The Elgin City Council will begin discussing long-term plans for the Hemmens Cultural Center in June, including creating a committee of residents and experts for input.
City council members will tackle the topic at their next strategic planning session in June, City Manager Sean Stegall said. The city subsidizes the Hemmens' operations to the tune of $700,000 to $800,00 annually, he said.
Mayor David Kaptain said he wants the city council to consider creating a blue ribbon committee of people who have no financial interest in the Hemmens.
The committee could include the building's architects and members of Judson University's architectural department, he said.
The committee would look at what, if anything, can be done to save the Hemmens, he said. "They would give us an unbiased approach," he said.
Councilman John Prigge said he liked the idea. "It saves us from paying a consultant to tell us what to do with the building," he said.
The committee should include someone with expertise in entertainment programming and operations, Councilwoman Anna Moeller said.
Kaptain also suggested having a member of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra on the new committee, but Prigge said he was "hesitant" about the idea because the ESO still owes the city $250,000 to $300,000 in back rent for the Hemmens.
Kaptain said the city and the ESO are "closer to a resolution" about the back rent. He hopes to have that settled by the time the committee begins its work, he said.
Powell said a discussion about the Hemmens is long overdue.
"We've kicked this can down the road for quite a long time, and we really do need to have this discussion," she said.
Hemmens director Butch Wilhelmi said the ESO is the Hemmens' largest tenant, but there are almost 20 other groups that book it for events like dance shows, talent competitions, children's theater and more. The Hemmens was built in 1969, he said.