MATTOON — The City Council took actions Tuesday to help rehabilitate the former Common Grounds building downtown and to place a third mural in this business district.

In addition, the council approved three promotions triggered by a retirement within the police department and approved a 2019-2020 budget that projects a $672,582 deficit.

The council allocated two $80,000 grants to Banes Property Management of Mattoon for repairs to the former Common Grounds building, 1612 Charleston Ave., and its adjoining Meeting Grounds building, 122 S. 17th St. The funding is for engineering fees, roof and structural repairs, electrical code updates and façade improvements.

Property co-owner Kayleb Burritt has said he plans to offer space for businesses on the first floor and to develop luxury apartments upstairs while maintaining the historic look of the buildings.

"Those are historic buildings, and I am happy to see them investing in the downtown," said council member Dave Cox.

New owners redeveloping former Common Grounds building

Regarding the mural, the council approved an agreement with artist David Guinn for a mural on the west side of the former Thrifty Drug Store building across from the train depot. Guinn is set to develop a design this year, paint the mural in his Philadelphia studio over the winter, and then place the mural on the wall sometime next year.

Council member Rick Hall said the Lumpkin Family Foundation will fund Guinn's mural, adding that this group also paid for the other two murals downtown. The contract for the new mural sets the artist's compensation at $38,000, plus $9,000 for supplies.

Regarding the police department, Capt. Rich Heuerman's retirement has led to promotions for Lt. Jason Cobb to captain, Sgt. Ryan Hurst to lieutenant, and Officer Shawn Brunson to sergeant. The council also made it official that Deputy Chief Sam Gaines, who was promoted from lieutenant, has achieved the rank of captain.

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Police Chief Jason Taylor said Hurst, a former canine officer, will run the department's detective section. He said Brunson and Cobb will play leadership roles in the patrol section.

Regarding the budget, city officials have projected $18.5 million in revenues and $19.2 million in expenses. Gill said he will keep watch on this deficit budget's progress throughout the year and report to the council quarterly.

City officials have attributed the deficit to relatively flat increases in property and sales tax revenue, uncertainty on state funding, and rising costs for payroll, pensions and insurance. Gill has said the city will use financial reserves to offset the projected deficit and will exhaust its reserve fund in about three years if the deficit budgets continue.

Other council actions included:

-- Updating the fee schedule for various services, including increasing the cost of Dodge Grove Cemetery grave openings on Saturdays from $930 to $1,000, on Sundays and holidays from $1,135 to $1,200, and for infants and cremations on Sundays and holidays from $720 to $800.

-- Hiring Crawford Murphy & Tilly for $54,746 to provide engineering assistance with the Canadian National Railroad permit for the combined sewer overflow piping construction project.

-- Purchasing two 2019 Ford utility police interceptor for $35,985 each from Morrow Brothers.

-- Allocating three hotel/motel tax fund grants to help with three events -- $6,000 for the IHSA's boys and girls Track and Field State Finals on May 15-16 and May 23-25 at Eastern Illinois University, $2,275 for the IHSA Girls Badminton Finals on May 10-11 at EIU, and $500 for the Class Pack Car Show on May 11 in Mattoon.

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Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud



Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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