Referendum on investing in Churchill activity center proposed by 3 Galesburg aldermen

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GALESBURG — Three members of the Galesburg City Council have proposed a public referendum to let voters weigh in on the need for a community center in Galesburg.

At the request of council members Bradley Hix, Wayne Dennis and Larry Cox, a resolution providing for an advisory question on the Nov. 8 ballot will be presented to the city council’s Monday, April 18 meeting.

The non-binding question would read:

Should the City of Galesburg spend between $5 million and $10 million to convert the former Churchill Middle School (905 Maple Avenue) into a community/activity center?

The result of this advisory question would not bind the council, but rather provide public input on the project. The council must pass a resolution by Aug. 22 to place an item on the Nov. 8 ballot.

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As previously reported, City Manager Todd Thompson estimated that bringing the Churchill Junior High building up to current code would cost $5 million. Additional construction to renovate the space into an activity center could bring the total cost of the project to $8-10 million.

“In the city of Galesburg, if we’re going to spend $8-10 million dollars, I think we need to have direction from our citizens if this particular location is a good idea,” First Ward Council Member Bradley Hix said.

Hix said he is not against the idea of providing residents an activity center but that he does not believe the city needs the estimated 86,000 square feet that Churchill would provide and he would rather support investing in a new and smaller activity center closer to the center of town.

“I don’t know why it’s the city of Galesburg’s responsibility to repurpose Churchill. It’s not.” Hix said.

Second Ward City Council Member Wayne Dennis said he also does not believe the city should spend the potential $8-10 million without public input.

“I think it’s all wrong. There’s a lot more places we could put $8, $9 or $10 million than in a building they want to give us for a dollar. I’ve been against it since day one,” Dennis said.

At Monday’s meeting, the council will also provide a first reading to authorizing the purchase of Churchill Junior High. Hix said he would like to see the final reading postponed if the referendum is approved but delaying or tabling the purchase will require four votes from the council.

After the Galesburg 205 Board of Education approved transferring ownership of the Churchill property to the city on Monday, April 11, it is now up to members of City Council to accept the building.

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The council agenda for the upcoming meeting shows that City Manager Todd Thompson recommends that council members approve the intergovernmental transfer and in doing so, receive the property “as is” with no warranties from District 205.

The proposed intergovernmental agreement would transfer the property “at no cost” to the city.

Dennis said if the referendum shows support for acquiring Churchill, it would “probably not” change his mind. Hix said if the referendum shows support for Churchill he would be more inclined to reconsider his stance.

“If it does go through and does get passed and the referendum comes back and a very large percentage of people think that’s the best plan then the people have spoken,” Hix said. “Myself and my colleagues represent the people and we should act upon their wishes.”

“My gut feeling is though that we’re not hearing the opinion of the people right now,” Hix said.

This article originally appeared on Galesburg Register-Mail: Referendum on city investing in Churchill community center proposed