Council Approves "Wonderland in Lights" Expansion


Published on May 21 2013 10:44 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 12:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The Effingham City Council Tuesday approved an expansion of the city's "Wonderland in Lights" Christmas lighting display.

The City Tourism Department will acquire 12 additional lighting displays for just over $35,000.  Tourism Director Jodi Jackson said the displays will be in addition to those already a part of the Christmas celebration.

Commissioner Matt Hirtzel, who questioned the purchase of additional displays last year, said the sizable increase in vehicles that drove through "Wonderland" after adding the displays was enough for him and voted in favor of this year's purchase.

Council members discussed the temporary closure of portions of Schwerman Street and Grove Avenue for the 4th of July fireworks display at Effingham High School.  Members agreed that the larger shells that will be a part of this year's show are a good reason to restrict access to the firing area.  The streets will be re-opened after the show ends.

The Council discussed with local businessman Tom Henderson about the City going halves on a renovation of the former Rexroat's Distinctive Dining that is now the home of 221, a new eatery and nightclub.  Exterior work only is part of the proposed agreement that will involve the City going halves on the $14,000 project.  The Council finalized an agreement last night with Global Technical Systems, splitting the cost of just more than $10,000 in improvements they're completing to their business on East Jefferson.

Council members discussed issuing a liquor license to the scheduled purchasers of the former Hilton Garden Inn facility.  The goal is insuring no lapse in the sale of liquor during the transition to a Holiday Inn by the purchasers.

The Council authorized the seeking of bids on a water main replacement project estimated to cost just under one million dollars.  The work is south of Fayette Avenue and west of Maple Street in the Central Area TIF District.  There was also discussion about taking bids on additional work on a future portion of Blohm Avenue.  The work would include culvert, storm sewer, dirt work and seeding.  It's hoped money will soon be available to pave the portion of street from Veterans Drive into Woodland Heights Subdivision.

Council members also discussed an intergovernmental agreement with the Effingham Unit 40 School District, allocating $100,000 in TIF funds for workforce education instruction by the district.  Prior allocations have averaged about $150,000, but City officials noted a decrease in TIF dollars coming to the City.  Also reviewed was an agreement with Jerry Jansen of the Orchard Inn using public and private dollars on sewer that serves the Orchard and neighboring properties to the north. The work will remove storm water from the sanitary sewer system.

The Council also approved various infrastructure improvements including sidewalk replacement work around town and pavement marking throughout the city.  Effingham County EMA was given permission to hold a 4th of July parade, a new pickup truck was purchased for the Public Property division and it was agreed to temporarily close a couple of streets for a limited period of time for some upcoming celebrations.

Mayor Pro Tem Alan Harris announced that Effingham Mayor Merv Gillenwater underwent successful hip replacement surgery Tuesday. 

The Council also unveiled the mayor's portrait, following a tradition that extends back to Ben Kagay, the first mayor of Effingham.

Here's a look at the portrait...