City officials talk about restaurants and possible Relay for Life move

The Vandalia City Council discussed restaurants on Monday – the burned-out home of a former restaurant, and the inability to lure more eateries.

Alderman Bret Brosman said he feels it’s time for the owners of The Depot, which was gutted by fire on Labor Day of last year, do something about the remains of the structure.

“It is unsightly and secure,” Brosman said.

“It was an asset to our community, but (now) it is a burned-out hull,” he said. “The period of mourning (the loss of the restaurant) is over.

“I would hope the owner has a plan,” Brosman said.

After the fire, owner Deb Hamel approached the city about getting some TIF (Tax Increment Financing) monies to assist with the cleanup of the property, adding that she planned to seek more TIF assistance to rebuild the business.

The council declined Hamel’s request for cleanup assistance, with aldermen saying they wanted to see more of a commitment from her on getting the business up and going again.

Also during the meeting, Alderman Mike Hobler asked about the status of developer Chuck Keller luring a restaurant to the Holiday Inn Express property at the city’s western Interstate 70 interchange.

Mayor Rick Gottman said that Keller has been working “very diligently” to attract a restaurant, but that it’s difficult to get such a business right now, due to the economy. Gottman also told Hobler that he and Director of Economic Development and Tourism JoAnn Givens have also been working on the project.

Hobler said he would like to see a restaurant at that site, because such a development was included in an incentives agreement the city and Keller signed. The city provided water and sewer line extensions to the site as one of incentives.

Also discussed briefly was the inability of South Central FS to lure a restaurant to their new Travel Center across I-70 to the north of the Holiday Inn Express.

Also at the meeting, Gottman recommended the council postpone action on a request to relocate the Fayette County Relay for Life next year.

The mayor asked to table the request in order for local residents to give their input on the proposed change.

Vera Durbin, the 2009 Relay, said the local American Cancer Society unit wishes to move the summer event from the Vandalia Community High School track to Vandalia parks along Fillmore and Locust streets.

Durbin said that while the base of operations for the event will be in Rogier Park, the ACS unit plans to hold various activities in different areas along the Lincoln Loop Walking Trail, which also runs through Vandalia City Park and Ruemmelin Park.

Durbin said the Vandalia Park District Board of Trustees has already supported the move, and park district officials have assured the organizers that they can provide adequate electrical service for the overnight event.

The ACS unit wants to move the relay to the parks because of several issues with the high school track, Durbin said.

“It is very hot there,” she said, explaining that the area of the track and football field offers little shade for cancer survivors.

The cinder dust from the track is also an issue, Durbin said.

While continuing to offer their support for the event, some city officials said they have some concerns about the move.

“I have a little bit of a concern for the residents along those streets by the parks,” Alderman Bret Brosman, talking about the music that is part of the relay.

Durbin said that none of their performers are “loud bands” and that organizers plan to contact residents living near the park, to notify them about the event and to invite them to participate.

Brosman was also among the aldermen who expressed concern about parking for participants.

Durbin said participants could park along nearby city streets, in the Majestic Drapery lot and in other open areas near the parks.

Alderman Chad Feldpouch said, “It’s a worthy cause, and I don’t see the residents have problems with it.”

But Gottman and Alderman Larry Cable were among those wanting to hear from residents before the city gives its OK.

“I’d like to see us hold off, so we can get feedback from people,” Cable said.

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