Peoria City Council plans to move forward with Western Avenue improvement project

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Preparation for the Western Avenue Improvement project is set to begin after being delayed for months by COVID-19.

Tuesday, Peoria City Council voted 8-2, with Beth Jensen and Zach Oyler opposed, move forward with the project this year. It will bring bike lanes, new roadways, new sidewalks and street lighting to the Adams and Howett St. area.

The city is planning to pay more than $8 million for construction for over two years. Councilmember Zach Oyler said the city is not in a good financial position to fund the project.

“I think we need to take a step back here and figure out how we’re actually going to balance the budget before we start trying to find additional places to spend money,” Oyler said.

Other council members said it is time to invest in an area they have dis-invested in for so long.

“The African American community that lives on the south side of Peoria has no appetite for once again, to have a project come before us and be delayed,” council member Denise Moore said.

The city plans to put $450,000 toward the western improvement project this year. Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said the money will come from the state motor fuel tax.

Also, council members voted unanimously to receive and file another budget presentation. No definitive action has been taken on the 2020 budget yet. Urich said no government funding has been received. The council plans to wait two more weeks before taking any action.

“There are very difficult choices for council to make when it comes to either workforce reductions or a short term borrowing package that would require that a repayment source,” Urich said. “So I think with that and all the discussions that are going on in congress about a potential stimulus package that would come forward council wanted to wait and see so I think they were being cautious.”

The council planned to discuss the voluntary separation agreement Tuesday. It is a program incentivizing city employees to retire early. However, they deferred the discussion to the next city council meeting. The agenda items regarding massage establishments and short-term rentals were also deferred.

Lastly, city council is steps closer to helping the Red Carpet Car Wash re-open. The Glen and Sheridan location in Peoria has been closed since last year. The stormwater drainage improvement underneath the property that has caused unstable ground. Council members voted unanimously to approve a construction contract with J.C. Dillon, Inc. to fix the issue.

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