HOOPESTON — Douglas Toole, director of the Vermilion County Health Department, and Patrick Sloan, client director of Foth Infrastructure & Enviroment, LLC, updated city council members Tuesday on two sites identified as Brownfield sites.
Toole said the Essex Building and Vermilion Iron were identified as contaminated sites, however, it was unclear at this point who owned the buildings. Both sites are vacant and falling in, he said, and added he had to get a search warrant in order to enter the building sites to identify problems.
Toole posed a suggestion to the council. “Think about the possibility and opportunities to Hoopeston if Hoopeston stepped in and took ownership of both properties.”
He added council members should think about the safety of the community. It takes little effort to enter both buildings with the doors left open, Toole said, especially at Vermilion Iron with the Little League field nearby and where children play.
Alderman Bill Goodwine commented about the cost to Hoopeston if it took control of the properties and remediated them. “You are talking about a couple million dollars,” he said.
“We have to quit looking the other way,” said Mayor Bill Crusinberry. “We can’t let the town keep deteriorating.”
Bill Nichols, Community Bank president and economic development member, agreed, “Blight is taking over our town like a cancer. Pretty soon if we don’t take care of our town, who is going to be here.”
If Hoopeston does not take possession of the two sites, it might be years before the owners could be found to get the problem solved, according to Toole. The Essex building, he said, was sold to a Decatur business for taxes, however, he added there was a way for the city to obtain it. If the place were condemned by the city, it could take over the building in lieu of foreclosure.
Toole said he would not ask Hoopeston to foot the whole bill. He said there are funds out there for projects such as these.
Both Sloan and Linda Bolton, director of business development and government relations with Vermilion Advantage, agreed the quickest way to solve the problem was for Hoopeston to take possession of the sites and focus on economic development.
Alderman Randy Carter commented, “At some point in time, we have to take responsibility. Need to look at increasing the sales tax in Hoopeston with half going to residential and half going to commercial property remediation.”
An increase in sales tax would not affect food or medicine, explained Crusinberry. As an example, he said, if you bought $50 worth of gas, the sales tax would amount to 25 cents.
Vermilion County received a Brownfield Grant in 2010 to identify areas that were contaminated as part of Phase I of the Brownfield Grant.
In other business, council members learned sealer would be laid on certain roads at the cemetery Friday or Monday and Tuesday of next week. Signs will be posted, according to Carter and Alderwoman Nancy Stipp.
n Learned that Country Terrace Assisted Living was closing due to vacancies and Autumn Fields was expanding its facility by 21 rooms to accommodate the residents at Country Terrace.
n Learned that Crusinberry was compiling costs to Hoopeston in regard to the J&R Used Tire fire to send to the insurance.
What's next Hoopeston City Council members will meet in special session at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 in City Hall, 301 W. Main St.