Peoria, Ill. (WMBD) — On Wednesday, candidates running for Peoria City Council At-Large were in the hot seats at a forum held at Westminster Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall.

Candidates present were Demario Boone, Dr. Bernice Gordon-Young, John Kelly, Lawrence Maushard, Benjamin Nicks, Zachary Oyler, Kiran Velpula, Anu Uddavolu, Clara Underwwod-Forman and Mike Vespa.

Questions from the community were submitted prior to the forum. Topics included crime, short-term rentals in older neighborhoods, revitalizing Downtown Peoria, and preserving the integrity of older neighborhoods.

The city’s involvement in the Peoria Civic Center’s $47 million capital improvements and fate of the Peoria Rivermen came up.

Uddavolu said, “Attractions like the Rivermen are important to our Downtown because they’re generating revenue. But at the same time we need to create and sustain a long-term plan. We need to work with the Rivermen and create a long-term plan with them, so that they are not getting into debt further.”

Vespa stated: “I support helping out the Rivermen. We have to make it work. We have to find a way to make it work. I know that their crowds are getting better. I don’t know if it’s self-sustaining. If they’re still spiraling into debt five ten years from now maybe we can re-evaluate.”

Gordon-Young said, “When we’re talking about drawing people to the city of Peoria and entertainment, the Rivermen have really been entertainment. Especially for our children, our youth and bringing families together. I would like to see ways to support but I also think we have to look at can we afford it.”

Maushard said, “The cost would be disastrous in so many ways if we lost the Rivermen. Peoria really can’t afford to do that.”

Nicks stated, “If we have to do a good cost analysis on this thing to figure out that this in the long-term is going to be beneficial then yes we can look at doing something. If we do the numbers and we see that it is not going to be something that’s going to be beneficial in the long run then we are going to have to cut our ties and count our losses and call it a day. We need to do what’s financially beneficial for the city as a whole.”

Oyler said, “I want to clarify the fact hat this is not Rivermen debt. This problem is not caused by the Rivermen. It’s caused by the Peoria City Council and the Civic Center Authority Board. It’s lack of planning. The ice should have been saved for and planned for for the last 40 years. We’ve known for 20 years that this issue was coming. And the fact that the money wasn’t set aside was no one’s fault but the leadership that made the decisions on how to manage the money. And I think this is a relationship issue between the council and the authority board more than anything on how do we ensure that we plan effectively for long-term capital needs.”

The Consolidated General Election is on April 4.

Also on the ballot will be the Peoria Park District and Illinois Central College Trustees. To see the forum for the At-Large Candidates and Peoria Park District Trustees, click here.