Monticello bus barn

The city of Monticello is asking to put a road through a portion of the lot of the Monticello school district’s bus barn in order to reach a 15-acre piece of land that lies to the west of the school property.

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MONTICELLO — The superintendent of the Monticello school district signaled his opposition to a proposal from the city to build a road through land owned by the district, saying it would impede parking at the district’s bus barn.

Vic Zimmerman said while what is good for the city is usually good for the school district, in this case, he has concerns about taking away space for buses to maneuver.

“My concern that I’ve shared with the board and with (Monticello City Administrator) Terry (Summers), is that I feel it takes up too much of our current parking lot,” Zimmerman said.

“As much as I would like to recommend we go forward with this, I can’t recommend that we do, because I think it diminishes the use of our bus parking, which is the main reason we bought the bus garage in the first place.”

The city’s proposal calls for a 50-foot-wide road to be built off Market Street south of Kratz Road to access the former Hundman Lumber property, a 15-acre parcel now owned by food-processing company Thew Arnott.

Summers said there is an opportunity to develop the land now that Thew Arnott is using the site, which includes a building south of the bus barn along the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

“Thew Arnott picked Monticello for their American headquarters, and purchased this 15 acres of abandoned land and blighted property in 2019, and has interest from other companies that they do business with to actually locate on this site,” Summers said.

“A big advantage to this site is it has a rail spur.”

He said the issue of access dates back to at least the early 2000s, when the city received a state grant to improve access to the parcel.

But without cooperation from the lumber company, the grant dollars were returned to the state.

Currently, Thew Arnott trucks must go through a residential area via Monroe Street and past the Willow Tree Missions Resale Shop to access the railside building.

“We’re talking tank trucks; we’re talking 53-foot vans and 20-foot dry boxes,” said David Rosenbery, general manager of the Thew Arnott Monticello facility. “From our standpoint, we know we have a way in, but it’s a safety concern for us, too. We don’t want to see at any point some young people cross the roads in that neighborhood when we’ve got semis driving in and out.”

Monticello Community Development Director Callie Jo McFarland said the current access isn’t even a road, but rather a private property with an easement.

The city proposal would replace the two entries off Market Street into one large one that would better accommodate truck traffic. School buses would go down the drive just past the bus building, negotiate a right-hand turn to park or travel past the building and proceed out an exit onto the new road near Market Street/Illinois 105.

Zimmerman suggested moving the road to the south as much as possible, which would take less of the bus barn parking lot and alleviate his concerns regarding turning radius.

Summers believes the current proposal had “more than adequate room,” countering that a change in the plan would delay bidding the project, and possibly involve another landowner in the mix.

He is hoping to put the project out to bid in 2022.

School board member Dave Stanko suggested putting up a temporary barrier — a snow fence or stakes and ropes — to mimic the proposed configuration and test drive how a smaller lot would work for bus drivers.

Summers said that could be arranged.

School board President Kevin Frye also said he wished to cooperate, but that it should not be at the cost of the specific use for which the property was purchased.

“We bought that property to serve specific purpose, and I just want to make sure we can still do that,” Frye said.

But he was willing to give it the test run to see how buses would be able to maneuver.

“Let’s give it a try and see what it’s like,” Frye said.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a Community Media Group newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.

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