At the last Alton City Council meeting, the city administration, by a motion made by Alderman Ray Stebel, requested the City Council to suspend the rules and approve giving another $2 million of TIF money (Tax Money) to Alton Works to subsidize the remodeling of the Lucas Row buildings on Broadway.

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The proposed project was described to include 16 residential apartments and some retail spaces on the first floor of Broadway. I am not questioning the merits of whether that is a good investment of the City of Alton tax money. But, why should the city help one developer, Alton Works, when other entrepreneurs within the City may have similar improvement goals. Has the City solicited that funds are currently available, and applications would be accepted by others?

I also question why this city administration and counsel continue to negotiate and make secret deals with third parties. The only time the public hears about these deals is when the City Council is required to take a public vote to finalize the deal. I believe these deals are often presented without prior knowledge of some of our aldermen. What has happened to the concept of transparency in government? Why does the city Council just go along with everything the mayor requests?

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Why cannot there be an opportunity for public input? In recent weeks, the Council approved giving $7.5 million dollars to supplement the remodeling of the Wedge Bank building and the Elfgen building by Alton Works and now they have given $2 million for the old buildings across the street from the Elfgen building on Broadway. Before that, Mayor Goins announced that he had agreed to give $1 million to the Alton Salvation Army to assist in the building of a new homeless facility to be constructed near Alby and Fifth Street.

Fortunately, representatives from the Alton Salvation Army responsibly listened to the public outcry and agreed to seek a different location. These projects may have merit. But what I find frustrating and unacceptable is that the public is kept in the dark as these projects and others are presented and negotiated.

Even some of our aldermen are unaware of these major decisions until they are asked to vote. Citizens may also not be aware as the name is deceiving, but Alton Works is not affiliated with the City of Alton by any means. Alton Works is a for-profit entity and does not share any common board, governance, or control with the City.

Sam Loy, CPA

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