COAL VALLEY — The Coal Valley Village Board on received a stern warning Wednesday from Deborah Tomey, a Coal Valley resident, on the dangers of selling marijuana in the community.
Tomey, a Moline native who has moved back to the area and is working for the Rock Island County Council on Addictions, and is also the grant director and program coordinator with the Wilmington Coalition for a Healthy Community, let the board and audience know she’s traveled the state and to the Chicago suburbs, where she said many are not allowing the sale.
Technically, Coal Valley has not decided yet if it will allow marijuana to be sold in the village, but based on Tomey’s warnings they aren’t apt to move closer to allowing the sale once it is legal to do so in the state on Jan. 1.
“It was very informative,” said village president Mike Bartels. “Some of the items I was aware of, but I am glad someone came and spoke about it. There was a lot of people here tonight, and we will see where the board goes in the future.”
Bartels admitted the board was already leaning in the direction of no sale in Coal Valley and Tomey’s appearance and presentation likely reinforced that position.
“I would say that’s the case,” he said. “The Illinois Municipal League puts out a lot of information on that and I have been following that. And just through the city of Rock Island (where Bartels is public works director), being involved with that, I have been hearing that as well.”
Tomey painted a bleak picture of auto insurance rates rising substantially, problems with the workforce and more than 700,000 previously arrested marijuana offenders having their records eligible to be expunged.
“You need to sell a lot of marijuana to make a lot of money,” Tomey added of municipalities benefiting from the eventual 3% sales tax they would levy on its sale. “If you think marijuana will bring in a budget windfall, think again.
“Legalization will cost our state $670.5 million far outweighing the estimated tax revenue productions estimated of approximately $566 million." That is according to SAM, an organization called Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
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Results of a survey mailed out to 1,400 homes in the village in the past month were shared, too.
“It was a little eye-opening about the survey of the residents,” Bartels said, noting more surveys are coming in daily.
A total of 1,400 surveys were mailed out by the village, with about 60 percent of the 500-plus responders, in favor of selling it at a dispensary in town.
Village administrator Annette Ernst said the survey also showed most still want a grocery store in town.
She also indicated Tomey’s stern warning likely wasn’t necessary, as most Illinois laws regarding proximity to residential neighborhoods and schools, would prohibit the sale of cannabis in the village anyway. “I don’t see any action being taken until December sometime,” Bartels said. “I believe the consensus I am seeing is they are going to not allow it.”
The board also directed Ernst to come up with a median salary to compare to what other communities of a similar size to Coal Valley are offering for a water operator position that has not been filled for three years. She would increase the current salary offering of about $55,000.
“We want to survey other communities and see where their starting salaries are and see if we can increase the starting salary to something more attractive," Bartels said.
A qualified staff member is filling the role for now, Bartels indicated, but that person is too busy with other duties.