DECATUR — Macon County officials' power to use "quick-take" eminent domain authority to claim land for the Macon County beltway project now awaits Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature. 

The Illinois House and Senate approved legislation this month that would allow the county to acquire 8.3 acres of land just south of Brush College Road and Illinois 48. Once signed by the governor and approved by the county board, the county would have one year to exercise its eminent domain right.

Rauner is expected to sign the legislation, a spokeswoman for his office said in an email Tuesday. 

The bill, SB0567, passed the Senate by a 49-1 vote on May 4. It passed the House by a 77-30-3 vote on Friday.

State Rep. Sue Scherer, a Decatur Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said it was an important tool to allow the county to move forward with the long-awaited beltway project.

“The beltway will have major effect on the local economy, and it is important to go forward on it,” Scherer said.

Despite past opposition to the plan, state Rep. Bill Mitchell, a Forsyth Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said last week that the county has taken the necessary steps toward speaking with the landowners about acquiring the land since the legislation was first proposed in early spring.

"The county has made a good-faith effort to resolve this,” Mitchell said. "That wasn't the case a few months ago."

The county made its original offer of $17,000 an acre to the landowners on Jan. 12, based on an appraisal completed in the fall. The county contracted Springfield-based Hanson Engineering for the work, which was completed by Joseph M. Webster of Webster & Associates.

The land is owned by Craig and Jill Wynne, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday. They have not responded to previous requests for comment about the matter.

Since that initial offer, the county and the representatives of the landowners have made several counteroffers, Macon County Highway Engineer Bruce Bird said. He declined to discuss offer amounts but expressed optimism the two sides could reach an agreement.

“We have not reached a conclusion, but we’ve gotten closer,” Bird said.

Owning the land would allow the county to start on a "connector project" that would be the starting point for the beltway. The cost to redevelop the intersection is covered by a $10 million investment given to the county in 2014 by former Gov. Pat Quinn, officials have said. 

Even with the option of eminent domain, county officials have said the plan is for all sides to come to an agreed-upon dollar amount. Eminent domain would be an absolute "last resort," Bird said.

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Staff Writer

Government-watchdog reporter for the Herald & Review.

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