The Galena Gazette is providing all of its news stories and photos of the COVID-19 pandemic with no payment required as a public service and in an effort so you can be totally knowledgeable as to how the pandemic affects you. Please consider a print or online subscription to support this vital reporting by a locally owned business .
GALENA–Not convinced that they had enough information with which to make a decision, the Galena City Council postponed a decision Monday, Dec. 14 on whether or not to allow outdoor dining with a partial closure of Main Street in 2021.
After the meeting, City Administrator Mark Moran said he is preparing a plan that addresses the issues raised by the council during the meeting as well as the verbal and written comments from citizens and business owners.
The report will be presented to the council at the Monday, Dec. 28 meeting when action is expected on the matter. The meeting will take place virtually at 6:30 p.m.
To kick off the discussion, council member Chris Allendorf presented a motion to approve outdoor seating, seconded by council member Robert Hahn.
Allendorf said the only negative comments he heard directly were in regard to parking.
Council member Jerry Kieffer questioned whether or not the council should wait a month, giving city staff more time to study the issue and possibly form a committee. He said parking is a big deal but he really hadn’t heard anything other than positive feedback.
Council member Pam Bernstein agreed on the parking and added the concerns about insufficient trash pick up that were noted on surveys distributed to restaurant owners, as well as concerns with deliveries to downtown businesses.
“I think it’s great thing for the city,” said Bernstein.
It was council member Jerry Westemeier who brought forth larger concerns regarding sufficient space on the street for fire trucks and ambulances to pass through, as well as making sure restaurants have fire-rated tents and umbrellas. Westemeier said there needs to be 20 feet between barriers from one side of the street to the other.
Westemeier also touched upon garbage concerns, especially for those on the west side of Main Street.
Westemeier suggested if outdoor dining continues, the 300 block of North Main Street should remain open to traffic with barriers placed in front of the restaurants to block off space for outdoor dining. He also believes Bench and Franklin Streets should remain open and that there should be more signage for parking.
“We can’t forget about retail stores,” Westemeier said, noting those business owners pay taxes, too, and while some retail stores like the outdoor dining, others feel as though they were left out.
Westemeier wanted firm start and end dates presented as well.
The original motion was rescinded. Allendorf said that while he understands the hesitancy, all the issues brought forth have been discussed internally. Both the city and Galena Country Tourism provided council members with the results of surveys of downtown restaurants and retail stores which outlined many of the concerns.
“We know what the issues are,” said Allendorf, noting it’s important the city make a decision so businesses can prepare.
Allendorf believes outdoor dining is something Galena needs from a tourism development standpoint.
During the public hearing on the matter, only two people spoke, Galena resident Joe Dillon and Galena Cellars General Manager Angi Bruun.
Dillon said he disagrees with allowing the outdoor dining to continue past the pandemic. He said the restaurants are “going concerns” and there is no reason to extend the arrangement past the “pandemic era.”
Bruun offered an opposite take on the situation, noting she sees it from a bigger picture perspective. She said the comments from tourists and people downtown about outdoor seating were positive, and while there are elements that need to be fixed, that can be expected with any sort of change.
“I just loved how the outdoor seating was,” she said.
During comments at the end of the meeting, Mayor Terry Renner said he is on the fence about outdoor dining. He wants the city to examine costs and consider the effects to others in the community, beyond the restaurants.
The council will take up the partial closure of Main Street and outdoor dining issue at a future council meeting.
In other business, the council:
•postponed accepting a land and building donation to the city–the former St. Mary’s School property–from Orlando and Ursula Valente. The city is still waiting to hear if the property had a clear title.
•approved a change order for the canoe and kayak launch project for the installation of a fire hydrant at a cost of $8,740 and to extend the completion date to May 28.
•approved revised loan disbursement for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency loan for the east side water project. The request is for $249,969.45.
•approved a budget amendment.