Five reasons to save the Drives Building

This is the major content of a letter written to Mayor Mike Ottens which he was asked to share with the Fulton City Council prior to their vote on whether or not to sell the Drives Building to the Historical Society. (The letter was delivered to Mayor Ottens following a meeting with him.)

"We understand your concerns and understand why you would like some answers. We still believe that selling the Drives Building to the Historical Society is a positive decision for all involved. Below are some of our reasons.

"One – If the building is sold to the Fulton Historical Society, the city will save tax dollars that otherwise would have been needed for demolition ($143,000.) In addition, some money will be realized from the sale of the building ($10,500 was offered by the Historical Society.)

"Two – The Historical Society does have a business plan which would keep the building operating in the black. Twenty different agencies in our area have stated that they would rent the building at least once in the first year of operation if a room is available. Three area development leaders have stated that they would also make use of such a facility. The exercise group could continue to meet and the money brought in from them would help pay some operating expenses. There would also be a location that the Red Cross could perform their blood draw twice a month; they would also contribute a monthly income. Graduation parties, showers, birthday parties and class reunions would also be renters. Area caterers have indicated their interest in the building which would generate revenue from the facility and sales tax for the city. The facility would allow bus groups to plan for longer stops in Fulton with the possibility of catering and staying at the hotel. Again sales taxes and hotel/motel taxes would be generated for Fulton.

"Three – You wonder about succession. We know that someone has set up a trust for perpetual care (of the Drives Building) which over the years would amount to thousands (of dollars.) Jane and I will establish an endowment that could be used to employ a part-time manager should the volunteer base run dry. This would be much like the Downtown Retail Development group uses to manage its properties. We are confident we shall have volunteers because the Drives Building is generating interest from people who have not been involved previously. We are seeing passion, enthusiasm, drive and dedication for this project.

"Four – As indicated in our conversation, we will go back to the drawing board to rehab the building. We will pay as we go; the first priority is to repair the roof for which there is a donor. Making the building handicap accessible and adding bathrooms are also priorities. The first phase of changes will be the downstairs south sections of the building. We are confident we will have funding for these priorities. We will plan general public fundraisers and write grants to secure financial support for building renovations. The renovations to the building will make it attractive and an asset to the community.

" Five – Preserving the building will save the taxpayer money now and in the future and generate revenue for businesses and the city of Fulton.

"We would appreciate your support.

"Sincerely, Neal and Jane Luker"

We are disappointed with the vote. We believe each council member and the Mayor who voted to reject the Historical Society’s bid to purchase the Drives Building and to demolish the building owe the taxpayers an explanation; rationale for each council person’s vote should be stated. The vote not to sell to the Historical Society leaves the taxpayer with nothing but expenses, not only to demolish the building but to maintain the property into the future, even if it is green space.

Neal and Jane Luker,

Fulton, Illinois