Vermilion County Board members plan to meet tonight to vote on a proposal to sell 120 acres the county owns just west of Tilton. It’s a move they should make without hesitation.
The ground once was part of the Vermilion County Farm, a working farm where indigent residents could live in exchange for their labor, if they were able to work. Revenue from the farm helped pay for the residents’ care.
The practice ended decades ago, but the county retained ownership of the land since it was adjacent to Vermilion Manor Nursing Home. With the sale of that facility earlier this year to a private operator, the county no longer needs the 120 acres.
An expert in farm auctions recently estimated the county could see as much as $1.25 million to $1.5 million from the sale, with land going for almost $12,000 an acre in recent sales.
It would take the county more than 20 years to equal that amount by collecting the annual cash rent it now receives from those who farm the land.
Gary Weinard, county board chairman, said if board members agree to sell the land, he hopes to use the windfall for capital projects. Several county buildings, including the courthouse, need repairs. Using the proceeds from the land sale would save the county interest costs it would have to pay if it borrowed the renovation funds or sold bonds to pay for the projects.
That translates into a savings for taxpayers, both in the short and long term.
County board members should vote tonight to go ahead with the sale. The move would be a benefit to taxpayers.