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Decatur City Council moves ahead with quick-take for Brush College Road, Faries Parkway grade separation project

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DECATUR — As expected, the Decatur City Council voted Monday evening to move forward with requesting quick-take authority to acquire certain properties needed for the Brush College Road and Faries Parkway grade separation project.

Quick-take is a legislative process that verifies that the construction project is a public project warranting the use of eminent domain, and allows the city to quickly take the property so construction is not delayed. Compensation is typically settled at a later date. 

The ambitious $54 million project would separate road and train traffic by a bridge elevating Brush College over Faries Parkway and relieve massive holdups and congestion.

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The project requires the purchase of 22 parcels of land with 14 separate property owners. Thus far, deals have been struck to acquire all but three parcels.

However, negotiations with two holdout property owners of the three parcels have made little progress, with city officials contending that they are demanding unreasonable sums to cede their land. 

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Though negotiations continue, staff believe quick-take authority could help expedite the process. 

The two property owners in question, Len Walston of Walston Auto Wrecking and Tim Jones of the New Back Door bar, told the council at a public hearing last month that they do not wish to hold up the project, they just simply want to be fairly compensated.

The council voted unanimously for ordinances that authorize the city to move forward with condemnation proceedings for the parcels in question and to request quick-take authority.

The ball is now in the court of the Illinois General Assembly, which must approve legislation granting the city quick-take authority for the properties in question.

In other action, the council approved an ordinance granting city manager Scot Wrighton greater authority to change job titles of non-union city employees.

Prior, even minor changes to such employees' job titles required an ordinance be approved by the city council. 

The vote was 5-2, with council members Lisa Gregory and Chuck Kuhle dissenting.

It was approved despite some concern that the ordinance granted Wrighton too much power and would allow him to make decisions without input from the council. 

However, Wrighton, in a memo to council members, said the ordinance would give him the necessary flexibility to navigate various challenges facing the city in the near- and long-term future. 

"To facilitate this change, increase management’s flexibility to continue making minor structural changes inside city departments, and remove barriers to efficiency improvements as they are identified and implemented, it is recommended that the language of Article 7 be amended to delete most of the title list," Wrighton wrote.  

45 photos of Decatur's Wabash Yards from the H&R archives




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