The Village Board and a property owner have agreed to a real estate exchange that involves Morton’s satellite fire station and a planned downtown plaza.
Board members unanimously approved a swap Jan. 21 with Sam Parrott that gave him the station at 205 W. Adams St. and a home next to it at 211 W. Adams.
In exchange, the village received parcels at 118 W. Adams and 128 W. Adams that eventually will become the site of a new 45-space parking lot a few blocks away from the proposed plaza.
The Morton Economic Development Council has begun fundraising to pay the estimated $2.5 million cost for plaza construction, which wouldn’t begin until at least 2014.
“The new parking lot will have two-way traffic, unlike most downtown lots, and have a tie to the plaza,” said Craig Loudermilk, the village’s superintendent of public works.
In addition to handing over the parcels, Parrott will pay the village $50,000.
Homes at 211 W. Adams and 128 W. Adams are occupied. Loudermilk said the residence at 128 W. Adams will be torn down to open space for parking.
As of the deal, Parrott will lease the fire station to the village for a maximum of five years. During that time, the village will work on financing and construction of a new satellite station on land it owns on Queenwood Road.
“That land is bought and paid for,” said board member Jeff Kaufman, who called the Adams station “obsolete.” The station was built in 1956.
Mayor Norm Durflinger said one option of paying for the new station is an extension of a $4.5 million line of credit at 4.31 percent interest the village received to build, furnish and equip its 21,000-square-foot headquarters station on Courtland Street that opened in 2010.
“If we went that route, we’d want to keep the payments the same,” the mayor said.
Parrott will pay for expenses such as taxes, insurance and major maintenance work on the Adams station during the lease. The village will pay its share of the utilities and for minor maintenance.
The village will continue to occupy the basement of the former police station that’s in the building for use by auxiliary police and weather spotters. Parrott can use the first floor of the police station.
Loudermilk said Parrott plans to develop the building after the lease ends.
“One of the goals of the downtown plaza is to spur private development, and we’re seeing it happen here,” he said.
A public hearing was held prior to the board’s vote on the property exchange. Nobody from the audience spoke.
In other news, the board:
• Heard a presentation from Bruce Brown of the Farnsworth Group about the Downtown Morton Plaza.
According to Brown, the cost of the plaza is currently estimated at about $2.5 million. However, the group is still looking at the costs and maintenance fees, so prices could still fluctuate.
In addition, Brown said there is also still room in the project for public input on various areas.
To help with the costs, Jennifer Daly, the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, said that they hope to pay for about 50 percent of the plaza through private fundraising.
So far, the Chamber has announced that they are donating $25,000 towards the project during its dinner on Jan. 19.
Daly said that the committee is also looking for grants to help pay for the plaza as well. One particular grant, the Department of Natural Resources grant, could give as much as $500,000 if obtained. However, the grant has a June deadline and does require the committee to show where funding is coming from.
Durflinger said that any money the village is using for the plaza project will come from the business district fund currently, but could come from the general fund if needed in the future. He also added that one possibility for money could be to borrow some in the future.
Larry Stimeling ended the discussion by stating that the Farnsworth Group has helped cut costs on the Veterans Memorial from $500,00 to its current cost of $213,000.
• Approved two resolutions and the purchase of police vehicles.
The first resolution was for the release of executive session minutes from last year, but there were no minutes currently available for release.
The other resolution authorized the vacation of utility easements in the Trails at Timber Oaks subdivision. The easements were vacated when three lots were changed into two larger lots.
Three new police vehicles were also approved to be purchased from Bob Grimm Chevrolet in Morton. The total amount for the vehicles will be $63,435, which came in lower than the state bid for the vehicles. The board noted that they were glad they could purchase the vehicles from a local dealership.
— Adam Larck contributed to this story.