Armory to stay vacant - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Armory to stay vacant

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MT VERNON -- On Broadway Street in Mt. Vernon sits the former Illinois National Guard Armory Building, empty and without a purpose.

Several years ago, a $1.5 million grant from the state was supposed to turn it into a recreation center, but a state budget crisis and declining revenue have changed those plans.

"We knew under the grant that the city of Mt. Vernon had to own the property for 20 years, but we weren't confident we were going to to be able to operate it and have the money to operate it and it be sustainable without more revenue," said city manager Mary Ellen Bechel.

Bechel says with more and more retail revenues heading online, the revenue the city gets from taxes has taken a significant hit, making the project unfeasible.

Mayor John Lewis says without the grant, trying to go into the project alone would be an unwanted burden to the taxpayer.

"The taxpayer cannot afford to subsidize that type of operation. Maybe in the future but not right now." Lewis said. 

"There's no electricity, the water is turned off, it's in disrepair. It's not operational right now at all... for anything." Bechel said. 

Bectel says the cost to just get heating and air, plumbing and other essentials in place in the building would be upwards of $2.3 million.

That daunting cost has caused the city to abandon the grant and move forward in finding another use for the building.

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