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Crystal Lake supports bike race from general fund

CRYSTAL LAKE – The City Council approved supporting a bicycle race from its general fund, despite a heated argument from one council member.

Representatives from Prairie State Cycling Series approached the council this week to ask for $9,000 to support a race through Crystal Lake this summer. The city will be a part of the eight-day professional race series in July.

The $9,000 will be funneled through the McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which can guarantee a matching state grant.

The measure passed Tuesday on a 6-1 vote with Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller casting the lone “no” vote.

Although the council members agreed on the race’s merits, they entertained a lengthy debate about whether to support the race from the hotel-motel tax fund or the general fund.

Brady Mueller was adamantly against awarding money through the city’s general fund, while other council members argued that since the hotel-motel funding process had concluded, it was not appropriate to reopen it.

“I will not take it out of the general fund,” Brady Mueller said before her “no” vote. “I think that is a terrible misuse of taxpayer dollars. We are not here to decide if a bike race should come to Crystal Lake with the use of tax dollars that are not tied to hotel stays.”

The city imposes a 5 percent tax on hotel and motel stays and awards the money to organizations that generate overnight visits in the city. The process concluded in February when the council awarded $292,000 to 10 local organizations.

Brady Mueller predicted that the funding would set a precedent by which other organizations also would want to be financially supported. But Mayor Aaron Shepley pointed to the dollars the event could generate for the city and the downtown business district, especially those in the hospitality industry.

“I want to make it clear, this does not open the door to every charitable organization that wants to ask for money,” Shepley said. “You have to show a defined economic benefit to doing it. That’s why were doing it – it’s just not because.”

The city also approved the temporary closure of Williams, Brink, Minnie and Woodstock streets and Crystal Lake Avenue from 7 a.m. to 7:20 p.m. during the July 14 race.

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