City leaders warn economic recovery could take 'three to five years'

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 2, 2020 12:01 am

QUINCY -- Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore, City Comptroller Sheri Ray and members of the Quincy City Council say they are sounding the alarm about just how long the city of Quincy will likely be feeling the adverse effects of this economic recession, which began shortly after the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States.

"This recession has hit so many people, across all industries in our city, so massively hard that we feel it is very likely going to take us three to five years to recover from," Moore said.

In a presentation to the city's alderman, Ray said it took the city six months to recover economically from the 2001 recession and 12 months for the city to recover from the 2008 recession.

"Right now, we simply do not know how long the recovery is ?going to take," said Ray who added that the uncertainty about when employers may go back to full staff and future pending government assistance programs such as an additional round of stimulus checks are complicating her ability to predict a timeline for the economic recovery.

Alderman Mike Farha, R-4, said another factor that will complicate the city's economic recovery is the perception that Quincy is no longer a shopper's paradise after losing several large anchor stores such as Kmart, Bergner's, Sear's, and others in recent years.

"We don't have the retail base that we once had. Losing that base has hurt restaurants, hurt everybody. That retail base may never make a comeback, especially when the largest retailer in the city is the United States Postal Service because of how many people are shopping online," Farha said.

City officials are still predicting that the city will see sales tax and home rule tax revenues decline by $3.8 million, which is a 9.86% reduction in revenue from when the budget was adopted last month. At the time of its passage, city leaders were in the early stages of the stay-at-home order, which shut businesses down throughout the city, and had predicted a 7.4% revenue reduction.

"It is like we are conducting an orchestra. Right now, we are playing those first notes but just like with any piece of music there are a lot of moving parts and pieces that all need to fall into place in order for you to make sense of it all," Moore said. He said one of the biggest unknowns is what sort of aid the federal government may be preparing to extend to city municipalities with populations under 500,000 people.

He said that he believes the city is well positioned to receive aid if the federal government moves forward with proposed legislation to award grants to cities of Quincy's size or larger.

"We have to be very diligent about going after every grant opportunity. As we saw tonight, we are receiving three grants totaling more than $3.2 million from the federal government. Those grants mean very real dollars are coming into our city that didn't have to come from taxpayers or from cuts to other departments and programs," Moore said. The grants are being awarded over a two year time period and can be used for expenses from January 2020 through 2021.

He said he and other city leaders regularly communicate and work with the state's federal delegation about the need for more aid.

"We have to be able to tell our story, to stress that there is a cost to inaction. We have to be able to convey that in very real time communities like Quincy will be faced with choices to drastically cut services, reduce services that people rely on, and take what people would describe as end of the line measures," Moore said. "The quicker the federal government acts on this, the better the city's economic outlook is going to be."

In other business, the alderman sided with the city's Plan Commission and rejected a developer's request to have a one-year extension on a special permit that would have allowed the developer to construct a strip mall at 2032 and 2034 Broadway. The two lots, which are residentially zoned, were most recently expected to be developed into a strip mall that would house a submarine sandwich shop and a Greek and Mediterranean cuisine bistro. The developer, J. Michael Haubrich, can apply for a new special use permit at a later date which will require approval from the city's Plan Commission and the Quincy City Council.

The aldermen also approved a resolution authorizing the city's Planning and Development department staff to apply for $1.5 million from the state's Rebuild Illinois Fast Track Public Infrastructure Program for the replacement of city storm water, waste water, asphalt and sidewalks along Payson Avenue, a stretch of roadway that city officials have described as being one of the worst streets in the city.

City leaders also awarded bids to Rees Construction Company and Diamond Construction Company, who are working jointly on 12 street, sewer and water improvement projects that are a part of the city's $33 million infrastructure improvement program. The bid was for $5.2 million.

Other infrastructure related expenses approved at Monday night's meeting included: a bid from NMC General Contracting, of Camp Point, for $256,966 for "maintenance work" slated to be completed on the Stone Arch Bridge on South Eighth Street; a quote from Four Points Land Surveying, of Palmyra, Mo., for $9,290 for land surveying services for various future infrastructure projects.