MC City Council considers Kraft Building purchase

The sprawling Kraft Building has served as a cornerstone of downtown Mount Carroll for well over a century. It has sat mostly vacant for the past couple of years and the City Council is considering purchasing it so the historic building can be maintained. The city is seeking public comment.

By SAMANTHA PIDDE

A first reading and discussion of a proposed ordinance allowing the City of Mount Carroll to purchase the downtown Kraft building was held at the Tuesday, Nov. 10, Mount Carroll City Council’s meeting held via Zoom.

The agenda included the proposed ordinance to allow the city to purchase the building for $27,497. To pass, the ordinance must receive two-thirds support of the council.

Mayor Carl Bates began the discussion by addressing the possibility of any conflict of interest, as directed by the city attorney Trent Bush.

Bates explained that while Ald. Mike Risko, Ald. Doug Bergren and he had all been affiliate board members for the Mount Carroll Economic Development Group (MCEDG), formerly the Mount Carroll Community Development Corporation (CDC), they were "non-voting" members. Therefore, Bates, Risko, Bergren and Bush agreed no conflict of interest exists.

Mayor Bates took time to address two Letters to the Editor published in the Nov. 4 Carroll County Mirror-Democrat regarding the Kraft building and the city's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program. Bates said he feels the city council has done a “great job” distributing TIF money to the downtown businesses.

"We take great pride in that," said Bates, adding, " I think the record shows that we support our downtown excellently."

Bates noted the letters expressed concern about the city taking on MCEDG's debt for the building. He pointed out that $400,000 had been put into the building since it was extensively remodeled following a major fire a number of years ago caused by lightning. He noted the building has public restrooms and would be an asset to the community.

Bates said city TIF attorney Kathy Orr has stated there is no problem with the city taking over the Kraft building, instead supporting the action in order to maintain it.

Mayor Bates and MCEDG President Doug Sherf of MCEDG acknowledged the building may require some roof work as well as repair to the south side wall. Sherf said that a few years ago windows on that wall were in bad condition and were falling out. The organization placed plywood on the inside to secure those places. Bates asked Sherf to provide cost estimates for the work before the next city council meeting.

Bates said the city wants public opinion on the issue, recommending the city schedule a 30-minute public comment hearing before the Nov. 24 city regular council meeting. Due to the pandemic, Bates anticipates the meeting and public hearing will be held via Zoom. However, he encouraged anyone unable or unwilling to participate via Zoom to find another way to be heard.

"They don't have to wait for that comment period," Bates said.

Bates said members of the public are welcome to send him an email, call City Hall or drop off or send a letter.

"Good, bad or otherwise, I think it's important we talk about it,” said Mayor Bates.

Ald. Joe Grim asked that anyone commenting during the public hearing be asked to state his or her name.