Build The Block Brings Voters To Ballot Box

By Jeff Muniz

July 13, 2010 Updated Jul 13, 2010 at 2:19 PM CDT

Could more job losses at Caterpillar mean fewer votes to Build the Block. Voters in Peoria County can either pony up more in sales taxes or pull the plug on a downtown museum.

This dizzying dream gets a wake-up call from those walking to the voting booth on Tuesday. After Sears said so long in 1998 and CAT crumbled up the department store downtown, the plan for this 7-acre parcel rests at polling places in Peoria County.

"I think it's a very important part of the downtown area and the strength of Peoria and our future," Sue Alexanders, who voted for the Museum Tax, says.

"I say gee we're taxed to death. When they put it on, they never take it off," William Butler says as he voted against the museum tax.

The tax hike is a quarter-percent on retail sales in Peoria County. It would generate $40-million in bonding power to build the Riverfront Museum.

"I'd rather see it go to save our schools with the shape they're in," John Burnett says as he voted against the museum tax.

But some voters see it as more than a museum. They're seeing a bigger picture being painted here with millions in contributions from Caterpillar.

"I think anything you can do to entice Caterpillar would be a good thing. It's definitely going to help the economy long term," Museum Tax Supporter Corey Kelly says.

"The bottom line is Caterpillar has said that if the referendum does not pass that they're pulling away their support for the project. That's $57 million," Brad McMillan, Chairman of the Build the Block Campaign, says.

Without that money, there's no museum or Caterpillar Visitor Center next door.

"I think what happens today will define our community for the next 20 to 30 years," McMillan says.

And it took 10 years to get to this day where the voters decide.

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