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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Council votes to improve Locust Street for convenience store

  • Harrisburg City Council Thursday voted to improve a 345-foot section of East Locust Street from U.S. Route 45 to the city’s eastern limit in order to entice a new convenience store to build.
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  • Harrisburg City Council Thursday voted to improve a 345-foot section of East Locust Street from U.S. Route 45 to the city’s eastern limit in order to entice a new convenience store to build.
    John Wortman and Randy Meyer represent Wortman-Meyer Properties of Effingham and want to spend $4 million to build what they describe as a modern convenience store capable of providing fueling to semi tractor-trailers. The store would be on 2 acres bordered by Commercial Street/U.S. 45 to the west, Poplar Street/state Route 13 to the south, Locust Street on the north and the Hart family’s property — formerly a coal mining operation — to the east. They would demolish the former and vacant Wilson’s Amoco Station building at the corner of Commercial Street and Poplar Street and the Route 13 East Plaza strip mall that no longer complies with building codes and has not been significantly occupied for more than a year. Storage units on the property would also be taken away.
    In a meeting Jan. 17 Lisa Wortman, also a partner in Wortman and Meyer Properties, told council that an existing fast food restaurant — Domino’s — would be integrated into the store.
    The company compares the store to a Mach 1 convenience store they own in Fairfield.
    At the Jan. 17 meeting the company asked council to abate 1/4 of 1 percent sales tax for 10 years as an incentive to build and also asked for improvements Locust Street.
    Wortman-Meyer has an option to buy the property that expires Feb. 8, so council called a special meeting Thursday to come to agreement with the company before that deadline. Wortman-Meyer is paying about $950,000 for the 2 acres that Meyer described an “A-plus lot.”
    “We have the most success in an A-plus lot in town. It comes at a high price — we’re paying a fair price, but it’s a high price,” Meyer said.
    “We’ll end up with $4 million invested here. We think we’ll bring a lot to a city like Harrisburg.”
    At the Jan. 17 meeting Lisa Wortman projected the store could generate $8.8 million annually.
    Finance Commissioner Ron Crank told Meyer Thursday council was having a problem offering the sales tax incentive.
    “The quarter percent sales tax would be taking away from existing businesses,” Crank said.
    Street and Alley Commissioner Ron Fearheiley expressed concern about the improvement of Locust Street, which could cost the city $270,000, according to a rough estimate provided to council by Engineer Mike Roberts of Brown and Roberts. Fearheiley said the city has many streets that need improvement and did not know if spending that money on Locust Street was the wisest use of the department’s budget right now.
    Page 2 of 2 - Public Properties Commissioner John McPeek supported the street improvement noting multiple businesses — Tison and Hall and IKT Auto Parts — utilize it regularly and the street has been in a potholed state of disrepair for some time.
    “I think the city should be able to fix the road,” McPeek said.
    Mayor Eric Gregg called for a 30 minute recess so Fearheiley could consult with City Treasurer Linda George and City Attorney Todd Bittle. Gregg consulted with Wortman and Meyer and with council members individually, though there was no quorum of council members in any of the closed door discussions. A quorum would have been in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
    After about 45 minutes council reconvened and asked Wortman and Meyer if an agreement by the city to improve Locust Street — which would provide two entrances to the business available to semi tractor-trailer traffic — was sufficient enticement to the business to close on the property purchase.
    “If you’ll make a commitment to build the road, we’ll start construction,” Meyer said.
    “It will take us four months to get this built.”
    Meyer said the closing date is looking like Feb. 11. From that day there may be 60 days of design work to do followed by the four months of construction.
    Council agreed upon the closing work would begin to improve the street which would be accomplished within 60 day’s time, prior to the time the company’s construction would begin.
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