CALUMET CITY | The City Council approved the hiring of a consulting firm to study whether the one-time Sears store at River Oaks Shopping Center could be turned into an indoor athletic complex.
The approval Thursday came by a 5-2 vote, with Aldermen Eric Schneider, 1st Ward, and Thaddeus Jones, 3rd Ward, voting against the idea.
Schneider declined to explain his vote, but Jones said the hiring is a waste of time and money.
The proposal — discussed last week at a council meeting in executive session and voted on Thursday without any public discussion — calls for the hiring of Clearwater, Fla.-based Sports Facilities Advisory. The firm will spend the coming months studying the 350,000-square-feet structure at the shopping mall that has been empty since Sears closed in June.
It will report to aldermen later this year. Jones said $19,000 being spent for the study could be put to better use.
"I just don't think we should be spending money on this type of project," Jones said. "There are other things we should do than trying to figure out if we want some type of sports facility in our community."
As described previously by Economic Development Coordinator Bryan Swanson, the old Sears store could be turned, either entirely or partially, into a facility that contains indoor soccer rinks or other facilities for athletic programs benefiting the community.
Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush has said city officials began talks with the firm's representatives last month and they have toured the now-empty store.
Aides to Qualkinbush said she was unavailable to comment late Thursday. But she has said she likes the idea of an athletic facility because it might draw people to the mall.
In other business, the City Council heard a presentation from Erin Pande, of Engineering Resource Associates Inc., about the Biggert Water Act approved by Congress and President Barack Obama in 2012, and which is undergoing amendments this year.
The act relates to floodplains, and changes could result in reductions in the insurance rates people have to pay if they live in homes contained within floodplains.
Pande said Calumet City sits in the middle of the ranking system used to determine how severe a risk a particular area is for flooding — much of it is a Class 6 ranking on a system of between 1 and 10.
One of the changes being made this year is a limitation on flood insurance increases to no more than 18 percent in any given year. Although Qualkinbush said she believes the changes will, "help us save money on flood insurance in coming years."