Effingham Council hears updates on the Merchant Street, Showcase Center reconstruction project

By | March 7, 2024

Mar 6—Construction on Merchant Street in Effingham could begin this year as the design phase for the first phase of the reconstruction project nears completion.

The Effingham City Council heard Tuesday about the progress of the project and how the city plans to move forward with it.

City Engineer Luke Thoele told the council that the city is almost ready to invite bids for the reconstruction of a portion of Merchant Street, and he asked council members for payment of a change order from Civil Design, Inc. worth $22,000. for design engineering services, increasing the total cost from approximately $70,000 to $91,935.

“The design of Merchant Street from Flamingo to Eden is progressing,” he said. “Unfortunately, we encountered some unexpected iterations and revisions. These were based on both drainage and some existing utilities.”

The city plans to begin construction this year on the section of Merchant Street from Eden Drive to Flamingo Avenue.

Thoele also asked council members for an additional contract with Civil Design, Inc. to approve design engineering services for the reconstruction of Merchant Street from Flamingo Avenue to Evergreen Avenue, which would be the next phase of the project. The proposed contract would cost the city $36,000, which would be paid from the city’s general fund.

“We hope to be able to build that next year,” said Thoele.

In addition, Thoele asked council members to approve the acquisition of easements from the owners of properties on Merchant Street, from Eden Drive to Flamingo Avenue. He said the cost of acquiring the easements will be less than $7,000, and that amount will be paid from the city’s general fund.

“We have started discussions with property owners,” Thoele said.

The council took no action on matters related to the Merchant Street project at the meeting, but members are expected to revisit Thoele’s requests at their next meeting on March 19.

Also at the meeting, Effingham City Commissioner Hank Stephens told fellow council members about “good news” he recently heard about plans for the Effingham Showcase Center, a proposed multi-million dollar sports complex.

“The Showcase Center Board has met with a number of companies that specialize in naming rights and partnerships to help fund these types of activities,” Stephens said.

He said the Effingham Showcase Center Board recently entered into a contract with Innovative Partnerships Group, a business development firm based in California, which will help the board determine the value of naming rights and other “strategic opportunities” for the complex.

“They’ve raised about $3 billion in naming rights over the years,” Stephens said. “They have given the Showcase Center board a proposal to do a strategic study.”

“The cost of that investigation is $70,000, and the good news is that the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation has stepped up and is covering the entire cost of that investigation, which is actually already underway.”

According to Stephens, the Effingham Showcase Center board should begin hearing about the study’s findings in April.

In other business, Luke Thoele asked the city for a $105,000 contract with Civil Design, Inc. to approve design engineering services for a water main replacement project, which will target water mains in five different areas throughout the city.

“These are water lines that are undersized and usually have a history of leaks, so we’re going to take care of some of those,” he said.

Work on the water main replacement project should begin sometime this year and will likely continue into next year.

If the City Council gives approval at the next meeting, the cost of the contract would be paid from the city’s water fund.

Meanwhile, Effingham Tourism Director Jodi Thoele said eclipse glasses for the total solar eclipse, which will be visible from Effingham on April 8, will be available at Effingham City Hall through Friday. She said additional information about the total solar eclipse, including events happening during the eclipse, can be found on the city’s website, visiteffinghamil.com/2024-eclipse/

“You can come in and pick up the glasses while supplies last,” she said. “Hotels are full. I think it’s going to be a busy day, but I think we’re ready.”

Effingham City Manager Steve Miller also made an announcement at the meeting, telling council members that a special meeting will be held on March 19 at 4 p.m. to present the city’s budget for the next fiscal year to city department leaders. In addition, Effingham Fire Chief Brant Yochum announced that his department will check smoke detectors in some parts of the city next week. He said free smoke detectors will be provided to those who need them.

In other matters the council:

—Approved a resolution approving a service agreement with Milano & Grunloh Engineers for the 2023 CDBG Sewer and Manhole Lining Project in the amount of $30,000.

– A resolution has been approved allowing some of the city’s streets to be temporarily closed for Magic and Mischief: A Fairy Market Event on June 8.

– Approved Certificate of Completion and Project Bond from Field Wrxs, Inc. for the 2023 Effingham City Hall Fire Protection and Fire Alarm Project, which was completed at a total cost of $54,118.

Nick Taylor can be reached at nick.taylor@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 618-510-9226 or 217-347-7151 ext. 300132.

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