East Dundee Trustee Allen Skillicorn has one question: Where’s the rest of the $30,000 loan the village gave to a discount grocery store that’s been closed for almost a year?
Nobody, he says, could give him an answer, so he submitted a Freedom of Information request to the village in March. It was denied. Skillicorn has since filed an appeal with the Illinois attorney general’s office and is awaiting a response.
Skillicorn’s biggest fear, he says, is that the owners closed the store without repaying the bulk of the loan.
“The taxpayers should be paid back on it and I think we shouldn’t be laying out money if we aren’t going to follow up on it.” Skillicorn said. “A bank wouldn’t let you get away with it. Neither should taxpayers.”
In response to Skillicorn’s inquires, Village President Lael Miller has launched an investigation to find out how much Discount Grocery Outlet still owes on the $30,000 loan. The results are expected to be released at East Dundee’s June 17 board meeting.
“I’ve directed staff to put together a full report to state exactly what happened, exactly how much money we gave them and how much sales tax we got back on that,” Miller said. “If this points out that there’s anything we need to change in our incentives, then obviously we’ll use this as a way to change that so we don’t run into this issue anymore.”
The village ultimately denied Skillicorn’s FOIA because he requested sales tax information, which the Illinois Department of Revenue forbids the village from releasing, Miller said.
Just four people are allowed to see those figures in East Dundee: the village administrator, the village budget director, the deputy village administrator and Miller himself. But officials are looking to see whether they can present the information in a way that doesn’t violate the law, Miller said.
In 2011, with Skillicorn casting the lone dissenting vote, the village board voted to loan Discount Grocery $30,000 with money generated from the tax increment finance district the store occupied. East Dundee was supposed to recoup that money from the store’s sales taxes and, according to the redevelopment agreement, the store was to remain open for at least five years.
The store opened in summer 2011 at the River Valley Shopping Center and used the village’s loan to buy equipment, such as freezers and coolers, owner Fred Thompson said. He also declined to say how much he owes the village on the $30,000 loan.
Thompson said he closed the store last July, after a fire caused the lights and air conditioner to stop working in half of the store.
Thompson is also named as a defendant in two lawsuits with his former landlord.
According to court records, the landlord is suing Thompson and his partner for $82,231.80 in rent dating back to July 2011. In the second lawsuit, the landlord claims Thompson failed to repay an $80,000 loan he gave to Thompson for the business. Both cases are pending.
Thompson wanted to relocate the store in East Dundee, though, and had his heart set on a spot within the Summit School, which is being redeveloped into office and retail space. But those units were too pricey, he said.
Miller, meanwhile, says he isn’t ready to give up on Thompson and noted the village staff is working on a list of possible locations inthe village to try and keep him there.
Still, Thompson says he’s doubtful he’ll ever find a suitable spot in East Dundee and isn’t so sure he wants to stay.
“I’m bankrupt after the situation in East Dundee,” Thompson said. “I don’t have two quarters to rub together.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.