Marseilles council approves $1.35M purchase of IV Cellular building for new City Hall, police station

Vote passes 3-2

Marseilles Mayor Jim Hollenbeck (center) answers a question at Wednesday's city council meeting while City Attorney Mike Fuller (left) and Commissioner Bobby Kaminski look on.

There will be a new City Hall and police station in Marseilles.

After a lengthy, sometimes heated discussion with a sizable audience, the Marseilles City Council authorized by a 3-2 vote the purchase of the Illinois Valley Cellular building located at 200 Riverfront Drive.

The council approved the expenditure of $1.35 million for the building and six acres of surrounding grounds, including the Middle East Conflicts Wall, to buy the building from an entity listed by the La Salle County Recorder’s Office as 200 Riverfront Drive LLC.

That company bought the property from MTCO Communications in November 2022.

The city also will spend about $950,000 – called by Commissioner Bobby Kaminski “a hard limit” – to renovate the building to make it compliant for police use.

“You have to do what you think is best for the community. Some agree, some don’t, but as time goes on, I hope those that didn’t agree will say maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Time will tell.”

—  Marseilles Mayor Jim Hollenbeck

City Engineer Mike Escheid said the building could be ready for occupancy by “late next year.”

Voting for the purchase were Mayor Jim Hollenbeck and commissioners Kaminski and Melissa Small.

“It’s been a long 10 months trying to get this put together. It is a relief that we can move on now,” Hollenbeck said. “Unfortunately, you can’t please everybody, but from Day 1 my biggest concern was the wall down there … Right now, it might not look like it’s the best decision, but that building will last us another 100 years or so.

“The public discussions were good, people had a lot of good thoughts. I want to hear everyone’s thoughts. Maybe they’ll have thought of something I didn’t think of. I don’t profess to have all the answers and I know we’re not always going to agree on everything … You have to do what you think is best for the community. Some agree, some don’t, but as time goes on, I hope those that didn’t agree will say maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Time will tell.”

Voting against were commissioners Mike Scheib and Jim Buckingham.

Scheib, who as a U.S. Mail carrier has had the opportunity to speak to people all over the city about the purchase, said the possible renovation of the City Hall might not have been as fully investigated. The City Hall, formerly a car dealership and a garage, is now more than 100 years old, in need of electrical, heating and insulation updates and is not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

Also, it has no safe, electronically monitored sally port for the police department.

Scheib also said the money spent on the new building might be better spent on refurbishing or repairing some of the city’s roads and other infrastructure, something he described as “awful.”

“I’m of the opinion that giving us a great big building is giving the drunk kid the keys to the Camaro,” Scheib said. “I don’t think we are prepared for this and I think time will bear that out. I think this is going to prove more costly to maintain, it’s going to prove more costly to renovate, I think it’s going to take longer than we think it is, and I think we owed it to the people to game-out the total increase in expenses over the next 10 years.

“I believe that this body really did underestimate the real opposition to this. I see it in a way that they don’t because I’m out there walking around and talking to people … I think there is a great deal more distrust out there and they may have more worth saying than we’re giving them credit for.”

The audience expressed several concerns, including the loss of tax revenue from the owners, the possibility of waiting to see if the price might go down as there were no other interested buyers and, like Scheib, that the money might be better spent elsewhere.

There were inquiries about the potential leasing of any extra space to businesses. Hollenbeck suggested the Marseilles Nursing Service and the Veterans Administration might by viable tenants, as well as a restaurant or coffee shop with a view of the river.

Hollenbeck cited the purchase as the next step in many civic improvements, including the city’s expansion toward Interstate 80.

“We have a lot of projects going and we’re moving the town forward,” Hollenbeck said.

The Illinois Valley Cellular building is being eyed by the city of Marseilles to become the next City Hall and police department.