You Paid For It: "Parking pandemonium"

You Paid For It: "Parking pandemonium"

DECATUR -- A business owner says he feels cheated because of a deal cut by the city and ADM.
DECATUR -- A business owner says he feels cheated because of a deal cut by the city and ADM. Skip Huston owns the Avon Theater downtown, one of the only historic theaters in Central Illinois running new, mainstream movies.

Huston says his theater is successful, but ever since the city changed the rules at a parking structure across the street, his customers have been confused. In Oct. 2010, the city council approved a deal with Archer Daniels Midland that would bring 600 employees to an empty building downtown.

The company bought the building, and as a financial incentive, the city agreed to let ADM's employees park in a structure kitty-corner to the building. The structure, which has been city property for half a century, is now leased to ADM from 6 am - 5 pm every Monday - Friday.

The rest of the time, the building is supposed to be reserved for public parking. A WCIA-3 News investigation found the city leased the structure to ADM at no cost. The city manager says it was the only financial incentive given to the company to move into the downtown building.

The intent was to rehabilitate the city's struggling downtown. But Huston says the move has hardly rehabilitated the area. Instead, it's left his customers confused on when they can and can't park in the garage.

Huston says ADM hasn't done much to inform the public of times when they can park in the garage. WCIA-3 News cameras spotted a few signs, printed on computer paper, duct taped to the wall. As for the building being public property, WCIA-3 News cameras were rolling inside the garage during the work day and an ADM security guard kicked the crew out.

The city manager, Ryan McCrady, says the building is under ADM's control during business hours and the company can control access. In the last 10 years, the city has invested more than $1.7 million into the structure, including $1 million in structural improvements last summer.

Under terms of the lease, ADM pays all operating and maintenance costs for the structure. The city is still on the hook for structural improvements and costs.
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