DECATUR — Renovations to the Beach House restaurant and surrounding area have stalled as the city and Decatur Park District continue to discuss cost-sharing for the project.
Park district commissioners approved a $760,000 contract Oct. 16 with the understanding that they would split the cost three ways with the city and restaurant owner Todd Mason. However, the Decatur City Council has not taken up the matter, and City Manager Ryan McCrady emphasized that the city has not agreed to anything.
Park board President Chris Riley said there was “some miscommunication along the way” between the governments. Commissioners initially hoped that the work, which included a new deck for the Beach House as well as improvements to the surrounding promenade, would begin in November and be finished by April.
The city owns Lake Decatur and the park district controls the Nelson Park shoreline, including the Beach House building, so their partnership is required for elements of the long-term lakefront development. Park district officials have painted the project as another step in that process.
“We don’t have the wherewithal to do this on our own, and neither does Todd (Mason),” Riley said.
McCrady said conversations continue between the staffs of the park district and city. He said those discussions could conclude in the near future or in a few months, but either way, the council would have to take a public vote on any resolution.
“What I want to be clear about is that just because I’m talking to the park district doesn’t mean that this is a done deal,” McCrady said.
If the council chose to fund the project, it would also have to decide how to pay the city’s contribution. McCrady said there are several options, including money from the water fund that is set aside for lakefront development.
The decision comes at a tough time financially for the city, which recently eliminated 20 positions in response to stagnant revenue projections in next year’s budget.
Mason acknowledged as much. “I don’t blame them for not wanting to take this to a vote right now. That’s not really good timing in the eyes of the public,” he said. “Every penny the city spends right now, they need to take a hard look at it, that’s for sure.”
No matter what happens between the park district and city, Mason said he would replace the aging deck outside the restaurant. He has committed to a dollar amount for improvements and will stick to it, he said.
The restaurant owner said he is not frustrated by the situation, because it has been guaranteed that any work will not shut down his operations.
“I’m OK if it starts tomorrow. I’m OK if it starts next summer. I’m OK if it starts next year,” he said, adding that he feels fortunate to operate the restaurant and grateful for the community’s support.
The Beach House matter appeared on an agenda for the park district meeting Wednesday but was not discussed at the meeting. However, the commissioners did approve lease agreements for four recreation clubs that use park district property.
Decatur Archery Club and Ski Klub of Illinois secured five-year agreements with a 2 percent increase in their rent each year. In exchange, the groups promised to perform some improvements to the property they use.
The Decatur Yacht Club and Central Illinois Mountain Bike Association also secured one-year agreements with a 2 percent increase in rent from last year.
The district began charging the clubs fees to use the property in 2012. Before that year, only the Ski Klub had paid the park district in exchange for use of campground. Each group pays a different amount for rent, from $510 for the Archery Club to $3,570 for the Ski Klub in 2013.