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Decatur council votes, again, to rescind gaming fees on businesses

Decatur council votes, again, to rescind gaming fees on businesses

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DECATUR — The Decatur City Council voted on Monday to rescind the annual $500 fee for video gaming licenses and refund fees to those businesses that have already paid.

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The ordinance was considered passed at the Dec. 21 meeting but due to a procedural error, had to be brought up again on Monday for a formal vote. The licensing fees will be assessed against the operators of the terminals, rather than the businesses where the machines are located, for at least the calendar year of 2021. The measure is intended to lessen the financial strain on the bars and restaurants where many of the city's 440 machines are located, as those businesses are already struggling under COVID-19 lockdown rules. At present, no video gaming at all is allowed.

Video gaming revenue added up to more than $100 million from Decatur, with $177,321 of that realized in July alone, said City Manager Scot Wrighton. The city receives 1/6 of the 30% cut the state collects from video gaming.

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In other business, the council approved the purchase of 2112 N. Brush College Road, a property on the southeast corner of Harrison and Brush College, at a cost of $57,100, for the construction of the Brush College Road Grade Separation Project. The city expects to be reimbursed up to $45,680 from the Illinois Competitive Freight Program. The remaining $11,420 will be paid with the city's allocation of state motor fuel tax funds. Construction for the Brush College improvement project is expected to begin later this year.

During council discussion at the end of the meeting, Councilman Chuck Kuhle said he wants the council to consider, at the soonest possible opportunity, reopening bars and restaurants that have been shuttered under the Tier 3 restrictions imposed by Gov. Pritzker. 

"What do we have to do to get this on the agenda?" Kuhle said. "It's time. We've got people leaving town to go eat at other places and now they're going to do it more. Everybody's open around us and businesses are suffering."

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Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said the city can lift all restrictions if the council chooses to do so, but the ultimate authority rests with the Macon County Health Department, which has the power to shut down a business, and defying the governor's orders could put the city at risk for liability.

"Protecting the health and safety of our residents is the No. 1 priority of our city," said Councilman David Horn. "Our overall COVID-19 metrics are extremely concerning. Macon County has the highest per capita death rate for a mid-size city. Our death rate was 71% higher than the next highest county, Sangamon."

Moore Wolfe's suggestion was to wait until the governor's current orders expire on Jan. 9, because the region has shown such significant improvement that Pritzker has said mitigations would likely be eased as a result. Jan. 11 is the first date when statistics should show whether the area will have a surge due to Christmas celebrations, as well. 

"Nobody wants to have people die, and nobody wants businesses to go out of business," Kuhle said. "I feel passionate about it. Horn talks about statistics, but he doesn't talk about the mental health of people who are suffering from this, people who can't run their business and can't feed their families."


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Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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