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posted: 1/8/2013 10:13 AM

Man presses to turn old YMCA into homeless shelter

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Associated Press

BELLEVILLE -- An advocate for the homeless is pressing for Belleville voters to decide whether he can convert the city's former YMCA building into a shelter.

The Rev. Larry Rice on Monday submitted a 790-signature petition to the St. Clair County Clerk's Office to force the ballot measure calling for the city to sell the property to his New Life Evangelistic Center in St. Louis for $1. The Belleville News-Democrat reports the referendum could be on the April 9 municipal ballot if the petitions aren't challenged by Monday.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert opposes Rice's plans, believing it would be unfair to business owners.

City leaders say restoring the site vacant since 2006 could cost at least $2 million.

Rice says he could restore the building using volunteer labor and donations.

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