More than a dozen people turned out for Tuesday’s Naperville City Council meeting to weigh in on the city’s decision to earmark Special Events and Cultural Amenities (SECA) Grant funding for certain groups, nonprofits and events listed as “city obligations” for 2022.
The topic stirred debate, due in part to controversy over whether Naperville Century Walk has been granted what opponents describe as special treatment and is benefitting from a contractual arrangement that secures a three-year commitment at approximately $100,000 annually instead of a one-year deal, like the majority of the other community organizations seeking funding.
Naperville resident Nancy Chen called into question what she describes as the city’s “special treatment” of Naperville Century Walk.
“I urge you to vote against this sweetheart deal and let all organizations compete fairly and openly under the same set of rules,” Chen said.
Naperville Century Walk President W. Brand Bobosky defended Naperville Century Walk, saying they earned the funding rightfully.
Council members Patricia Gustin and Jennifer Bruzan Taylor said they do not believe that the city committing to a three-year deal with Naperville Century Walk will put more community organizations at a disadvantage to securing grant funding.
But council members Benjamin White, Patrick Kelly and Theresa Sullivan said they city is rushing into putting the SECA Grant funding to a vote, providing for less than adequate information needed to make a decision.
Mayor Steve Chirico disagreed.
“I think it’s time for our city council to give policy direction on this,” Chirico said.
Opponents argue that Naperville Century Walk, which brings public art to the city, is not receiving adequate oversight from the public art commission. That panel consists of nine voting members, four of which represent Naperville Century Walk.
Bobosky downplayed the concern, saying that the entirety of the 21-member public art commission—which includes some voting and non-voting members—has yet to meet up consistently but the voting members have.
Naperville resident Melanie Greenberg shared her view, saying she believes the SECA Grant funding process is fair and that Naperville Century Walk should face the same rigorous oversight as other community organizations.
Still, some council members expressed support for postponing the vote on SECA Grant funding.
Chirico tempered the concern, saying the city’s public art commission is keeping tabs and its mission remains the same.
Naperville Century Walk is expected to use the funding it is allocated to work on two projects.
In the end, the City Council decided to approve SECA Grant funding allocations in the amount of $1,123,717 for city obligations in a 5-4 split vote. NCTV17 is one of the community organizations benefitting from the SECA Grant funding program.
DuPage River Resolution
Also at the meeting, the City Council voted in support of a resolution supporting public access to the DuPage River.
The issue stems from riverfront homeowners lodging complaints to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources requesting a pause while concerns about people trespassing and leaving trash are investigated. That prompted an online petition advocating for public river access.
The topic has been making the rounds at public meetings in and around the area, with officials for the Naperville and Plainfield park districts passing similar resolutions at their meetings last week.
Commuter Parking and Access Principles
The council also decided the city should move away from its permitting system for commuter parking at the Naperville Metra Train Station and move toward daily parking fee spaces to better promote access.
Officials then directed city staff to bring back to the council a memo detailing the elimination of the commuter parking permit waitlist and how to accomplish that.
Though train ridership is currently down because of the pandemic, the city would like to take proactive steps in the event that the number of people commuting starts to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Presentation of Financial Report
The council also received an update on the city’s financial outlook during the meeting.
It indicates that Naperville’s combined state-collected revenues are exceeding the projections by 18% through July.
The presentation also shows that the city’s sales tax figures through March are in line with the pre-pandemic figures reported in 2019.
It goes on to highlight how Naperville’s food and beverage sales through June have exceeded $43 million for the second consecutive month.
The city finds that nearly all revenue streams have returned to pre-pandemic levels and that only three funds will remain in recovery through 2022, officials said.
Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.
If you have a story idea, we want to hear from you!
WANT TO STAY INFORMED?
Get daily news headline stories delivered right to your inbox!Sign Up Today!