Park Board lukewarm when asked to make $100,000 donation to bury Ameren power lines in Clat Adams

Quincy Riverfront

Quincy riverfront | Turek Film Company

QUINCY — A request by a member of the Quincy Riverfront Development Corporation for a $100,000 donation to help bury Ameren power lines was not well received by commissioners during Wednesday’s Quincy Park Board meeting.

Rick Ehrhart spoke to the seven-member board at the beginning of the meeting. The project calls for the lines to be buried in Clat Adams Bicentennial Park, starting at about 400 feet north of Broadway down to Hampshire. The Riverfront Development board has previously said this project is the first step before it can start other improvements.

“If you’ve seen the master plan for riverfront development, there are structures that are going to be built like an amphitheater, and the elevation of the ground is going to be raised,” Ehrhardt said after the meeting. “To me, it’s an eyesore to have those lines there. They’ve been there for many years. That was where all the action occurred for the industrial part of the city. Now we’re trying to convert it into public use and take advantage of the fact we’re on the Mississippi River.”

The City of Quincy and Adams County both have agreed to give up to $200,000 toward the project. Sen. Jil Tracy secured a $350,000 Illinois Capitol grant.

Ehrhardt said the lowest bid received for the line burial is $1.18 million. That leaves the Quincy Riverfront Development Corporation approximately $435,000 short. The bid also expires at the end of September, creating the possibility of cost increases.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, Park Board President Jarid Jones read a statement. He said a Riverfront Rendezvous is scheduled for Oct. 13 in Clat Adams Park, giving people a chance to envision the riverfront master plan with members of the corporation.

“I have been approached by several community members and individuals representing their respective boards and committees to address a shortfall of funds due to unexpected cost increases,” Jones said in his statement about the power line burial project. “There have been preliminary talks regarding potential requests for additional funding from various entities. Specifically, they’re exploring the possibility of asking for $100,000 from the city, $100,000 from the county, and I’ve heard between $50,000 and $100,000 from the Park District. 

“These funds will be instrumental in ensuring the successful completion of the powerline burial project and, consequently, the entire riverfront master plan. Moreover, they are actively pursuing opportunities to secure the remaining $150,000 from private investors who have expressed interest in supporting the cost. These individuals would provide private funds without seeking public recognition.”

Jones is the Park Board’s representative on the riverfront development corporation. When he was named to the Park Board and elected president in May, he said he would push for riverfront development.

Commissioner John Frankenhoff asked Executive Director Rome Frericks for his thoughts. 

“We have a lot on our plate,” Frericks replied.

He then listed several projects to which the Park District is committed:

Frericks has applied for an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The playground would be built east of the Avenue of Lights baseball field. The OSLAD grant program is a 50-50 cost sharing program. The local cost share is $776,653. However, if the Park District receives the grant, it would not get the funds until the work is completed. 

“The Park District is on the spot for that until the project is complete. That’s going to be a minimum of 18 months,” Frericks said.

The Park Board also discussed in closed session the likely acquisition of the Paul Dennis Soccer Complex, 4201 State. The Quinsippi Soccer League is no longer in operations, and league president Brad Burghart has proposed donating the 22-acre complex to the Park District. However, an assessment of the property determined repairs to the parking lot, concession stand and shelter house, as well as a culvert replacement, will cost about $500,000.

Frericks also noted extra fencing and possible lights for the two fields in the Wavering Park complex must be factored.

“We just had a meeting a month ago where we had reviewed all sorts of priorities,” Frankenhoff said. “We’ve got our priorities lined up, and we made big decisions on the budget. Everything kind of fell into place. We’ve got a roadmap for the future.”

Frankenhoff also referred to a meeting at City Hall earlier this year when the Park Board inquired from city officials about $60,000 that he said was promised from the city for the Villa Kathrine project.

“The answer we got was essentially that we didn’t ask for it at the right time, despite the fact that Rome had repeatedly asked for it,” he said. “So part of my answer is, ‘You didn’t ask at the right time.’ Also, the projects that are queued up for us directly impact recreation, which is our mission. (The burial of Ameren power lines) does nothing for recreation. I think a small segment of people in the community would care or are concerned about the power lines.

“For me, this is not a priority. I’m not interested in it.”

No other commissioners spoke about the project.

Ehrhardt didn’t believe the lack of interest expressed Wednesday would stop the riverfront corporation from trying to raise the money.

“The problem is that it’s supposed to be a partnership between the city, the county, the Park Board and private donations,” he said. “This is the first project. We want to kind of get off on the right foot and say, ‘Let’s get this project done and move along.’ There is one opportunity to get those power lines done, because Ameren doesn’t have to cooperate in this venture. If they don’t cooperate, it’s not going to happen.

“If this is supposed to be a collaborative, you’d like the first project to be collaborative. I don’t know what (the Park Board is) going to do. If we don’t get cooperation from them, it’s going to be awful hard when I try to go to some private people and say, ‘We need money,’ and they say, ‘What’s the Park Board doing?’”

Ehrhart said the master plan for the entire riverfront project is estimated to cost $50 million over the next 20 years.

The Quincy Park District denied in January a donation of $25,000 to the Quincy Riverfront Development Corporation to help with the startup costs for the newly formed group.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The cost for the entire riverfront project, not just the proposed amphitheater, was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

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