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GIBSON CITY — The County Market in Gibson City could soon be more than just a grocery store. It could become a place for patrons to drink alcohol and play video-gambling machines.

After rolling out video-gambling enclosures in its stores in Quincy and Taylorville, County Market’s parent company, Niemann Foods, is seeking to convert a small space at its Gibson City location for the same purpose.

Company representative Grant Jones outlined details of the proposal during a city council meeting on Nov. 12. As part of the proposal, County Market is seeking a Class A “pour” liquor license from the city.

Noting that “margins are small” in terms of selling groceries, Jones said County Market is seeking to have video-gambling rooms at 11 locations, including Gibson City.

The enclosed space, he said, would be located near the bakery and deli on the north side of the store. It would be secured with a door and would be monitored by deli employees and the store’s manager.

Jones said alcohol would not be the focus of the space, but instead the video gaming machines, and happy hour promotions would not happen at its Gibson City store at 415 E. 1st St.

“In Champaign at Harvest Market, we actually have a full-blown bar,” Jones said. “That’s not what we intend. We’re not advocating for drinking; it just happens to be the qualifier for (having video-gambling) machines.”

Jones said the company has not lost any customers at locations where it has already introduced video-gambling rooms, which he attributed to the fact that the rooms are walled off from the rest of the store, meaning regular customers do not have to see them.

“We do it high-class, and you have to go through a door, so it’s not out in the open and it’s not like we’re making the grocery store into Las Vegas,” Jones explained.

Jones provided contact information for aldermen in case they have future questions about the proposal. The request for the liquor license will be voted on at a future council meeting.

Pool project

Jan Hall, a member of the city’s exploratory pool committee, told council members that the city could apply for grants for the construction of its proposed new outdoor public swimming pool.

Hall said both Andy Kieser and Michelle Brown of Fehr Graham would be willing to provide engineering services as a part of the city’s application for a $2 million grant to be awarded through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

“You don’t have to have engineering to apply for the grant, but at some point in the application it says you have to have an engineer onboard providing drawings and details,” Hall said.

Mike Friend, an engineer with the Farnsworth Group in Champaign, said “readiness” is a major factor in deciding whether to award the grant.

Mayor Dan Dickey said the committee would need to review updated drawings and would then have a meeting soon to discuss the plan.

The grant application window for the grant opens Dec. 2 and closes Jan. 17, meaning the process would need to start quickly to submit an application.

“(Brown and Kieser) were open to me helping as much as possible to help reduce costs,” Hall said, noting the engineering fees toward the grant application would cost up to $5,000.

The IDNR will announce grant award winners in either May or June.

“So we might know pretty fast if we will get a big grant to go toward the pool,” Hall said.

Other business

Also at the meeting:

➜ Gibson City resident Sharon Heavilin spoke to the council about a new committee she has formed — the Gibson City Restoration Committee — to eventually restore the former Loy’s Five-and-Dime Store building at 107 N. Sangamon Ave. Heavilin said the group hopes to register as a nonprofit organization so it can apply for grants. She said the group intends to take over the weekly Queen of Hearts drawings once the Ed Day Skatepark Committee raises enough money. The building, which has been mostly vacant for the past 15 years, is filled inside with items from an antique store which operated briefly two years ago. Heavilin said the current owner wants $32,000 for the building and is unwilling to pay for the contents to be hauled away. “It’s an eyesore,” she said. “Something needs to be done. There’s too much history in that building.”

➜ Council members voted on a preliminary $255-per-acre, 20-acre farmland lease with Zach Bunting. Dickey said City Attorney Marc Miller will finalize the lease with final council approval.