So wrote Molly Parker, reporter for the JS in May of 2007. The resolution by the County to guarantee, along with the city, a six million dollar loan to FireFly by National City Bank, State Representative Dave Leitch, Vice-President, who personally urged the County Board to approve this loan. Quoting Ms. Parker,"The resolution passed both committees by voice vote with no one registering a nay, though Merle Widmer said he thought 'government had gotten off track quite a bit' when it comes to aiding private businesses with taxpayer dollars."
On 4/9/04, JS reporter Angela Green wrote, "This, in a business sense, is one of the worst decisions you can make...you are absolutely betraying the people you represent," Widmer told fellow board members. If we are in the Venture Capital business, I don't think the people elected you to proceed in this way."
I raised many questions about both of these loans, some which appear in the minutes of the meetings on FireFly loans. "Does the County have a history of guaranteeing bank loans? What is the risk to National City Bank? Where is the $20 million equity FireFly is bringing to the table? Has most of it been expensed out? At the rate FireFly is burning though equity, what reason is there to believe they won't be coming back asking for more money?( I have called attention several times to the fact that the Peoria Riverfront Museum Committee has 'expensed out' $11+ of the $13 million it has raised in cash) I also asked is FireFly was using corporate blackmail by intimating that "If we don't give them the money, they will move to Michigan or somewhere else. Sounds like a threat".
I summed up by saying "I do not like the way this deal was presented to us and the inability of our administrator to answer hard questions."
Let no one accuse me of any hindsight. I asked all the hard questions but garnered little support from the board, administration, community, and certainly no support from ANY of our elected officials.
Peoria County Administrator, Patrick Urich, in helping sell the loan guarantee is quoted in the JS, "Ultimately, this is new ground for Peoria County but he told the committee it was a worthwhile investment because the company has promised to keep it's headquarter here......and FireFly will give the city and county stock warrants valued at 8% of the $6 million dollar loan."