MCLEAN, Ill. (WMBD) — The Village of McLean will continue with plans to demolish a nearly 90-year-old water tower. The decision was made during Wednesday’s special village board meeting.
Last week, in a four-to-two vote, the board approved to accept a quote to take down the old water tower. The Community Organization for Revitalization and Expansion or CORE of McLean has been fighting to keep the original structure.
During public comment, representatives for CORE of McLean said the nonprofit has been working for several years on a plan to revitalize the water tower. During the meeting, it was brought up by board member Jeff Van Dyke and confirmed by board attorney Mark McGrath that because CORE of McLean is a nonprofit, the village had the option to gift the water tower to the organization.
“The village voted 4-to-2 to spend almost $34,000 of public funds to take down something that is structurally sound and we’re offering to use our own raised funds and any grants we can get access to to turn it into a tourist attraction and use money for that purpose to spend on it,” said Vice-President Jeff Hake.
Members from the Route 66 Association of Illinois were also present and shared a list of 102 possible grants for CORE of McLean. Resident Ivy Craig presented the board with a petition that had 127 signatures to keep the tower. She said it was more signatures than people who voted in the town’s last election.
“I personally voted to elect the four board members who chose to remove the water tower. And I feel that my voice as a citizen of the village is being misrepresented,” said Craig.
Pam Page, Colton Gordon, Lonnie Kirby and Justin Loercher were the four who voted to accept the quote. Between the four there were concerns about upkeep costs and liability if the tower was naturally destroyed and caused damage to surrounding homes.
“I don’t care if there’s water in it or not. It’s over 100 foot in the area. There are residents around it,” said Loercher.
Board members VanDyke and John Willie, Jr. repeatedly countered that if CORE of McLean assumes all responsibility whether through gift or purchase then liability nor upkeep costs will be the concern of the board. And civil engineer Steve Swift said the tower is structurally sound, with a life expectancy of another 50 years.
However, Gordon, Page, Loercher and Kirby were not swayed to rescind.
“This has already been voted on. It’s already been decided on,” said Gordon. “If someone wants to bring it up that’s perfectly fine. I’m here to listen to you but my opinion on it ain’t changing. It is what it is. I made my vote and that’s it.”
Hake said he thought the vote would lean towards reason and was initially hopeful the board would rescind their decision.
“By the time we got to the end of that discussion, I was not very surprised that they voted not to rescind the prior vote,” said Hake. “I am amazed by human nature but at this point, I am not amazed by what just happened.”
The old water tower was built in 1935 and is part of the Old Route 66. It was decommissioned in 2017 when a new water tower was built to better suit the community. Those advocating to keep the water tower were hoping to have the structure classified as a historical landmark while noting that the 100th anniversary of the Old Route 66 is just two years away.