Madison County OKs sale of former shelter property to Edwardsville

News-DemocratApril 16, 2014 

— Edwardsville's new firehouse and police station will be built on the site of the former Madison County Shelter Care Home.

The Madison County Board voted to approve selling the old shelter care property on South Main Street to the city of Edwardsville for $750,000. The city plans to use the property to construct its new firehouse and police station, as approved by the Edwardsville City Council a few weeks ago.

The board did not debate the issue before voting, and the vote was unanimous.

Edwardsville recently approved a 0.25-percent sales tax that will finance construction of the new firehouse and police station, as well as a new fire substation on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and renovations to the city's other substation.

Officials have said the expanded coverage is necessary due to Edwardsville's population growth and increasing response times to SIUE and the Gateway Commerce Center.

The project is expected to cost about $12 million to $14 million, including the $750,000 paid for the property. Edwardsville will pay the county in five annual installments.

The shelter care property was vacated in 2008 after the county board voted to close the home and place its residents elsewhere. The home was demolished, and the only structure remaining on the property is a storage building.

There is a small cemetery on the property, which Edwardsville Fire Chief Rick Welle said was a cemetery for the poor that was closed in 1902. The agreement provides that the county will deduct $25,000 from the city's second installment to repair a fence around the cemetery, which will be cared for by the city in the future.

Welle said they do not plan to disturb the graves, and intend to use ground-penetrating radar to confirm the location of the graves before beginning construction.

In other news, the board approved an extension of the enterprise zone at the Gateway Commerce Center. The proposal would add 10 more years to the tax benefits available at the industrial park on the border between Edwardsville and Pontoon Beach, including property tax abatements for 7 to 10 years.

The vote was 24-3, with board members Helen Hawkins, Judy Kuhn and Lisa Ciampoli voting no. Board members Ann Gorman and Kristen Novacich were absent.

Hawkins said she opposed extending the enterprise zone because she believes the Gateway Commerce Center has caused flooding to private properties in her district. Chairman Alan Dunstan said that it isn't the Gateway Commerce Center causing the flooding, because there are retention ponds and engineering structures in place to keep water from running off its property.

Others agreed with Dunstan, while acknowledging that the photos Hawkins passed around showed there is a problem in the area. The photos showed waterlogged yards and driveways blocked by flooding.

"I will be voting yes, however, I'm pretty disturbed by this photo," said board member Arthur Asadorian.

Board member Steve Adler said that there were really two issues at hand: whether to extend the tax benefits at the Gateway Commerce Center, and allegations that the wetland mitigation system is ineffective. "Holding up economic development in the county because we have problems is not the right thing to do," he said.

Dustan said the Gateway Commerce Center is the "economic engine" for Madison County, and the expansions that they hope to encourage by extending the tax benefits could bring 600 to 800 more jobs.

"This is the future of Madison County," Dunstan said. "This is where the jobs are going."

The measure still must be approved by the city of Edwardsville and the village of Pontoon Beach. The Edwardsville City Council has already held its first reading of the proposal.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

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