A failure by Rock Island city officials to meet a deadline means taxpayers will have to pay an extra $160,000 to buy a vacant lot near Watch Tower Plaza that's part of a proposed Walmart site.
The city had an agreement, signed last September, to buy the site of the former Town and Country bowling alley, which burned down in 2010, for $450,000.
The agreement had a deadline of 12:01 a.m., Dec 31.At that point, if the city was not ready to buy the property it could have paid $5,000 to extend the option for 90 days at the agreed price.
However, the city missed the deadline and the agreement lapsed, allowing the owner to negotiate a new sale price of $610,000 for a property with an assessed valuation of $83,000.
"We missed the deadline to extend the option agreement," City Manager Thomas Thomas said. "We didn't get everything out in a timely manner."
The city manager added that he had informed the city council of the "mistake." "The responsibility rests with me," he said.
The city used a private property agent when it first approached Miroballi Properties LLC, which owns the site, to conceal the city's plan to buy up a large number of properties in the area as part of a major project.
Knowledge of the city's plan would likely have driven property prices up.
But by December, after the city missed the deadline in its agreement with Miroballi, city officials had publicized the deal with Walmart. With the cat out of the bag, Miroballi now had a stronger negotiating position, allowing it to push through a sale price $160,000 higher than the original.
"The property owner had the ability to renegotiate a better price," Mr. Thomas said.
Ald. Chuck Austin, 7th Ward, said the increased price the city will now have to pay was a "small percentage" of the cost of the overall Walmart project, which is expected to cost the city north of $10 million.
"It's water over the dam," Mr. Austin added.
Other council members did not want to comment on the $160,000 the missed deadline will cost the city.
Ald. Steve Tollenaer, 4th Ward, and Ald. David Conroy, 2nd Ward, both declined to talk about the matter.Ald. Joy Murphy, 6th Ward, said she did not know the details of why the deadline had been missed.
"Anytime you miss a deadline and it costs you more money it's a concern," she said.
The original purchase agreement was signed by Frank Miroballi on behalf of Miroballi LLC. He purchased the Town and Country bowling alley in 2004 for just under $1 million, according to county records, adding to bowling centers he owned inbowling in centers in Woodstock, Va., and Norton, Ohio.
But in December 2010, the building was destroyed in a fire. At the time, Mr. Miroballi said building a new, 40-lane, bowling alley would have cost $7 million. The site has remained vacant since the fire. Mr. Miroballi could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The city now owns all of the property parcels it needs to clear the way for Walmart Supercenter in and around Watch Tower shopping plaza on 11th Street, according to the city's economic development director Jeff Eder.
So far, around $8.4 million in spending has been committed to the project. Once the properties have been demolished, the city will sell the site to Walmart for $4.5 million.
Hill & Valley Bakery, Dollar General and the Pawn King, all located in or close to the proposed Walmart site, have yet to reach terms with the city. The city owns all of those properties but still has to reach agreement to buyout the leases. Negotiations with business owners are ongoing, Mr. Eder said.
Purchase/relocation agreements 3710 9th St. (Independent Living Center) $975,000 Hill and Valley building $1.5 million 3636 11th St. (former Town and Country) $610,000 3700 11th St. (Christine Ellsberg Insurance) $500,000 3720 and 3800 11th St. (shopping center) - $1.75 million 3917, 3923, 4003, 4009 9th St. $500,000 4000 11th St. $105,000 Black Hawk College Adult Learning Center $2.1 million
Total: $8.4 million
Relocation/lease buyouts yet to be reached Hill and Valley Premium Bakery Dollar General (3830 11th St.) Pawn King (3940 11th St.)