Next step: Remove the rubble

Prophetstown mayor: Clearing debris will be sign of progress

Published: Saturday, July 20, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
A man is seen Tuesday taking pictures of buildings that were destroyed by fire Monday morning in downtown Prophetstown. Eight buildings were lost in the blaze, leaving behind rubble that must be cleared. Prophetstown Mayor Steve Swanson said the city has sent out a request for bids in hopes that the removal can start next week.

PROPHETSTOWN – The shock has worn off and the town has prayed. Now Prophetstown is ready to start cleaning up.

Monday’s downtown fire led to the demolition of eight buildings, which are now a pile of rubble in the middle of the historic downtown and a glaring reminder of one of the town’s worst days. Community leaders and some of the business owners who lost their buildings have ideas of what and how to rebuild. But before ideas can be solidified, the rubble needs to leave.

Prophetstown Mayor Steve Swanson said the city has sent out a request for bids. He hopes to get the first by Monday so that the removal can start next week.

Removing the rubble is an important step in the rebuilding process, but the mayor said it also should help with the healing process.

“You don’t have to stare at that ugly mess every day as you go by,” Swanson said. “I think that will help a lot. Then there is progress. You don’t see any progress now.”

Once the cleanup has started, Swanson said, the town can begin to plan what to do next and how to rebuild the downtown.

A meeting Thursday night, which had been scheduled before the fire, included community and business leaders. The Rev. Cheri Stewart, of Prophetstown United Methodist Church, helped to organize the meeting, which originally was intended to bring people together to discuss bettering the town.

Now, she said, they have an obvious task.

Some of the business owners, like Cindy Jean Eriks, owner of Cindy Jean’s Restaurant, already have said they want to rebuild. Eriks said as much the day of the fire. Dolores Francis, who owned D’s Variety, said she doesn’t plan to rebuild.

Eileen Detra, executive director of Prophetstown’s Main Street, said the town and building owners will have many avenues to take to rebuild, like Illinois Main Street, but none can be looked at just yet.

“We’re just sitting here. We have to wait,” Detra said. “We still have issues with some of the buildings. It’s just too soon to say what we’re going to do. Everyone has ideas, but it’s still too soon.”

Involved in the debris removal process, Swanson said, is collecting bids and delivering them to the building owners. The city won’t pay for debris removal, but will serve as middleman in the process, he said.

The structural stability of the standing buildings on each side, Hartig Drug Store and the offices of Third District Appellate Court Justice Vicki Wright, will be factored in as well. Additionally, Swanson said, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency might have to be called to check for asbestos.

Just about all those issues are things Swanson never expected to deal with as mayor. 

The building with Hartig Drug Store, while not destroyed, suffered water and smoke damage. Prophetstown owns the building, Swanson said, and the insurance adjuster already has checked it over. The building, which the town insured through the Illinois Municipal League, likely will need a new roof, among other repairs.

Hartig had an insurance policy for the store’s contents, and Swanson said he would like to get it reopened as soon as possible.

Owners of the demolished buildings, depending on the level of their insurance, will get either the replacement cost or the actual cash value. The replacement cost would be enough to rebuild the building and replace the contents. The cash value is the replacement cost minus the depreciation of components, for example, the wear and tear on a roof.

Jack Spencer, a Rock Falls insurance agent, said based on his experience, the replacement cost of a building in a town like Prophetstown could be about $400,000.

Some insurance plans will include coverage for debris removal, Spencer said, adding that each company and plan is different, and depends on the level of coverage the building owner was paying for.

But insurance plans and coverages aside, each building owner will have to decide whether to rebuild with the money received. When homes are destroyed, Spencer said, residents often decide in less than 60 days whether to rebuild the home.

“I think reasonable people are going to be making pretty quick decisions,” Spencer said. “It might be a little more involved with a commercial building than with a residential building.”

You can help

A variety of efforts have begun to help victims of the fire:

• Prophetstown has set up a fund, "Main Street Fire Victims," to help people start to rebuild their lives. Donations can be made at any of the three Farmers National Bank branches, in Prophetstown, Geneseo and Morrison. 

• Prophetstown United Methodist Church, 200 W. Second St., is collecting packaged food and clothing. Call 815-537-2496 for more information or to donate.

• Tampico residents Kate Fisk and Jamie Mosher are selling "Support Prophetstown" T-shirts for $15 or $17, depending on size. According to a Facebook account, money raised will go to support victims of the fire. Orders can be dropped off at the following locations: Prophetstown Park District, 410 W. Riverside Drive; Kickback Saloon, 102 N. Main St. in Tampico; and Adami Insurance, 712 First Ave. in Rock Falls.

• Prophetstown resident Sena Warkins, owner of Imprintable Memories in Rock Falls and niece of the owner of D's Variety, which burned in the fire, is selling "We will rebuild" T-shirts for $20. The shirts feature a collage of color photos of the fire and the downtown buildings. Money raised will go to help rebuild the community. Orders can be made by calling Warkins at 815-535-0931 or 815-499-0201.

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