Instead of donating $350,000 to bury power lines, Park Board president suggests giving Clat Adams Park to riverfront group

Riverfront Development Corporation-2

Chairman Tieraney Craig, at podium, is joined by other members of the Quincy Riverfront Development Corporation during Wednesday's meeting of the Quincy Park Board. | David Adam

QUINCY — Members of the Quincy Riverfront Development Corporation asked the Quincy Park Board on Wednesday night for a donation of $350,000 to bury power lines in Clat Adams Bicentennial Park.

Park Board President Jarid Jones had another donation in mind.

Rome Frericks, executive director of the Quincy Park District, recommended the Park Board table the issue. He said the $350,000 request would have to come from the Park District’s corporate reserves.

“We are working on our budget, so it’s the recommendation of the Park District treasurer to postpone taking any action at this time, giving the district time to fully see what our corporate reserves are after the budgeting processes,” Frericks said.

Commissioner John Frankenhoff noted the city and Adams County already have committed $200,000 to the $1.18 million power line project. The city’s contribution comes from TIF dollars — money already collected from other taxing districts. He said the county’s contribution is federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“Neither (commitment) affected their operations budget or revenue stream,” Frankenhoff said.

He also said the Park District received notice last week that the personal property replacement tax dollars it typically expects to receive will be cut from 26 to 40 percent. He also said after three consecutive years of lowering taxes, the Park District will be raising taxes next year.

“Taking on another project is going to accelerate the reversal of that trend of lowering taxes,” Frankenhoff said. “It just doesn’t fit. If we’re going to fight for lower taxes, I don’t think we should agree to this request.”

Jones followed by suggesting that for the Park District to “continue to be a partner and be the best partner we can be,” it would give Clat Adams Park to the Quincy Riverfront Development Corporation. 

“It’s been something that I’ve heard other community members talk about. I think it’s something that has always been kind of a pipe dream or an idea,” Jones said after the meeting. 

“For the Park District, instead of writing a check, this is our best way to be a partner so (the riverfront corporation) can continue to progress forward.”

Frankenhoff said he has advocated for making that gift “off and on again for the last couple of years.” He told the riverfront corporation members the Park District would simply transfer ownership of the park directly to the city.

“Then we back out,” Frankenhoff added. “We’re no longer in the partnership. There’s no more requests to the Park District for funding this. We continue with what we’re good at — the other 1,000 acres spread out throughout the city and providing recreation.”

Mike Mahair with the Quincy Riverfront Development Corporation said he viewed the overall $65 million riverfront development plan as a “strong economic development project.”

“If you’ve been to other communities where they had a vibrant riverfront … I mean, we’re sitting on the Mississippi River,” Mahair said. “It’s gorgeous. We’re not taking advantage of what natural resources that we have.”

When asked about Jones’ proposal, Mahair replied, “That’s an interesting concept. At first blush, I like it, because it is an asset. A valuable asset.”

“I understand your stance that it’s a lot of money. It’s a big ask,” said Tieraney Craig, chairman of the riverfront development corporation. “We have to be transparent in everything we do, and so if we don’t ask, we’ve failed our board. I would say if you’re not interested in the partnership, then that seems like a viable way to go.”

“I don’t think it’s necessarily not wanting to be a partner,” Jones said. “It’s wanting to be a partner right now.”

Frericks said he was ready to put the park donation proposal on the November agenda. Commissioner Mark Philpot thought the park donation would be a “contribution to the (riverfront development) effort.”

“I don’t think there’s a person in this room who doesn’t want to see development on the riverfront,” Philpot added.

Both Adam Booth and Mike Shull told commissioners during the public forum at the beginning of the meeting that the Park District has other priorities it should focus on. 

“The cost to maintain the riverfront is something we all need to seriously consider,” Shull said. “We are steadily approaching hard economic times, if the past few months have been any indicator. Our financial systems are buckling. Inflation has made the central needs out of reach for a lot of Quincyans. Building costs are at all-time highs, and the price of borrowed money is like 1970s bad.”

Shull later reacted to a comment made by Jones, who said people who don’t support riverfront development “don’t give a s**t about the community.”

Shull asked Jones, “Just on the point of being respectful, just so that I heard you correctly, you said people who don’t support this don’t give a s**t about the community.”

“There’s a certain level of individuals who don’t want to look at understanding the potential of individuals to be able to raise funds,” Jones responded. 

“Booth and I don’t have any problem with people raising funds on their own,” Shull replied. “What we care about is raising taxes. … It’s not cool to be in our position. This isn’t the fun position to have. This is the responsible dad versus the fun dad. What we’re here essentially saying is that we feel like it’s an irresponsible decision (to spend money on the riverfront) at this juncture. 

“I want an awesome riverfront. Who doesn’t want an awesome riverfront? That sounds great. But we are faced with unprecedented sort of situations right now, with inflation, the cost of living, rent in this town right now is insane, and I think we can all agree our property taxes are pretty high. I feel like it’s pretty disingenuous to just do this ad hominem attack on the people who have spoken and say that we don’t give a s**t about this town.”

Jones later responded, “I want to clarify something. It wasn’t a poke at those of you who have opposing opinions. There’s a problem. We see a problem. But we see good things in the future, too. I think everyone should be able to have the opinion, the option and the ability to go out to raise funds if they choose to raise funds and if they choose to partner.”

Dave Bellis with the riverfront development committee then asked how much money the Park Board had approved to water grass at Westview. Frankenhoff replied, “$1.9 million.”

“That’s great,” Bellis said. “You admitted that it’s only 5 percent payback (of Westview dollars) and 95 percent tax dollars paid for that, which is fine. I used to golf, too.”

“That (irrigation) project fits into that mission statement behind you,” Frankenhoff replied.

The proposed gift of Clat Adams Park to the city then was tabled.

After the meeting, Craig said she was happy for the Park District to admit the riverfront development is a “partnership deal.”

“If we’re not going to all pull all the weight to try to find other alternatives … I don’t know,” she said.

“Me personally, I think it’d be great if they donated (the park) or gave us $350,000 to stay a partner,” Bellis said.

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