Economy, Taxes, And Fees Among Debate Areas In Decatur Mayor’s Race
Decatur’s ability to attract business has become one of the main issues of debate before next week’s mayoral election. Challenger and longtime businessman John Phillips also contends recent hikes in property taxes and water and sewer fees are creating a burden for residents. Incumbent Julie Moore-Wolfe, a former city council member, has been in office since 2015, appointed after the passing of former mayor Mike McElroy.
Phillips says residents shouldn’t have to pay water rate hikes on top of property tax increases of 15 percent.
But Moore-Wolfe says without those increases, the dredging of Lake Decatur wouldn’t have happened, and the city wouldn’t be attracting new business.
“You can’t say to companies – yeah, come here, and we need your jobs, so come here, build your company here, and we’ll get you some water in about five to ten years,' she said. "It doesn’t work like that. We have to have water not only for the industries we would currently have, but any company we would want to attract to come here.”
Phillips says he doesn’t understand why Moore-Wolfe and the city council rejected U-Haul’s offer to buy a vacant shopping center on the city’s north side for use as a regional headquarters, while leasing other parts for retail space.
He says that project would have created at least 50 jobs for Decatur.
“The city, in its lack of wisdom, said ‘hey, that’s not the purpose we want that piece of property to serve, and turned it down," Phillips. "Even though that property has been empty for 10 years, and there’s no sign that it’s going to be utilized anytime soon.”
Moore-Wolfe says the former Northgate Mall isn’t zoned for what U-Haul wants to do, but she wants to help the company find another location.
U-Haul bought the property before checking with the city, and is now asking for a change in zoning.
Moore-Wolfe says she’s also focused on adding infrastructure around the Midwest Inland Port, where businesses are moving cargo on three major railroads.