Effingham agrees to buy former gas station

An abandoned gas station will be purchased by the City of Effingham following action at Tuesday's meeting. However, the possible plans for that property have not been determined. Dawn Schabbing photo

EFFINGHAM – Effingham City Council approved this week the purchase of an abandoned gas station, which they are able to acquire for $815.

City Administrator Steve Miller and City Attorney Tracy Willenborg both spoke on the topic of the blighted property located at 1601 South Banker Street, Effingham.

“The property has been vacant for some time,” said Miller. “The city has mowed the property several times and the property taxes have not been paid.”

The city has been given the opportunity to buy the property for the amount that includes purchase price and recording fee, with the intentions that the city will look at options in the future. The property has tanks underground, which would have to be removed at some point.

Miller said the property was being sold by Effingham County as a trustee, as a result of the property owner's failure to pay real estate taxes. It has been the practice to allow local municipalities to acquire property such as this one in an effort to remedy blight issues and get the property back on the tax rolls.

“The question has come up about what we would do with the property,” said Miller. “The staff is preparing options. It is not in a TIF district. It is in a business district.”

The purchase was approved with all voting in favor, except Libby Moeller, who was absent.

Miller said if the city council sees fit, he believes the city could use a program with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for removal of underground storage tanks.

He estimated the out-of-pocket expenses for tank removal would be about $10,000 and the work would have to be contracted out. Or, the city could instead opt to sell the property and the new owner would be responsible for the tank removal.

In other matters, the council took another look at the 2019 Ford Avenue Reconstruction project, this time considering some lighting along the street.

In June, the council awarded a contractor’s bid to Kinney Contractors of Raymond, which had the lowest qualifying base bid at $840,640. At that time, the council reviewed an alternate bid for street lighting on both sides of Ford Avenue, at $230,267, but didn’t approve it, saying it was cost prohibitive.

In the past month, Public Works Director Jeremy Heuerman has been coming up with other options, including one to just place street lights on the south side of Ford Avenue, at the cost of about $114,000. The south side is where the 10-foot-wide walking trail will be and alongside Wal-Mart, he said.

Because the bid came in about $60,000 below budgeted amount, the council agreed that paying for lights on only one side of the street would be feasible.

Mayor Mike Schutzbach said while he’d like to see lights on both sides of Ford Avenue upon completion, he’s satisfied with one side to be lighted, for financial reasons.

Commissioners Larry Micenheimer and Merv Gillenwater also spoke in favor of lighting only the south side.

The council will bring it up for a vote at the next meeting.

The Effingham City Council meets again at 5 p.m. Aug. 6, at City Hall.

In other matters, the council:

• Approved a change order to include Four Seasons Drive asphalt section in the road resurfacing project. In the past, this street has been cut in street projects, and will cost $53,340, still keeping it under budget.

• Approved amending the existing Liquor Control Ordinance to correct minor changes and a revision in the language for a package liquor license or a P-1, to reflect the current practice of these holders. P-1 is for a package store and limited consumption for wine and beer tastings.

• Authorized the issuance of a package store and limited consumption liquor license to DJ's Party Supply, Inc. in Effingham, located at 1404 S. Banker, effective Aug. 1. New owners of this business are Jennifer and Ron Niebrugge.

• Approved a list of public property no longer of any use to the city, which the council authorized the sale or disposal of, including miscellaneous used motors, electrical supplies, small tools, old hand tools, old fencing materials. Also from the fire department, the list includes 15 stream lights, two 1-hour SCBA bottle, 25 bunker coats/bunker pants, a saw blade, three pot flare kits, one cord reel, reserve jacks, and expired SCBA bottle.

• Heard that Esker and Walker contractor has completed the 2018 Sidewalk Replacement Program at a total cost of $356,496.41.

• Heard that the 2018 Resurfacing Project requires change order No. 2, in the amount of $15,235.08 to fulfill additional quantities needed to complete the project.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext. 138