DANVILLE — Some Danville residents are concerned that a former Hoopeston used tire business that suffered a massive fire last summer plans to relocate to their neighborhood.
Since J&R Used Tires purchased property on Francis Street, near the Heights neighborhood on the city's southwest side, city officials have fielded phone calls from residents about the business, said Chris Milliken, planning and zoning manager with the city of Danville.
Among the concerned citizens are Don and Thelma Brooks, who live on Avenue B in the Heights, a mostly residential area along U.S. 150. They're about a block from where J&R plans to set up shop and worry about increased truck traffic on their street.
"It's a residential street, and it's not in tip-top shape now," said Don Brooks, who wondered, "How much heavy truck traffic can it take?"
Residents will get a chance to ask that question and others at a neighborhood meeting planned for 6 tonight at Battle Focus Ministry Church, 501 Cunningham Ave. in the Heights. J&R's owners, Rodney and Janie Rogers, plan to be there to address concerns residents have raised in frequent phone calls recently to their aldermen, Rick Strebing and Frank Hoskins.
Rogers is sure to be asked about what safety precautions will be taken in light of the fire in Hoopeston.
His current business plan does not include stockpiling tires like he had in Hoopeston. The business now processes the used tires as they come in, then moves the shredded rubber or processed pieces back out the door.
At the former 400,000-square-foot facility at 103 Maple St. in Hoopeston, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency estimated J&R had on site an equivalent of hundreds of thousands of tires. The stockpile caught fire around 5 a.m. June 19 when a spark from machinery ignited tire dust and spread to tires. More than 20 area fire departments and 100-plus firefighters fought the blaze for days. Several blocks of residences had to be evacuated because of the smoke.
In October, Rogers re-opened J&R in a 125,000-square-foot former GM building at 585 N. J St. in Tilton. He leased the land from Agracel, an Effingham company, but Rogers has been looking for a permanent site to purchase and found it on Francis Street.
Rogers said Wednesday that he plans to build a new building at the Francis Street location, and for a while, at least, operate locations in Tilton and Danville. He said he's not sure when the business will open in Danville.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said he and other city officials, including the fire department, have met with Rogers, who has discussed his business plan with the city, and plans indicate a much different operation than he had in Hoopeston. Eisenhauer said the city had many questions prior to meeting with him, and that Rogers alleviated many of their concerns.
"What we have shared with him is our expectations of being a business owner in this community and abiding by all of our ordinances and regulations prior to opening and while opening," Eisenhauer said. "He understands that and has been very cooperative in our review process, and I think is very determined to make this a successful business in our community."
As for Don Brooks' fears about increased truck traffic, Rodney Rogers said he doesn't anticipate there being any more in the neighborhood than there already is.
The approximately 40-acre site Rogers purchased is already properly zoned — light industrial — for a used tire recycling operation. It's bordered to the east by railroad tracks and to the south by wooded land and the Vermilion River. To the west is the Illinois Department of Transportation's Danville facility, which includes heavy equipment, like plow trucks and a salt storage facility.
The land also includes a site leased by a trucking firm, Wayne Transports, which will continue to operate there, Rogers said.