matt McSparin, owner of Edison Entertainment. “We have seen an uptick in traffic as our attractions for tournaments has increased with Plummer Family Park and the hockey arena.”

This year, 39 tournaments are expected, along with 26 co-ed kickball teams; 22 women’s kickball teams; six adult soccer teams in leagues; and 405 participants in youth flag football, youth rugby and youth kickball.

Entertainment is strong

Meanwhile, at the R.P. Lumber Center, there were 600 Learn-to-Skate participants, more than 150 adult rookies and more than 45 youth hockey players. Hockey games from Mid-States, Twin Bridges and MVCHA, along with teams from high schools like Highland, Triad, Collinsville, O’Fallon and Edwardsville played there.

The Wildey Theatre, which the city owns, has bounced back from the pandemic, with 110 ticketed shows that generated $1.1 million in revenue from 31,679 patrons. There were 4,200 people who attended 49 of the $3 Tuesday movies. Half of attendees came from outside Madison County, some from as distant as the U.K., Germany and Canada.

Risavy thanked booking agent Al Canal and Amanda Prior-Alton, the business manager, then he turned to two rows of former aldermen and staff members seated in the audience to recognize them for saving the theater, which reopened under the city’s ownership in 2011. 

Police, fire squads busy

Over at the police department, seven police officers retired in 2022 while 12 police employees were hired last year and three officers were promoted. To date, five officers have received letters of commendation; four have received life saving awards; six received meritorious unit awards; and one received a citizen commendation award. Police stats in 2022 included:

  • 50,605 service calls
  • 4,003 Fire and EMS calls
  • 7,413 9-1-1 calls
  • 6,816 business checks
  • 10,288 neighborhood checks
  • 10,738 extra patrols

On the fire department side, Cory Heuchert of the county’s emergency management agency (EMA) was recognized while three lieutenants were promoted — Brett Milton, Jake Sweetman and Craig Kemper.

A new fire station, the East Station, will open in either late fall or in 2024, depending on the weather. It will replace the aged Montclaire Station, which dates to 1969 and only staffs two personnel at a time.

The department responded to or computed:

  • 1,191 fire calls
  • 2,799 EMS calls
  • 79 fires
  • $953,000 is the estimated fire damage to property
  • $2,433,550 is the estimated value of property saved
  • Average turnout time is 1:47
  • Mutual-aid was given 172 times and received 124 times

More to do

Despite the resounding successes he noted, Risavy warned that the city still faces challenges and he, the aldermen and department heads must search for solutions when looking at the rest of 2023 and into 2024.

“Residential development, as you can see our numbers last year were only 25 units; development of phase two of Plummer Family Park; keeping our tax rate flat; pension funding is on the minds of all of the aldermen; and the cost of healthcare [along with] continued commitment to greenspace acquisition,” he said. 

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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