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Church asking Morris for help with theater sign

MORRIS – The Living Water Church of the Nazarene is on to the second phase of remodeling the old downtown movie theater and is asking for assistance from the city.

The church bought the old theater at 118 E. Jefferson St. from another church in June, and just finished the first phase of its remodeling in October.

Now Living Water is moving on to the second phase, which includes refurbishing the new sign, the Rev. Steve Cook said.

Since the building is part of the downtown, he approached Mayor Richard Kopczick and the city about utilizing tax increment finance district funds to help with some exterior work.

“We really want to keep the marquee for the church,” Cook said. “We believe it’s a landmark for Morris.”

But renovation work for it is expensive, he said.

A TIF fund is made up of money from a TIF district. A TIF district freezes the assessed value of properties in the district. Any tax money generated from increases in value of those properties then goes, for a set amount of time, into a special fund to be used to improve properties in the district. The old theater is inside the TIF district.

Kopczick said Cook introduced the idea last week to the Finance and Administration Committee.

“The committee instructed me to look into being able to provide a $55,000 loan from the TIF to Living Water Church of the Nazarene,” he said Monday.

If granted, it would be a low-interest loan that would be paid back to the city, Kopczick said.

The sign has deteriorated over the years, Cook said. All three sides of the theater sign say “Morris” on it and there is no plan to change that. But it needs to be sandblasted, painted and the plan is to change the lighting over to LED lights to make it more cost-effective and efficient.

The church is planning to use local contractors and have some of the work done by volunteers.

Finance committee chairman Bill Martin said Friday the committee was glad to hear the church planned to keep the sign because it felt the sign was part of Morris’ history.

The mayor is looking into the request and will bring more information back to the committee at a later date.

As part of the first phase of the remodeling, the worship center and nursery were completed.

In addition to the sign in the second phase, the restrooms will be redone, as well as adding a glass front where the ticket booth and current doors are now, Cook said.

The renovations have created a contemporary worship area, but the church left the foyer with the original 1930 design that includes crown moldings, a hanging lamp and the rippled walls and the inner wooden doors.

The ticket booth has been bought by a downstate couple for their private in-home theater.

In other business, the committee also received a request from Shirley Kiss on behalf of the Senior Citizens Community Center of Morris located on Pine Street.

The center needs some window and siding work, Kopczick said.

The center is not in the TIF, but the request was for financial assistance from the city to maintain the building.

Kopczick said the city would be looking into what options it may be able to provide the center and it would come back before the committee again.

A last request came before the committee from the Grundy Transit System. Director Sherey Zerbian gave a presentation to the committee on the benefits the low-cost busing system provides through its county-wide service.

Kopczick said she requested the city consider adding the transit system to its list of area agencies the city annually donates to.

No action was taken on this request, but the committee will discuss it in future budget meetings.

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