RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) – Dozens showed up to a village board meeting to discuss a hotly debated plan to spend some of Rantoul’s Covid-19 relief money. It would give every household a $300 utility credit.
“Certainly you don’t find a lot of items that are as controversial as this one,” Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said.
A final decision was expected Tuesday night, but there was a turn of events. Board members approved the program 5-1. But, Mayor Charles Smith – who has openly opposed the idea – surprised everyone when he said he was vetoing, and that they’ll meet again in the next study session.
It all started when a trustee proposed using 25% of the village’s American Rescue Plan Act funds on the program. Since then, the village has been divided. Smith extended the time for public comment Tuesday night to allow more people to share their opinions. Over a dozen spoke – most of them hoping to see the board approve the program. They said with inflation and lasting impacts of the pandemic, the credit would help a lot of people.
“I drive for a living. I know what a tank of gas costs. The 300 dollars to me is two days of driving,” Wendell Golston said.
All but one board member voted to approve the program.
“It did pass because it’s what the people need,” Golston said.
But, Smith plans to veto their decision. He said it’s a temporary fix, and compared it to a bandaid.
“Who turns down a bandaid on a wound. Who does?” Golston said.
Smith, and others, feel the money could be better spent elsewhere. They would rather use the money on long-term infrastructure projects. Eisenhauer did not give his opinion on the matter, but he said the program could cost people more tax dollars down the line.
“What then is going to be the cost to those same individuals when we need to take out a bond for the electric grid upgrades or the wastewater plant improvements or the water treatment plan improvements? So are you really gaining in the long run?” he said.
Members of the public spoke at tonight’s meeting about another controversial item on the agenda. All but one trustee voted against allowing cannabis business licenses in Rantoul.