Council approval gets RI closer to WalMart


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Originally Posted Online: Dec. 03, 2012, 9:54 pm
Last Updated: Dec. 04, 2012, 12:23 am
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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

The Rock Island City Council on Monday approved selling Watch Tower Plaza for $4.5 million to a development company acting on behalf of Walmart.

In November, Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley announced Walmart was interested in building a new retail center at the site.

The city is buying Watch Tower and nearby properties to clear them and sell them to Price Properties LLC for the development of a new Walmart Supercenter, but still has to complete the purchases.

Rock Island City Manager Thomas Thomas said the development along the 11th Street corridor will be an economic shot in the arm for the city. Ideally, he said, he would like to have all the properties cleared and turned over to Price Property LLC by June 2013.

"If I can make that June window, we may make the time frame of having a Super Walmart by the fall of next year," Mr. Thomas said. "We're aggressively trying to get this done."

In November, the city council agreed to buy nine properties for a total of $4.8 million.The total cost to Rock Island is expected to be $10 million to $12 million, according to city officials.

Aldermen have said they believe it's a price worth paying to bring a large retailer to town.

"I see it as an enhancement to the community," he said. "Conservatively, we're talking about a sales tax of $1.4 million a year and talking (additional) property taxes to the city of $300,000 per year.

"Speaking conservatively, we're talking about $34 million in revenue over a 20-year period," Mr. Thomas said. "So the investment we're making in property acquisition and development of the land we're more than getting that money back."

Mr. Thomas said Monday's council action gives him the authorization to sign an agreement between Walmart and the city when he is prepared to do it.

Mr. Thomas said the city is helping property owners at the site, such as Black Hawk College and State Farm, with relocation.

"We put incentives for relocations based on staying in the city of Rock Island," Mr. Thomas said. "If they want to relocate out of the area, there's no relocation assistance.

"There's a lot of moving pieces," Mr. Thomas said. "We've got the majority of the property. We're moving ahead with Black Hawk and State Farm. There's one or two agreements we're still working on."

Mr. Thomas also said Walmart is considering retaining the Black Hawk statue at Watch Tower Plaza. If that doesn't work out, Mr. Thomas said, he wants to work with the council to move it to a prominent place in the city.

In other business, aldermen approved a five-year labor contract with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 57 which represents police officers and detectives. The contract is backdated to March 21, 2011, and ends March 27, 2016.

According to the city, the agreement provides for a general wage increase of 2 percent retroactive to April 2, 2012; a 2.75 percent increase on April 1, 2013; a 3 percent increase on March 31, 2014; and a 2.5 increase on March 30, 2015.

Officers now also can live within a 30-mile radius of the city, an expansion from the former 15 miles, said city administrative services director John Thorson.

Jason Foy, Rock Island interim police chief, said the agreement is, "good for everybody, the city and the department."



















 



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