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Whiteside transit agency eyes former auto dealership

Published: Saturday, July 12, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Charlie Strand hands Whiteside County Public Transportation driver Ed Kerly $2 Friday afternoon for a ride home from her job with American Red Cross in Rock Falls. Strand rides the bus every day from work. With ridership increasing, the WCPT is considering buying the former Ken Nelson Auto Mall in Sterling to house its growing program.

MORRISON – On paper, it looks perfect.

Whiteside County is considering buying the former Ken Nelson Auto Mall site in Sterling to house its growing public transportation program, which consists of a fleet of 15 vehicles.

Tori McDaniel, executive director of Whiteside County Public Transportation, is cautiously optimistic.

“It already has a maintenance bay, a wash bay, garage space, ...” she said. “Really, it has all the components we would need” – including a building for administration with enough space for a training room.

It looks pretty good in person, too.

About 3 weeks ago, consultants looked over the roughly 4-acre site on the northwest corner of Locust Street (state Route 40) and Lynn Boulevard. They found it to be in fair condition and suitable for the purpose, McDaniel said.

Because of its size, though, it must be determined whether buying the former dealership site, which is listed for $979,000, would be more cost-effective than building a new facility.

That evaluation process has just begun, McDaniel said.

There’s no huge hurry.

In late 2013, the Illinois Department of Transportation awarded the county $1.2 million to build a new facility, the result of a state initiative to help expand its 11 regional transit systems, especially those in rural areas.

WCPT, which bases its fleet at the county senior center on West Ninth Street, has until 2021 to spend it, but already, “We kind of have outgrown our space,” McDaniel said.

The grant was given specifically to build a new facility. But realizing the many empty buildings available around the county, McDaniel asked, and IDOT will consider, whether it’s better to buy than to build.

The state agency is doing a feasibility study, free of charge, of the former car lot to see what course would be more cost effective.

Should building a new facility turn out to be the better option, WCPT will have to find a site, McDaniel said, again noting that the whole relocation process is just in its beginning phase.

The Nelson property has sat idle since August 2010, when Rick Curia bought out his retiring partner and consolidated the dealership at his Dixon location.

By the numbers

Former Ken Nelson Auto Mall site

Location: 2305 Locust St., on the northwest corner of Locust Street (state Route 40) and Lynn Boulevard in Sterling.

Size: 4.32 acres

Main building: 16,450 square feet, which includes the former showroom, sales offices, customer waiting area, restrooms, conference room, general office area, shop and parts area, automobile paint and body shop, and two private offices.

Carwash building: 3,740 square feet

Four-car detached garage: 24 by 40 feet

Parking lot: Asphalt and lighted

Asking price as of July 13: $979,000

Source: vicky-turner.com (Vicky Turner of United Country is one of the listing agents)

Whiteside County Public Transportation

Headquarters: Whiteside County Senior Center, 1207 W. Ninth St., Sterling

The fleet: 15 vehicles – three minivans, 11 12- and 14-passenger buses, and one 22-passenger bus

Riders in 2014: 31 percent 60 and older; 56 percent younger than 60; 13 percent unknown

Trips: 39,251 in fiscal year 2013, 45,504 in 2014 (which ended June 30), a 16 percent increase

Mileage: 257,070 in fiscal year 2013; 302,591 in 2014, an 18 percent increase

Top three destinations: Medical appointments, school, and work.

Source: WCPT Executive Director Tori McDaniel

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